The Adolescent Girls Initiative-Kenya is a randomized, controlled trial that tests combinations of initiatives—in health, violence prevention, wealth creation, and education—to determine which improve girls’ lives most.
Marginalized adolescent girls in Kenya face considerable risks and vulnerabilities that affect their educational status, health and general well-being. They are at high risk for early marriage, unintended pregnancy, early and unprotected sex, sexual assault, and HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. They have limited income-earning opportunities and high rates of illiteracy, and often experience violence and social isolation. In addition to all these challenges, they are frequently living in the context of acute poverty at the household and community levels.
Council research has shown that it is important to reach these vulnerable girls when they are young—between the ages of 10 and 14—before irreversible events like early and/or unintended pregnancy can anchor them in poverty. Evidence shows that there is potential that if these girls are reached in early adolescence, prior to negative outcomes setting in, they can be set on a more positive life trajectory.
The Adolescent Girls Initiative-Kenya (AGI-K) is testing layered packages of interventions that reflect the complex challenges and underlying cultural barriers that adolescent girls in Kenya face. AGI-K is a randomized controlled trial implemented in two sites – in urban Kibera, an informal settlement in Nairobi, and in rural Wajir, a remote, underdeveloped area in Kenya along the Northeast border with Somalia. AGI-K has reached more than 6,000 girls ages 11-15 over two years.
AGI-K is testing the following four layered packages:
- Violence Prevention, which includes community dialogues on the prevalence and persistence of violence against girls, coupled with funded community projects to address these challenges.
- Violence Prevention + Education, which also includes a cash transfer conditional on school enrollment at the start of each term and regular attendance throughout the term.
- Violence Prevention + Education + Health, in which girls meet in safe space groups once a week with a female mentor who delivers a health, life skills, and nutrition curriculum.
- Violence Prevention + Education + Health + Wealth Creation, in which girls also participate in additional financial education sessions integrated into the “safe space” curricula and open savings accounts or home banks.
At the end of the two-year program, AGI-K midline results show positive impacts for girls across a broad range of health, social, educational, and financial indicators in both Kibera and Wajir. Individual results varied across both sites.
- In Kibera, AGI-K had significant effects on violence reduction, primary school completion and schooling self-efficacy, sexual and reproductive health knowledge, social safety nets, financial literacy and savings behavior, and household economic status.
- In Wajir, AGI-K had statistically significant effects on primary school enrollment, positive gender norms and self-efficacy, financial literacy, and savings behavior.
Furthermore, results show that layering multiple interventions to holistically address girls’ complex needs can increase overall positive impact on girls’ lives. This analysis points to the win-win opportunity to maximize girls’ welfare by introducing education, health, and wealth interventions together – both lowering costs and increasing benefits for girls.
Information from randomized controlled trials can be reliably used to shape the field of adolescent girls’ policy and programs. This project will identify best practices, refine the critical elements of girl-centered programs, and help to eliminate ineffective approaches.
The AGI-K intervention ended in 2017. The study’s midline assessment results were released in 2018, and Council researchers will conduct an endline analysis of the program’s longer-term impacts in 2019. AGI-K community projects and girls’ savings are continuing to date, and the Population Council is exploring partnerships to extend the program.