The Population Council announced today the launch of a large new research program designed to benefit adolescent girls in Kenya. The initiative will provide girls with access to interventions in the health, wealth creation, education, and violence-prevention sectors. Through a rigorous evaluation design, the Council will investigate which combinations of multi-sectoral approaches work most effectively to improve the lives of vulnerable adolescent girls in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Adolescent Girls Initiative-Kenya is a 6-year, -13 million program funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The program will reach at least 10,000 girls ages 10-14 in the northern arid lands and urban slums of Kenya with education and information about health, violence prevention through intensive community engagement, education subsidies, and wealth creation initiatives. These interventions will be implemented in different combinations and rigorously evaluated through a randomized controlled trial-the gold standard of research-to determine which combinations of program elements have the greatest impact on improving health and other outcomes in girls' lives.
The program joins a growing roster of Population Council girl-centered projects-including the DFID-funded Community Spaces for Adolescent Girls' Empowerment (CSAGE) program which launched in northern Nigeria in 2013. CSAGE is designed to demonstrate how community-managed programs to build girls' protective assets can be scaled up to reach more girls. The project will also generate solid evidence about the best ways to build girls' protective assets. (See below for more information.)
Investing in adolescent girls in the developing world is critical to the success of global development goals, like reducing poverty and improving global health and education. Research from the Population Council shows that if we improve adolescent girls' health, keep them safe and in school, and give them critical information and a say in their own lives, they will be on a path to healthy, productive adulthood.
"The Adolescent Girls Initiative-Kenya will tell us what works best to help girls stay healthy, avoid child marriage, avoid unwanted pregnancy, and earn more," said Ann Blanc, a Council vice president and director of its Poverty, Gender, and Youth program. "We are grateful for DFID's commitment to rigorous evaluation to ensure that programs for adolescent girls can increase the chances of achieving their ambitious goals."
The Population Council is partnering with the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), Itad, Save the Children, and Plan International to implement the program. The Council will conduct a randomized controlled trial to isolate and evaluate the effects of particular program elements, as well as the added benefit of implementing them in combination. A detailed cost-evaluation will also provide important information on the cost of each outcome achieved. The project will identify best practices, and help to refine the critical content themes of girl-centered programs and eliminate ineffective approaches.
"Adolescent girls in northern Kenya and Nairobi's slums are some of the most vulnerable in Kenya," said Population Council researcher Karen Austrian, the Adolescent Girls Initiative-Kenya Team Leader. "The Adolescent Girls Initiative will allow us to test unique combinations of interventions so that we can make concrete progress in understanding what will be the most-effective in helping these girls make a safe and healthy transition through adolescence."
Community Spaces for Adolescent Girls' Empowerment (CSAGE)
The Population Council has a large portfolio of research in sub-Saharan Africa and globally to help build girls' social, health, and economic assets. Recently joining this portfolio-in addition to the Adolescent Girls Initiative-Kenya-is the Community Spaces for Adolescent Girls' Empowerment (CSAGE) program in Nigeria.
CSAGE, launched in 2013, is a 5-year, -10 million, DFID-funded program. The program will reach 100,000 poor and vulnerable adolescent girls ages 10-19 in six northern Nigerian states. It uses girl-only safe spaces as venues for meeting with friends and mentors to build a support network, learn life skills, receive sexual and reproductive health information and get referrals to age-appropriate high quality health services. The girls will also learn about financial planning and gain access to formal financial services. The program will be closely monitored and evaluated.
The Population Council will coordinate the delivery of program services and associated program evaluation through in-country partners, including nongovernmental and community-based organizations; and its implementing partners, GRID Consulting and the Population and Reproductive Health Initiative (PRHI). The Council and its partners envision CSAGE supporting and building autonomous, sustainable organizations, such as PRHI, that are dedicated to producing effective girl-centered programs, sharing knowledge, and strengthening girls' protective assets (such as their health, literacy, and financial literacy).
Over decades, the Council has generated the world's largest body of rigorous evidence on programs to improve the lives of adolescent girls. Both the Adolescent Girls' Initiative-Kenya and CSAGE extend and enrich the Population Council's portfolio of programs and research designed to create opportunities in girls' lives.