Girl Empower (GE) encourages adolescent girls living in rural areas of Nimba County, Liberia to partake in weekly mentored community-based workshops on life skills, self-care, and financial literacy. Participants’ parents and caregivers can also attend monthly discussion groups. In addition to working directly with girls to prevent sexual and gender-based violence, GE program leaders also train local health and psychosocial care providers to expand and improve services for survivors in the area. The Population Council, IPA and World Bank are evaluating the GE program’s efficacy in preventing gender-based violence via a randomized control trial featuring a control group, a standard GE group, and a GE+ group, where girls and their families will receive the standard GE intervention, but are will be given small cash incentives to encourage regular attendance at the 32 mentoring sessions over the course of one year of programming.
Girl Empower Liberia
Girl Empower is a mentorship program designed by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and supported by the NoVo Foundation. The program centers on weekly meetings between girls and trained local female mentors during which the girls learn about life skills and financial literacy. It aims to equip girls with the skills and experiences necessary to make healthy, strategic life choices and to stay safe from sexual exploitation and abuse.
In Liberia, Girl Empower was implemented from February to November 2016 in 56 communities in Nimba County. A total of 772 adolescent girls aged 13-14 year old participated, and 130 adult female mentors were trained to lead them through the Girl Empower curriculum.
The 56 implementation communities in Nimba County were randomized into two Girl Empower variations: 1) GE treatment group (28 villages, 376 girls) and 2) GE+ treatment group (28 villages, 396 girls) while an additional 28 villages served as control. After randomization, the IRC created 59 Girl Empower groups of 6 to 20 girls each. Each girl group was led by two adult female mentors.
Both the GE and GE+ treatment groups received: 1) the Girl Empower life skills curriculum, facilitated by local mentors; 2) caregiver discussion group, facilitated by IRC staff; and 3) savings account start-up. The GE+ group participants also received a small cash incentive given caregivers to encourage regular attendance by girls at Girl Empower mentorship meetings.
1) Girl Empower Life Skills curriculum (GE and GE+)
Mentors delivered the Girl Empower curriculum during weekly meetings of the 59 Girl Empower groups in both GE and GE+ communities. These groups met over a period of 40 weeks in an identified community ‘safe space’ for girls. The life skills curriculum covered:
• Sense of self
• Feelings and emotions
• Social networks
• Protection and safety
• Financial literacy
• Reproductive Health
• Leadership and Empowerment
• Setting life goals
The girls also received an accompanying image book with activities and handouts.
2) Caregiver discussions (GE and GE+)
In all 56 communities, IRC staff facilitators led monthly parent/caregiver discussion group that will complement the learning and asset building of the girls. The caregiver curriculum covered:
• Overview of the Girl Empower life skills curriculum
• Life stages for adolescent girls
• Skills and capacities to keep girls safe
• Parenting techniques
• Health and well-being of adolescent girls
• Safety and protection of adolescent girls
• Financial literacy and savings for adolescent girls
• Early marriage, female genital cutting, and sexual violence
• Gender equality
3) Savings account (GE and GE+)
As part of the financial literacy objectives of the Girl Empower curriculum, each participating girl (GE and GE+) received a total of USD $16 as an initial deposit for a savings account (calculated as USD $0.50 per session, or $49.00LD, for 32 sessions). This was an unconditional cash transfer. All girls also received a cash box for their savings.
4) Cash incentives for participation (GE + only)
In the 28 GE+ communities, GE+ group participants also received a conditional cash incentive given caregivers to encourage regular attendance by girls at mentorship meetings. The caregivers received $1.25 for each of 32 sessions* attended by the girl participants, for a total of up to $40 per girl participant.
* 32 sessions out of 40, because the payments did not start until the 5th session and excluded the final four sessions of the GE, which were focused on planned a community event.