BYMBE – Bringing Young Mothers Back to Education

Practice Aim

To support the work of social workers, teachers and trainers for the purpose of sustaining young mothers in re-entering education or training for a better access to the labour world.

Target Groups

Young mothers between 15 and 25 years old.


  • Frauen im Brennpunkt (Austria, coordinator);
  • Bimec (Bulgaria);
  • EHI – Exchange House Ireland (Ireland);
  • Social Innovation Fund (Lithuania);
  • Magenta Consultoría Projects S.L.U. (Spain);
  • CESIE (Italy).


The project

Bringing Young Mothers Back to Education – BYMBE aims to produce training tools so as to support the initiatives of social workers, teachers and trainers who assist young mothers between 15 and 25 years old who would like to re-enter education or training for a better access to the labour market.

DG EAC, Erasmus+: Key Action 2, Strategic Partnership in the field of Adult education

These young mothers decided to leave school and employment to become mothers and now they find themselves dependent from other people or from the social security benefits, unable to find a job because of their low qualification. To them giving up education also meant giving up social relations, and losing independence and dignity, which resulted in potential risks for their family, especially if they lose their main breadwinner (family, partners) or they fully depend on social benefits.

As for the target group of BYMBE project – young mothers between 15 and 25 years old – it must be said that in Italy only the 10,3% of women have a child before turning 25, being 31,15 the average age at which Italian women give birth. Since the number of young mothers is relatively small, the lack of support to this target group is not seen as a structural problem, so the Italian State and local authorities have not set up specific plans or items in their financial statements to provide the right amount of services and facilities to ease their access to education. Young mothers belong to all social classes, as they are all share a certain difficulty in processing the dramatic events of their lives, including trauma, mistreatment and the sense of being neglected in their own family as no-one seems take care of their emotional needs. The analysis of the ISTAT data also reveals a greater concentration of teen mothers in Southern Italy; in particular, the phenomenon is more widespread in Sicily, Puglia, Campania, Sardinia and Calabria. However, there is a higher percentage of young mothers also in large cities such as Milan and Rome, which are more affected by the migration phenomenon. Although the absolute number of those born to foreign women has increased considerably over time, with reference to the number of births from young mothers, the percentages calculated for these two components of the population are similar.

Application setting: context

Young mothers often struggle with a lack of time, since they have limited opportunities of spending their spare time on their own. At the same time, in order to achieve an official qualification allowing them to access to employment, students have to attend their lessons regularly and study more than 50 hours a week (in and out of school). This lack of flexibility in the system does not meet the needs of young mothers, especially of those suffering from postpartum complications and are unable to attend classes. This is one of the main causes of their drop-outs. Italy does not provide young mothers with structural aid programmes as their conditions is not considered as an issues due to the officially lower figures of young women having their first child before turning 25.
Poorer financial situation acts as a barrier: it is worth to stay home with children and not to study or work, since the child care facilities are hardly affordable and flexible. The working life of Italian women is generally affected by difficulties due to high unemployment rates, inadequate incomes, precarious and temporary jobs, so it is unlikely that young mother will persevere in their decision to progress in education in order to benefit of better job opportunities. Young mothers are generally unmotivated and not interested in education: also, in disadvantaged context which are close to traditional family values, social success for a woman still lies solely in marriage, and giving birth is seen as the proof of their femininity and of the virility of their partners. Not having a clear education and life plan, these girls are not fully aware of how pregnancy can hamper it, and they never consider their level of education or job conditions in relation to parenthood: to them, concern about family income and opportunities for children lie with men as breadwinner.


  • To adapt and promote good practices of support for young mothers for going back to school or in employment in Europe.
  • To develop innovative outreach strategy and motivational campaign for awareness raising on the issue of early school leaving of young mothers.
  • To support social workers and trainers by provision of additional tools, knowledge and skills for their work with young mothers.
  • To develop holistic support instruments for young mothers, including counselling, training and peer-groups
  • To disseminate project results and raise awareness about the problem of early school leaving of young mothers and how to address it.

Accessibility issues

A peer buddy system has been developed to support the implementation of learning and career pathways and to make use of the knowledge and the experiences of the peer group. This system aims to have an impact on the social capital of young mothers to build their own Social Network. During counselling group sessions Young Mothers support each other in their challenging adventures of finding their place in education system. The success of the peer buddy system relies on the diversity of peers’ experiences around a common theme e.g. employment prospects. This allows the peers to have a focus while also creating safe boundaries of the areas they are expected to support one another with. In order to strengthen a sense of community, it was crucial to create groups of peers who could share similar backgrounds and experiences (in this sense CESIE referred to the 4th dimension of the Diversity Wheel).


