Effective scalable interventions for keeping girls in school and promoting their SRHR in sub-Saharan Africa

Project Duration

July 2020 - September 2020

Project Funder

Children’s Investment Fund Foundation

ICRW Project Director

Heather Marlow


Although most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) have made commitments to compulsory education and access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) education and services, many girls and young women, particularly pregnant and young mothers, do not benefit. Keeping girls in school improves their long-term well-being and reduces their likelihood of exposure to HIV or other infectious diseases and contributes vastly to development. Strong positive relationships exist between women and girls’ educational attainment and their economic well-being and health outcomes. Knowing effective interventions and innovative programs that produce positive outcomes for girls can support smart investments and help bring promising initiatives to scale.

What Did We Set Out to Do?

To support CIFF’s charitable focus on girls’ opportunities—including ensuring that they complete their education, gain critical life skills, and enjoy access to sustainable livelihoods in Africa—ICRW produced: 

  • A landscape analysis of innovations/interventions/programs in SSA with proven effectiveness and potential to keep girls in school and improve their SRH outcomes; and
  • A concept note for CIFF’s future programmatic and research engagement on girl-child education (GCE) and SRH issues in SSA.

What Methods did we use?

The landscape analysis was produced using mixed approachFirst, ICRW contacted 50 organizations at local, national, and regional levels working in education and SRH in Sub-Saharan Africa. Contacts shared  grey or peer-reviewed literature evaluating their programs. Concurrently, ICRW conducted a scoping review of white and gray literature (peer reviewed and non-peer reviewed sources, respectively) with a search strategy built by a research librarian and ICRW’s experts in systematic review best practices. Collected documents were systematically assessed for quality of research or evaluation design. Where identified programs were determined to be of high quality, ICRW conducted phone-based key informant interviews with study authors (either program implementers or researchers) in order to understand the history of the program, program challenges related to retention and enrollment, quality of program implementation, value for money, any deviations or adjustments as a result of challenges, sustainability and scale-up plans and major successes. 

Key Findings:

ICRW researchers summarized 10 programs that met the criteria for effectiveness. Findings showed that supporting families with cash or other subsidies (e.g., uniforms, school supplies, school fees) conditional on girls’ school attendance led to positive educational outcomes such as school enrollment, retention, grade attainment and literacy and numeracy.

Evidence for any association between GCE promotion and HIV prevention was limited. Gaps in the evidence caused by publication bias (i.e., a tendency away from sharing negative results) were also cautioned. ICRW presented the results to the CIFF team and discussed the findings.