Changing girls’ lives for the better – but how? Insights from our expert Eileen Lambourne

Changing girls’ lives for the better – but how? Insights from our expert Eileen Lambourne

SPRING sought to help girls stay safe, learn, earn, save and improve their health and wellbeing. Each of the 75 SPRING businesses focused their girl products and services in at least one of these ‘impact pillars’. As part of our Impact Evaluation (IE) research we selected eight businesses to capture the intended impact. At the time of writing, two of these eight studies are still underway.

In this blog, Eileen Lambourne, the Impact Evaluation Lead for the SPRING evaluation, reflects on three emerging insights of the effectiveness and limitations of working with girls. These insights provide important lessons for future programming centred on girls.

  • Reaching girls has a multiplier effect and potential to catalyse social change

Three businesses selected for Impact Evaluation study focused on the far-reaching effects of learning: Fightback in Nepal delivered safety awareness and self-defence training, 360ED in Myanmar, delivered Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) lessons; and LearnObots in Pakistan, used a programmable robot to teach girls and inspire them to follow careers in technology.

SPRING supported these businesses to work with girls in schools, enabling them to rapidly upscale their reach in a safe environment for girls. This proved a successful strategy for the programme as our IEs evidenced that learning in a group created momentum for change, where girls talked to each other about what they learnt and carried learning home to siblings, parents and other friends. For example, in the instance of 360ED, friends beyond the treatment group accessed the online learning content. In Fightback, mothers recounted learning self-defence techniques from their daughters, and they promoted understanding that girls were victims and not instigators of violence.

  • To every age, different needs and desires

Working with girls through SPRING businesses highlighted some limitations of adolescent girls – in their knowledge, skills, ability to lead and to take responsibility. One of our IE studies, Shekinaan agricultural business seeking to set up girls in independent cooperatives – illustrates this particularly well. The business’s vision was that once established, and with a cooperative leader elected, girls would organise themselves within the cooperative, learn about running a business and earn a small amount of money to help them with future schooling.

However, our IE showed that in absence of intensive support – in the form of close mentorship or guidance from their family – girls struggled to organise themselves, did not easily elect and respect a leader, and missed out on the important lessons of being in a cooperative. In one sense, the girls seemed too inexperienced to take on this much responsibility and needed more guidance, instruction, as well as more structure and fun in the workplace. This could have been achieved had the cooperatives been differently conceived, but Shekina’s core activity was food processing and it had neither the expertise nor the resources to fully support girls or the development and management of the cooperatives. This was a second lesson – that some businesses do not adapt well to implementing activities beyond their core activities.

  • Including boys in the conversation to achieve gender equality

While SPRING focused on girls, business interventions proved the importance of working with both boys and girls to achieve change. This is because boys are an essential part of the conversation to build gender equality in society and because it increases chances of intervention buy-in from the relevant stakeholders.

For example, our Fightback evaluation highlighted that excluding boys – more likely to be perpetrators of harassment against girls – from self-defence training failed to influence a change in their behaviour. We also need to keep in mind that boys are victims of violent attacks and in need of learning basic self-defence. In response to this evaluation, Fightback introduced self-defence training for schoolboys which, while recognising boys’ own safety needs, also placed an emphasis on how boys could help improve girl safety.

Likewise, our iSocial IE study in Bangladesh, which focused on a door-to-door delivery of girl-focused products and dissemination of sexual and reproductive health products and information for girls, found that the iSocial network of agents naturally catered to the needs of both boys and girls, responding to demand from both boys and girls to promote business sales. This in itself was seen as more acceptable to the local community. Similarly, in the school for our LearnObots IE in Pakistan, the opportunity for girls to receive additional lessons in Science and Technology was far more acceptable when offered to both boys and girls.

As an accelerator, SPRING was innovative, and it sought to identify which methods worked best to reach girls. Over the coming months, the SPRING evaluation team will draw together a Summative IE report detailing further lessons.

If you are interested in learning more about the impact pathways of SPRINGinterventions, you can read our impact evaluation reports here.