  • Created a holistic awareness campaign on education needs and a support package for young mothers in need to help them finalize their education.
  • Improved the opportunities in professional and social life of young mothers by enabling them to finalize their vocational education, having their own job, earning their own income, be independent from social security benefits.
  • Provision of effective career guidance and orientation to young mothers and prevention and reduction of Youth Unemployment.
  • Improvement of the know-how and awareness of Social workers/Teachers Trainers working with the young mothers about how to support them in the best holistic way.
  • Raised the awareness of stakeholders and general public about the importance of vocational education for girls in order to assure their own economic safety.


In total 6 outputs were produced to support work with young mothers entering/re-entering education and employment (EN, DE, IT, ES, BG and LT)

    National information on education systems and support services for educational integration of young mothers. National Report focusing on Young Mother and Women situation in Italy and Sicily
  2. Handbook for Outreach Awareness & Motivation Strategies A methodology about how to elaborate and implement a motivational campaign addressed to young mothers and their influencers (social workers, teachers, trainers, families, friends) to prevent school leaving and to promote return to education.
  3. Set of Intervention Methods to Involve Young NEET Mothers Innovative strategies and intervention methods aimed at motivating young mothers to re-enter education, including guidelines for working with parents and peers and emergency management.
  4. BYMBE – Orientation Pack An innovative approach based on professional and personal guidance and counselling to help young NEET mothers to find their way to education and profession.
  5. BYMBE – Empowerment Pack Training contents aimed to help young mothers to understand and manage their feelings and behaviours and interact successfully with people around them as well as within social context in order to ease their re-entering in education and improve their chances to be able to keep on the professional training till the end.
  6. BYMBE – Support Pack Approaches to support young mothers for the time they will have entered education in order to overcome crisis, doubts or other problems related to re-entering education.


  • The purpose of counselling in BYMBE is not to relieve young mothers of their struggles or carry them through life, but to empower them to take the necessary steps themselves. BYMBE believes in young mothers’ developmental capabilities and aims at reinforcing their personal strengths. Development is possible in any situation, and young mothers are capable of taking responsibility for their own development. Throughout the entire counselling process, the young mother decides on the content of the work carried out together. She defines the subject matter, together with the goals, objectives, and pace of the work, with the support of her counsellor and peers.
  • The self-reflection and peer support approaches foreseen in the BYMBE resources placed young mothers in a situation where they had to reflect on their educational journey and life choices. The insights they gained empowered them in making better life choices and improved their approach to learning. Activities were powerful as they made young mothers understand the impact of their past choices and of a change in their usual patterns and actively engaged them in achieving the change, they wanted for themselves and their families.


  • Engagement of the target group of young mothers was unpredictable. Due to the very nature of the target groups and the barriers they face it was very difficult to keep the women engaged for the entire programme, a high dropout rate was experienced. Also there needed to be a lot of additional services set up in order to support their involvement in the training activities which was not necessarily taken into account in the project at the beginning.
  • BYMBE assumes the autonomy of the young mother seeking help and advice and views this person as a ‘self-expert’. Women’s constructed identities as mothers and wives can be difficult to reconcile with those of learners or students. Also, women’ personal responses to (restrictive) gender norms – especially when male figures (husband, partner, father) are not equal. Women whose life was more restricted by family barriers were not always willing to question and resist them.

