This paper presents the findings of an impact evaluation of a large-scale training and empowerment intervention in rural Upper Egypt, a region with some of the lowest rates of female labour force participation and highest gender disparities in the Arab World. The intervention offered business, vocational and life skills training combined with business development services and civic education to 4,500 young women in 30 villages in rural Upper Egypt. The evaluation of the intervention used difference-in-difference and propensity score matching and included 5,704 survey respondents in the follow-up data collection round. Results of the study concentrate on outcomes related to labour market status and career aspirations.
1. The intervention resulted in a strong and highly significant impact on labour market outcomes, economic aspirations and business knowledge of young women in treated villages compared to control villages.
2. Economic empowerment of young women can be increased by combining hard and soft skills, in the form of business, vocational and life skills training, combined with civic education and guidance on how to start a business or become employed.
3. Interventions that specifically target young women must employ a gender-sensitive design, which would include gender-sensitive outreach, creating female-friendly spaces during training, minimizing the distance to training facilities, flexible timing of classes and close mentoring by local women to serve as role models.
4. Promoting safe, flexible, female-friendly employment and workplaces for women including maternity protection and more harmonized work-life balance will help in increasing female labour market participation in Egypt.
5. A combination of creative gender dynamics curricula and innovative programme design is needed if the social and economic empowerment of young women in rural societies is to be increased.