11 October 2012

By Girls for girls: recommendations on girl programming

By Soledad Muñiz - @solemu

Today, October 11th, is the International Day of the Girl, designated by the United Nations after a successful advocacy campaign by Plan UK. As Cherry Healy reminds as in her post, one in three girls worldwide are denied education due to poverty, discrimination and/or violence.

In a joint statement, UN Women, UNFPA and UNICEF calls us to focus attention "...on the need to address the challenges girls face, promote their empowerment and fulfil their human rights."
As I've explained here, I was engaged in the last year in an initiative that supported adolescent girls that are part of empowerment projects to take a leading role in evaluating girl programming. The Initiative run in parallel in two countries, Guatemala & Uganda, working with two different program implementers and in different type of programming. During 7 months, 12 adolescent girl trainees in each country learnt how to use participatory video combined with most significant change to support 450 other girls to share their stories of change. At the end of the process, the trainees -who became strong video girl leaders- analysed the 64 collected video stories of change (32 per country) & scribe notes from the process, and presented the results & recommendations to the program implementers in video reports.
I thought the best way to honour those girls today was to call attention to their recommendations on girl programming. As part of the Initiative, a group of girl leaders from each country met in the last stage in April 2012 at the AWID forum in Turkey. They've discussed commonalities between the results they had found in their respective programs and were able to present their ideas directly to the donor. Done by girls for girls.

I hope that we adults can learn from them in this special day and everyday:
  • CASCADING LEADERSHIP – Girl to Girl: In both countries the evaluation revealed many testaments to the key role girl leaders and mentors play in successful girl programming. Girls value girl leaders and mentors, particularly because they share common ground with girls participating in the program and understand the ‘language’ of other girls from a similar background. Given the important role that they play, girl leaders and mentors should be supported. Also transitions between leaders should be carefully managed so that girls participating in the program have a consistently positive experience.
"Share the learning of how Abriendo Oportunidades from Population Council Guatemala works with other organizations working with girls…Girl leaders or mentors should be supported by the organizations because they are the backbones of the program, they are the ones who mobilize girls, they are the ones who stay with the girls. Without them the membership would collapse." (Stage 4 girl recommendations)
  • ENGAGE PARENTS: The role of parents in the girls’ lives is central. Programs should aim to raise awareness amongst parents, about their core activities and aims as well as about the needs of the girls taking part. Programming should particularly look at supporting mothers because they have been identified in both evaluations as one of the key agents that enable positive change in the girls’ lives. Sensitizing fathers is also vital, as they have been identified as blockers of change. 
"Mothers play a big role in supporting daughters. They are the first people girls go to… Fathers are generally not involved in the lives of their daughters. We have to find ways of involving fathers in the lives of the girls." (Stage 4 girl recommendations)
  • EQUIP GIRLS WITH PRACTICAL SKILLS: Girl beneficiaries in Guatemala and Uganda clearly expressed that learning new skills was the key to supporting them in creating change in their lives. They highlighted life skills, reproductive & sexual health education & vocational trainings as the key new skills to strengthen their process of empowerment. The girl trainees in Uganda found out that deepening knowledge in how to run small businesses was considered to generate more significant change than the small loans themselves. Guatemalan girl beneficiaries shared this interest in livelihood trainings, mainly in the form of handicraft skills. In both countries, girls expressed that they wanted deeper, longer trainings.
"Create more girl programming linked to opening opportunities for girls, training and knowledge as well as women and child rights." (Stage 4 girl recommendations)

"Trainings have a greater impact on adolescents & the community than microfinance. Our evaluation says that more emphasis should be put on trainings." (Final Video Report by Trainees- Uganda)

  • GIRL CLUBS: These have been identified in both countries as a safe space: a place for girls to develop their talents, bring them together and create a second home for the girls.
"In this space, they lose fear and shine and learn to participate in the group. Girls grow in self-esteem; they are able to speak in front of others." (Stage 4 girl recommendations)
  • GIVE GIRLS PUBLIC PLATFORMS TO AMPLIFY THEIR VOICE: Participatory Video made the girls ‘visible’ in the community and the story collection process and screenings they organized raised their stature in the community. The videos and screening events served to raise awareness of the issues faced by girls and their needs & rights.
"Replicate participatory video techniques with girl clubs. Share stories from girl to girl. Participatory video has helped girls become visible in their communities. Through the collection of stories and through the screenings different people in the community become aware of girls’ concerns." (Stage 4 girl recommendations)
  • MICROFINANCE: Microfinance is a key component of the ELA program in Uganda. The girl participants expressed that it is important to get loans after receiving training and support to run a microenterprise.
"Support for girls after trainings using microfinance is also important." (Stage 4 girl recommendations)
  • ADDRESS THE REALITIES OF GIRLS’ LIVES: Violence against women and girls is widespread in Guatemala and is a reality that many girls participating in the Abriendo Oportunidades program face. The program places girl leaders in internships to learn about gender-based violence and women’s rights and pass on the learning to girls participating in clubs. Providing access to counselling, and orientation to overcome gender-based violence has been identified as essential to support girls to create change in their lives.
"It’s important that the girl leaders replicate training on how to overcome violence, speak up and find out how to denounce it." (Stage 4 Guatemala paper animation)