Difficulties or constrains for its implementation

  • Lack of additional resources from referral agencies for supporting long term engagement of the young mothers
  • Irregularities in the law concerning young mothers’ rights of returning to full time education and working after having children
  • Lack of awareness concerning the issues young mothers face and their retention in the formal education system
  • The general vocational education system in Sicily does not provide opportunities which are flexible (to meet young mothers’ needs) and accessible (formal general education may be costly); the regional vocational education suffers from blockage of funding.
  • Due to the recent national “minimum income” scheme, Young Mothers started relying on entitlement to get a job through the scheme with no further education required.
  • Provincial Adult Education Centres do not provide qualification opportunities over the lower secondary school level (First cycle of education, ISCED 2, EQF level 1), meaning that professional education for adults are limited, must be paid by the adult learner and is not flexible in setting.
  • In spite of the various options of Informal and non-formal education offer, in Italy there is no non-formal education system providing formally recognised qualifications and certificates.
  • In Italy Childcare facilities of any kind are hard to access or expensive, moreover their opening hours are hardly flexible. In Sicily there are from 10 to 14 places available every 100 children. In 2017, public offer met only the 8.04% of the potential demand. Because of the high costs of private childcare facilities, families are likely to become in default of payment, and in fact in 2016 19% of families left private facilities, withdrawing their children before the end of the educational year or after only 3 months of attendance.
  • In accessing childcare there are no specific provisions for parents in need of compulsory schooling or wishing to re-enter education. In fact, criteria favour children having both or one parent working only. Sicily’s employment rate is 40.3% (meaning less than 1 person in 2 has a job); rate of youth unemployment in the 15-24 age bracket is 57.2%. Even those holding higher education qualifications struggle in finding a job: only the 26.7% of university graduated gets a job within 3 years after graduation.
  • Women are more likely than men to be offered atypical jobs and therefore are more likely to be trapped in precarious and temporary jobs and have discontinuous careers. If atypical workers become pregnant, they are less supported than typical workers: they have less rights related to maternity leave, no provision to leave to care for sick children, and, above all, a lower probability of working after the birth of the child. The low attractiveness of such jobs in terms of remuneration, working hours and self-fulfilment may convince young mothers that being employed is not worthwhile.
  • In Sicily the pay gap may reach 46%. It is no surprise in Italy that a woman advances in her career less frequently than a man and earns less, or has a low-skilled job, despite her qualifications. Besides, motherhood – and related maternity leave – entails a loss of women earnings of 12% (20% for women not having a full-time job of unlimited duration). Women always pay a higher price than men for parenthood: of course, women are the ones giving birth, but parent leave can be taken also by men, and only the 4% of them does it.

CRITERIA actors or stakeholder are using to assess them as a “good practice”

  • Flexible timing is crucial for those with limited time for study (such as those in full-time employment or with caring responsibilities); even unemployed migrant participants value possibility to get a job (even working on the black market) more than any unpaid training, especially when training is not connected to material/practical benefits. BYMBE setting (60 hours training + individual counselling sessions) must be more flexible.
  • Making the training contents more flexible is necessary to meet the diverse needs of migrant learners, who are likely to range from the highly educated to those with only a basic level of education, those with additional barriers to learning (such as illiteracy or special learning needs).
  • BYMBE is focused on re-entering education, but poverty-related barriers are common. Migrants spend most of their time earning a living. Education is rarely a priority to them especially when they are not able to cover its costs. Nor the Italian national formal education system or the Sicilian Vocational education system foresee accessible and suitable vocational education. So, motivation strategies need to be focused on providing results for their daily lives: tangible incentives or rewards such as attendance token, expense reimbursement, childcare facility in the activity venues, access to a paid traineeship scheme, or greater opportunities on the labour market.
  • One major problem is the lack of motivation which is strongly connected to:
    • their uncertain status: some migrants simply wait for the documents to continue the journey to other countries. But in some cases, it takes more than 2 years to go through the legal process.
    • the huge impact of those narratives according to which is not necessary to learn the local language in order to find a low-skilled job.
  • Re-entering education requires a strong and regular relation with training institutes as well as provision of specific training for preparing for selection tests.
  • Obstacles for migrant women can occur around gaining and maintaining access to education, which can be due to limited availability of courses or of appropriate (e.g. single-sex) courses, limited family resources, and practical matters like lack of transportation and childcare.
  • Training migrants requires the establishment of a trainer-trainee relationship based on esteem and trust. However, the high degree of isolation and the vulnerability of migrants lead to develop dynamics of dependence in the hope that the trainer can intercede for the resolution of health, work, economic and legal issues. It could be useful to create a buddy or mentoring system with long-term residents or other professionals.

Key Performance Indicators:


  • Results of the training and piloting feedbacks (participant satisfaction questionnaire) evaluate the opinions given by participants on the piloting of each IO, focusing on their satisfaction level with the support, counselling and training (more than 85% of the participants said they were satisfied with the results).
  • Low drop-out rates during the project (normally for NEETS they are quite high – during this project we focused on a quote of max. 40% drop-outs of the young mothers).


Young mothers

  • min 60% having finalised or are in education at the end of the project life time.
  • min 85% of the young mothers were satisfied with the service provision.
  • YM attitude towards education, employment before and after the training – qualitative – min. 85% convinced.
  • gathered skills in the trainings – qualitative – min. 85% of participants said they were satisfied with the results.

Trainers/Social workers

  • min 85% of trainers (social workers) were satisfied with their trainings.
  • assessment of competences referred before and after the training – qualitative – min. 85% satisfaction.
  • gathered skills in the training – qualitative – min 85% satisfaction.

Year and length (duration)

01/10/2017 – 30/11/2019 [27 months]