Population Council researchers worked with local NGOs in urban Burkina Faso to create a targeted, evidence-based asset-building program to improve the lives of migrant girls in domestic service.
Young people in Burkina Faso, particularly those in rural areas, have few economic opportunities. This is especially true for adolescent girls, who often have very little schooling or other preparation for work. The lack of economic opportunities in rural areas prompts girls to migrate to urban areas in search of employment. For many girls, the chance to work in urban areas in domestic service is an opportunity to earn money—often to purchase goods in preparation for marriage.
Once girls arrive in the city, they typically live with their employers and spend long days performing domestic work. This leaves them with little time for schooling, building social networks, or developing skills necessary for adulthood. Living apart from their families, they are also vulnerable to sexual and economic exploitation.
Formative research by the Population Council revealed that the majority of programs designed to reach these girls:
- intervene after something goes wrong rather than building girls’ protective assets;
- focus on teaching girls about their rights rather than imparting skills; and
- focus on measuring inputs (i.e., number of radio messages broadcasted) rather than improvements in girls’ lives.
In response to these findings, the Council designed a 30-session program for migrant adolescent domestic workers in urban Burkina Faso. Filles Eveillées (“Girls Awakened”) sought to increase domestic workers’ opportunities and reduce their vulnerabilities by linking them to services; building adolescent girls’ life skills, financial capabilities, and knowledge about health (including sexual and reproductive health); and expanding their social safety net (including access to peers and mentors). The program reached 375 girls in Bobo-Dioulasso and Ouagadougou.
To reach this isolated population, the program employed several strategies:
- going door-to-door to reach socially isolated girls and recruit them to the program;
- holding regular girls’ group meetings to reduce girls’ social isolation;
- using group meetings to build girls’ protective skills and knowledge, giving them assets that cannot be taken away;
- linking girls to available health, financial, and psychosocial services in their communities; and
- conducting community-awareness sessions and home visits in each program community to build support for the program.
An evaluation of the program, the first asset-building program for girl domestic workers in Burkina Faso, found significant increases in the percentage of girls who reported:
- having a savings account;
- holding gender-equitable attitudes (such as disagreeing that men have a right to beat their wives);
- having a strong social safety net (including friends and people to turn to for advice); and
- knowing effective family planning methods and where to get them.
The program has had important policy and program impact. The Burkina Faso Ministry of Social Welfare is using the approach and evidence generated by this program as it develops a strategy to better meet the needs of adolescent domestic workers. In Niger, UNFPA is using this approach to reach hundreds of thousands of girls.