The Girl Effect is real, new data shows

October 24, 2011
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If girls had the same access to resources as their male peers, went to school regularly, led lives free of domestic violence and avoided early marriage, agricultural output would increase 4 percent and the number of malnourished men, women and children would drop 17 percent.

If girls had the same access to resources as their male peers, went to school regularly, led lives free of domestic violence and avoided early marriage, agricultural output would increase 4 percent and the number of malnourished men, women and children would drop 17 percent. So says Girls Grow, a report on the world’s roughly 283 million rural adolescent girls that highlights BRAC’s ongoing commitment to girls’ empowerment.

The Coalition for Adolescent Girls’ latest data — part of its Girls Count series on developments in girls’ roles in rural economies — appears to confirm much of the “Girl Effect,” the idea that investing in adolescent girls in developing countries has profound effect on societies as a whole. Girls Grow, written by Catherine Bertini and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, came out Oct. 7.

The report calls on national governments, NGOs and bilateral donors to provide services and opportunities that both improve girls’ lives and prepare them to become successful contributors to the economy. On several occasions, the report examines BRAC’s success in targeting and mobilizing this demographic and includes a highlight of BRAC’s Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA) programs:

BRAC has found that financial illiteracy is a constraint to adolescent empowerment and is working with its partners to help build the life skills, financial literacy and self-confidence of rural adolescent girls. In 2002 BRAC developed a specialized microfinance program aimed specifically at adolescent girls. Initially, [ELA] began by targeting rural Bangladeshi girls between the ages of 14 and 25. The program has been expanded to Uganda and Tanzania under the name Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents and continues in Bangladesh under the name Social and Financial Empowerment of Adolescents.

In Tanzania the ELA program targets vulnerable adolescent girls aged thirteen to nineteen with the goal of social and financial empowerment. The program combines innovative livelihood and life skills training with a customized microfinance program. Program features include:

Adolescent clubs—Safe spaces where girls can meet and interact and engage in skill building, sports, and other recreational activities.

Adolescent leaders—Older adolescent girls (of at least nineteen years of age) trained by BRAC to manage and lead the clubs and the training courses.

Life skills training courses—For all club members to build social skills and avoid early marriage.

Income-generation skills training—Older and out-of-school girls can select one income-generating training area of interest that is designed for the local economy. Central to this feature is training in basic market analysis and help in selecting training that suits a girl’s interests and skills.

Appropriately designed microfinance—Includes adolescent female loan officers, smaller loan amounts than those given to adults, and a minimum borrowing age of sixteen.

Community participation—Information about the program is provided to communities, including parents and guardians, to help them understand it and to encourage them to support their adolescent girls.

Many of the girls’ clubs are in rural areas and therefore linked to agriculture. Some areas of income-generation training that have been shown to work for first-time microloan recipients are vegetable cultivation, poultry rearing, food processing, tailoring, and other nonfarm businesses.

Girls Grow was commissioned by the UN Foundation, Nike Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and is chaired by Catherine Bertini, former Executive Director of the UN World Food Program.

Click here to read the full Girls Grow report.

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