Council Commentary

Invest in Girls, Change the World

Martha Brady and Nicole Haberland are directors of RISING and Population Council senior associates.

There is widespread recognition that investing in adolescent girls in the developing world not only improves their lives, but is critical to the success of key development goals, like reducing poverty and improving global health and education. Studies also show that excluding adolescent girls from school, community participation, and meaningful livelihoods has a substantial negative impact on the health of girls and their families, and on the economic prosperity of their families and communities.

However, key questions about programs for adolescent girls remain unanswered. For example:

  • Do multi-component programs lead to better outcomes for girls than single-component programs?
  • Do multi-level interventions (those directed at girls but also at gatekeepers, boys/men, or community institutions/systems) lead to better outcomes for girls?
  • Can “boosters”—supplemental, short interventions provided to participating girls sometime well after the end of the main program—help sustain the effects of a program? If so, what, when and how should they be administered?
  • How do the effects of an intervention vary depending on the “saturation” of the program in the community? Is there a threshold proportion of girls that must be involved? 

To answer these pressing programmatic questions and others, the Population Council launched RISING, a Research Initiative for Success IN Girl programs, in 2013. RISING is supported by the Nike, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur, and David and Lucile Packard foundations. RISING uses implementation science, evidence review, and organizational grants to build knowledge about what works in adolescent girls programming. RISING capitalizes on the Council’s expertise in operations research and implementation science and its decades of research on girls and adolescence.

The aim is to provide evidence to inform decisions about how to spend scarce funds most effectively and how to best shape programs so that they benefit adolescent girls. Through RISING, the Council has granted funding and is providing technical assistance to researchers working with girls in diverse settings to produce practical, usable knowledge that can improve the effectiveness, efficiency, quality, and sustainability of girl-centered programs. We are excited about these partnerships and eager to share lessons and results as we go.

Beginning next week, RISING grantees will report their findings here on the Population Council’s News & Views blog in a series on Implementation Science for Adolescent Girls Programs. First up will be Shelley Clark of McGill University reporting on the effect of building girls’ financial literacy in rural Ghana. Next we’ll hear from Jeffrey D. Edmeades of the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) on their evaluation of CARE International’s TESFA program in the Amhara region of Ethiopia. We look forward to exploring the best ways to improve programs for girls with our grantees and with you.

Other posts in this series: