At the community level, developing and engaging the energies of young people is critical, especially in poor communities where both boys and girls will soon be responsible for supporting not only themselves but also their families. Economic globalization is providing unprecedented yet potentially unappreciated opportunities for older adolescents, especially girls, to earn incomes that can increase their social and economic standing, self-esteem, and skills. Some countries with available data show that unmarried young women dominate in many of the emerging export-led industries. Concerns about the exploitation of adolescent girls and boys working in factories in other settings has dominated much of the policy debate. These valid concerns deserve due attention, but must not mask the potential benefits that these increasing opportunities for paid work yield for both individual girls and society. The workshop, Essential Questions, Essential Tools, was motivated by the desire to learn more about the nature of both younger and older adolescents’ work experience, differentiate the particular needs and potentials of adolescent girls, and identify programs and policies of whatever scale and formality that might have promise for supporting them. The workshop focused, therefore, on these five essential questions:
- Where are adolescents working?
- What is the policy and normative environment surrounding girls’ work?
- How do adolescent girls experience their working conditions—what contribution does working make to their adolescence?
- What is the livelihoods approach?
- What is the experience to date in supporting and/or generating livelihoods for adolescent girls?
In an effort to synthesize the wealth of information presented over two days in Cairo in the most readable and usable fashion, this report does not strictly follow the meeting agenda. While it is based on individual summaries of each presentation, in some instances information from two or more presenters has been combined to aid in the flow of text. This report attempts to highlight the “essential questions, essential tools” theme by framing its narrative around the questions that appear above.