This project builds around the assumption that education is one of the main preconditions for women to easily access the labour market. It also builds around the fact that within the last 25 years, the government of Rwanda has massively promoted gender equality in access to education at all levels and gender equality across all sectors. Despite this, existing data shows that there is still a significant gender employment gap among the youth. In this context, this research project’s overall aim was to analyse the factors that constrain girls/young women “Not in Employment, Education or Training’ (NEET) in Rwanda. The study sought to provide insights into how these girls/young women navigate the challenges they encounter, the decisions and choices they make, and how these may shape what they are able to do or be.
The findings of the study indicate that girls/ young women are the majority in the NEET category compared to boys; (41,4% girls vs 26,5% of boys aged 16-30). More analysis showed that NEET girls increased with age, and that married women are more likely to be NEET than men. Moreover, the qualitative data indicates that NEET girls’ life trajectories have been mostly impacted by their family background. Most were born in poor and vulnerable families and experienced major disruptions earlier in life, which include family sickness, death or separations of parents, or unwanted pregnancies. For most this would be a turning point in life, which leads to school-drop out, rejections from families and communities and often increased poverty. Yet, even the NEET girls who had relatively stable lives and even completed school to university level, got married before starting to work and thus ended up as stay-home mums with no paid employment or career prospects. The experiences of NEET girls can thus be attributed to unequal gender norms that lead young women to prioritise marriage over their own careers, due to societal expectations.
Moreover, it was observed that girls with disabilities face an extra layer of disadvantage and marginalization from the community. The study makes a number of recommendations to address the issue of NEET girls. Apart from achieving the research goal, this project has had a number of achievements and outcomes. These range from strengthened partnerships, collaboration and networks between UR and GER, stakeholders in districts and Kigali, researchers in TESF Rwanda, Bristol and other Hubs. Besides through these partnerships and collaborations, capacities have been mobilised on all fronts, impacting the different people involved.
This project has also had a number of tangible outputs that include: blogs, research tools, policy and programme briefs and a journal article. These plus other written materials that will be produced and shared in the future will contribute to knowledge creation, and remain as a legacy for the project.