Adolescent Girls Empowerment Program (AGEP): Mid-Term Findings
Social isolation, economic vulnerability, and lack of access to health care and education prevent healthy transitions from childhood to adulthood, especially for vulnerable adolescent girls in developing countries. In Zambia, poor girls often are at high risk of gender-based violence, unintended pregnancy, and HIV. Many drop out of school, are unable to find employment, lack the ability to make independent decisions, and are not being reached by existing programs for young people. The root causes of these challenges, whether they are economic poverty, regressive social and cultural gender norms, or lack of individual self-esteem, are interlinked, suggesting that solutions should be multi-sectoral as well.
Many programs that help girls build social, economic and health assets have been effective in different parts of the world. By acquiring skills to navigate family, sexual relationships, health care, education and prospects for job training and a higher income, girls are more likely to maximize opportunities they encounter in life: to stay in school, delay early sex, avoid early marriage and dependency, and prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
The Adolescent Girls Empowerment Program (AGEP) is a four-year effort to support more than 11,000 of the most vulnerable adolescent girls in Zambia. AGEP was led by the Population Council, in partnership with the Young Women’s Christian Association of Zambia (YWCA), the National Savings and Credit Bank of Zambia (Natsave) and the Government of Zambia. The program design was based on the asset-building framework which posits that if girls are ableto build social, health and economic assets in the short term, there will be longer term dividends on health and education outcomes.
After a pilot period, AGEP rolled out in August 2013 to 11,000 girls living in 10 sites across four provinces. A household survey identified girls from lower-income backgrounds with multiple vulnerabilities: being out of or behind in school, without living parents, and/or physically or socially isolated. The most vulnerable girls were invited to participate.
To determine the impact of AGEP on mediating and longer-term demographic, reproductive, and health outcomes, researchers designed, implemented and evaluated three program components in the form of a longitudinal, randomized controlled trial.
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