Key Findings and Lessons Learned
This year’s discussions and the lessons shared re-affirmed that there is a global commitment among practitioners to ensuring that YEO programming meets the needs of adolescent girls and young women. Practitioners are now digging in deeper to understand what are the contextual, socio-economic and other factors that impact girls’ ability to engage meaningfully and how best to undertake integrated or holistic programing to address their critical needs. There is also ongoing experimentation in how best to ensure buy-in and support from others in the community for programs specifically designed to support girls. There remains a need for greater discussion on lessons learned related to targeting boys and men as agents of change both around the status and agency of girls, as well as for their own self-empowerment and benefit. Carrying over a theme from the 2012 Conference, there are also additional investments needed in rigorous evaluation of efforts targeting adolescent girls and young women, with research agendas informed by questions of what works best in terms of integrated programming and how to scale effective interventions. As illustrated by the experience of IRC and its partners in microfranchising, evaluating these integrated efforts can be challenging given the numerous factors that need to be monitored, as well as the often high mobility of youth, including adolescent girls.
In sum, the following key recommendations emerged for practitioners on addressing the needs of AGYW:
Recommendation No. 1: It is not enough to study the needs of adolescent girls as a group, or even by socio-economic status to inform programming decisions. Geography and other contextual factors are an important influence in girls’ opportunities and options.
This is best highlighted in the programming undertaken by the Population Council and Asante Africa Foundation in developing savings products for girls living in urban and rural areas. The potential pathways for rural girls differed significantly from those in urban areas given different options in terms of mobility, economic activities and access to products and services, as well as infrastructure.
Recommendation No. 2: Girls’ aspirations—both in the short- and long-term should be identified and addressed into YEO programming.
It’s not enough to scope girls’ aspirations in terms of economic empowerment or increased incomes. Girls may have many reasons for engaging in YEO. They may be looking for a short-term activity to generate some quick income for an immediate life goal, or they may see it as a way to gain new skills and exposure to employment. While other youth may wish to establish an ongoing concern that can provide a steady income and employment for them and their family over the long term. Youth, and particularly girls, may also have family and other societal expectations/goals as to marriage, their role in the family, and other considerations that impact their potential pathways.
Recommendation No. 3: Ensuring community buy-in and support is critical to engaging adolescent girls both for effective results and to meet protection needs.
As noted in Recommendation No. 2, communities, parents, families and governments have expectations for girls, and they are also stakeholders in promoting their success and safety. Additionally, they can be blockages to girls’ engagement if they are not on board or supportive of girls’ participation. Peers can also be an important source of support for girls in addition to more experienced, respected mentors from the community. The projects presented here offer lessons and recommendations for different opportunities by which to engage the community in support of girls.
Recommendation No. 4: A good reminder that group-based efforts formal & informal can be an effective means for girls and young women to access peer support and address enterprise-level issues.
Over the course of the 2013 Conference, Camfed, the International Labor Organization, the International Rescue Committee, among others highlighted how effective groups can be for addressing many of the needs youth have in terms of mentoring, program solving and providing a space in which to share and foster enterprise ideas. FAO, IRD and Camfed further highlighted how mixed groups have enabled girls to come together, with their peer group including boys to address gender specific constraints. Additionally grouping youth can offer an efficient delivery vehicle through which to address enterprise level constraints that may require the mentoring or support of external facilitators and/or service providers such as access to finance, technical assistance, and navigating the enabling environment.