New report on girls’ empowerment in Delhi schools

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

Today, ICRW released a report called “Shaping Futures: Planning Ahead for Girls’ Empowerment and Employability”, detailing findings from an evaluation of ICRW’s PAGE program.

The PAGE program, funded by the MacArthur Foundation, was designed to empower girls in low-income communities and build job skills. The PAGE project’s two main goals were to build girls’ self-efficacy and their ability to identify, plan and realize their personal and professional goals.

PAGE was implemented in four government schools in New Delhi, India, with approximately 4100 adolescent girls (ages 15-17) enrolled from low-income communities. The program was built around four modules focusing on:

  • Self. This module introduced the girls to the concepts of self-identity, gender, power, patriarchy and body image. In this module, girls were challenged to think about who they were as people, how their world (their family and community) perceives them, how they see themselves and how this identity can be fluid and evolving;
  • Employability. This module helped girls acquire the skills and confidence to be able to take concrete step toward their future;
  • Resourcefulness. In this module, girls learned how to overcome gender stereotypes while choosing jobs, how to create a CV and apply for jobs, how to manage and negotiate a work environment and skills for financial literacy; and
  • Employability action practicum. In this module, girls performed a skill-mapping exercise to identify the areas of work in which they might be interested in pursuing.

In addition to the school sessions, the program worked with girls’ parents and with the broader community, as well as school teachers. Together, these networks would create an enabling environment for girls so they received support in their future planning and decision-making.

In late 2016, ICRW conducted an evaluation to measure the program’s lasting effect on the participants. ICRW staff measured several key empowerment and employability outcomes for girls who participated in the program against those same outcomes for girls in three control schools. The empowerment indicators included measures of girls’ self-efficacy (their ability to have a say in critical decisions in their lives, including around their marriages), attitudes toward gender norms or gender equitable attitudes and recognition of discrimination in their lives. The employability indicators included measures of aspiration for higher studies and for a career, enrollment in learning opportunities outside school, seeking information for future goals and preparing a resume.

ICRW found that between baseline and endline, among girls who participated in the program there was a significant increase in the proportion of girls who reported that they have a say in decisions around when to marry. The responses increased by 12 percentage points (from 82.5 percent to 94.9 percent) in the intervention group and by only 6 percentage points (from 87.2 to 93.4 percent) in the control group.

Additionally, we found that there was an increase in the proportion of girls who sought information about their future goals in both intervention and control schools, but the increase was higher in the intervention schools. ICRW also noted a large increase in girls who took skills courses outside of school.

ICRW found a positive change in the attitudes toward gender equality among older girls, and changes in attitudes around discrimination. One participant said, “Whatever work women do, men also do, but they do it outside the house. For example, women and men can both cook, but the woman cooks at home and gets no ‘salary’, whereas when a man cooks and pursues that as a profession, he gets paid for it.”

“This data shows that programs like PAGE can have a lasting impact on girls’ future,” said Ravi Verma, director of ICRW’s Asia Regional Office. “We now know what can work to transform the way girls think about themselves, their self-worth and their future potential in the labor market. ICRW will use this data to improve its approach to build even stronger programs that will positively impact girls’ futures.”

ICRW found a positive and highly significant effect of the program on employability as well. While the respondents were typically from low-income households, there was a widespread desire among the girls to make a better life for themselves and their siblings in the future. Participants said they wanted to do well and make their parents proud and that studying well and getting a good job were seen as the pathways to realizing these aspirations. Several participants credited the PAGE program’s sessions in helping them set goals for their future and for helping them recognize the need for clarity about future choices.

“When girls learn how to negotiate their own space within the limitations of the patriarchal frameworks they are a part of, it gives them the strength and confidence to not just dream about their futures, but also concretely plan towards it,” said Aditi Vyas, researcher on the PAGE project. “Programs like PAGE go beyond typical programming, which focuses on topics such as sexual and reproductive health and rights, and provides practical skills and know-how for girls to build their agency and potential opportunities for employment.”

Previous research has shown that while the gender gap in school enrollment has been closing, the gender gap in labor force participation is on the rise. Reaching girls during adolescence is critical — decisions made and behaviors established during this period affect their horizons later in life. Programs like PAGE can help give girls the skills, confidence and tools to pursue careers after they graduate, helping to narrow the gap in labor force participation and giving girls the agency to pursue jobs that help them meet their financial needs.

With the lessons learned throughout implementation and through the evaluation, ICRW will be implementing another program, Plan-It Girls, in Jharkhand, India this year.