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Mainstreaming technical training for low-income women

Many poor women in Latin America have trouble entering the labor market. A pilot program to increase women's employability in the region has strengthened training for women in technical schools and improved the quality, opportunities and gender equity in technical training and in the labor market.

The program was carried out in Argentina, Bolivia and Costa Rica through the Inter-American Center for Research and Documentation in Professional Training (CINTERFOR for its acronym in Spanish). While it did help low-income women find jobs, its main goal was to implement policies with a gender perspective for a better employability and social equity in job training, identifying needs in the labor market and working together with the private sector.

The main impact of the Formujer program was not the number women who found a job, which was 30 percent of the trainees in Argentina, but the improvements in the training institutions and in public policy. Among the institutions that benefited from the program are the Labor Ministry in Argentina, the National Foundation for Worker Training (INFOCAL) in Bolivia and the National Institute of Learning (INA) in Costa Rica.

During a seminar on the program held at IDB headquarters, program coordinators from the three institutions reported that the program model, which could be adapted to the different conditions in each country, helped strengthen the regional training system. “It also helped increase opportunities and promote gender equity,” said Sara Silveira, Cinterfor representative in Uruguay.

The model links the training program for women to actual business needs. The way to guarantee a job, according to the model, is to strike a balance between productive sector needs and the supply of human capital. Formujer is meeting the demand for labor by establishing a connection with the productive sector for the women in the program.

Experts underlined that because the program focuses on the individual and is flexible, it could be adjusted to trainee needs. In Argentina, for example, training schedules were adjusted to the women's schedules and child care was provided while the women were attending classes. In other cases, the venue for classes was moved closer to the women's neighborhoods or the women were given means to access public transportation, enabling them to commute to the training centers.

The Formujer model also includes a review of training curricula with a gender perspective. At INFOCAL in Bolivia, for example, the number of programs was thus expanded from one to 38.

“The most effective use of resources for development,” said Donald Terry, manager for the IDB's Multilateral Investment Fund, “is to educate women, particularly those with young children.”