For girls who grow up in rural Africa, poor school attendance during adolescence is correlated with advanced sexual initiation, earlier marriage and childbearing, higher rates of HIV and AIDS, and greater risk of domestic violence.
As adolescent girls transition from childhood to motherhood, uneducated women are less likely to value learning, to be aware of the returns of schooling and ultimately to ensure that their children receive an education, making it more challenging for them to break the cycle of poverty.
Our Female Empowerment initiatives inspire primary school girls from some of the most faraway communities in Madagascar and Zambia to believe in their self-worth. We aim to increase the number of primary school girls who successfully transition to, and eventually complete, secondary school. Specifically, the programme objective is to see 70% of female beneficiaries achieve high enough exam scores to advance to top boarding schools. These schools not only have better resources than local government day schools, but they also provide an environment of serious academic concentration and shelter girls from the domestic expectations of their homes and communities. For our 2019 cohorts of girls, we recorded 42% of girls transition to secondary school; however, for the girls who remained in the programme for three consecutive years, this figure skyrocketed to 100%. This realisation prompted us to re-strategise and limit intake to girls in grade 5 only, mandating a three-year commitment to the programme.
The programme consists of weekly clubs with 170 girls across 9 schools, and we focus our activities on building self-esteem, literacy and overall academic performance. In 2021, we expanded our programme to include women in our communities who dropped out of school – women who could have benefitted from girls clubs had they been available when the women were in primary school. Our objective with our pilot groups is to increase women’s income generation capabilities, and we aim to do this through a collaborative and multi-dimensional approach led by the women. This approach includes practical skills training, lessons in literacy, financial literacy and business management as well as interventions to increase self-esteem and address the social barriers that inhibit women from becoming financially independent.
Baseline vs Endline/Current Self-Esteem Scores by Cohort and Site
Percent of Female Students who Advanced to Secondary School by Cohort and Site