Press Releases

Dr. Karen Austrian appointed as Director of the Population Council’s Girl Innovation, Research, and Learning (GIRL) Center

NEW YORK, NEW YORK (September 14, 2021) – The Population Council is thrilled to announce the appointment of our colleague Dr. Karen Austrian as the Director of the Council’s Girl Innovation, Research, and Learning (GIRL) Center – a global research hub that generates, synthesizes, and translates evidence on adolescents to support investments that transform their lives, especially for girls.  

Dr. Austrian is a recognized global expert on adolescent health and empowerment and an intellectual force in using rigorous research and evidence to guide investments in the health and well-being of adolescents. She has been with the Population Council for 15 years based in our office in Kenya, where she has been conducting ground-breaking research and implementing programs focused on adolescent girls in East and Southern Africa. Her work has focused on building adolescents’ protective assets, such as financial literacy, sexual and reproductive health information and services, social safety nets, and education.  

“I can’t think of a better research leader than Karen to direct the GIRL Center at such an important time in its growth, as the Center proactively confronts the pressing issues facing the largest generation of adolescents and children during the pandemic and the intertwined global climate, health, and economic crises,” said Dr. Thoại Ngô, founding director of the GIRL Center and the Population Council’s Vice President of Social and Behavioral Science Research.  

Dr. Harriet Birungi, the Population Council’s Vice President of International Programs, who has worked with Karen from Nairobi over the years adds, “When it comes to adolescent girls' issues, Karen is unstoppable. She has worked closely with girls in different contexts; consistently engaged with global, national, and local stakeholders to amplify girls' issues; and has contributed immensely to changes in girls’ programs and policies. I look forward to her leadership in positioning the GIRL Center for even greater research impact.”  

Since its launch in 2017, the GIRL Center has strengthened the evidence base on adolescent lives and convened experts across disciplines and topics, including education, empowerment, health, and well-being, to co-create lasting solutions for adolescents. The Center curates research briefs and insights collections, translating the latest data and evidence into accessible and relevant resources for global, national, and local stakeholders.  

The GIRL Center is known for its creation of the Adolescent Data Hub, the first ever global open catalog of research data on adolescents and young people living in 138 countries, and the Evidence for Gender and Education Resource (EGER), the first freely available resource to help the global gender and education community make informed decisions about their programming, investments, and policy and research priorities.  

“I am excited and humbled to lead the GIRL Center at this critical time when the world cannot afford to not make the right investments in the largest generation of adolescents. I look forward to continuing to grow the Center to become the premier place for rigorous data on adolescence and to working with researchers, policy-makers and partners across the globe to ensure that adolescent girls, in particular the most marginalized, are able to make safe, healthy, and productive transitions into adulthood,” said Austrian. 

Learn more about the GIRL Center.