AGEP is being implemented will be randomly assigned one of three different versions of the intervention: (1) the full program (safe spaces, savings accounts, and health vouchers), (2) safe spaces with a health voucher, or (3) safe spaces only.
The core of the safe spaces component, implemented in partnership with YWCA Zambia, is a weekly girls’ group meeting in which 20 to 30 girls get together with a mentor—a young woman from their community—for short training sessions on a variety of topics as well as a chance to discuss the events of the past week. These ongoing, stable group sessions serve two critical functions: 1) they build a platform in which girls meet and can be reached with a variety of interventions and educational topics, and 2) they build social assets, including friendships, trusting relationships, and self-esteem, that have a positive influence on other dimensions of their lives—their livelihood and health. The safe spaces meetings have become an integral part of what girls expect in their lives and can be sustained in the long term via cultural change.
The safe spaces groups are structured in two age cohorts, 10–14 and 15–19, with additional groups for married girls, in order to reach girls with the appropriate programming across the course of adolescence. During their weekly group meetings, girls are trained on a range of health and financial topics, and they have time to simply talk and build strong relationships with other girls in their community.
The Population Council worked in partnership with the National Savings and Credit Bank (NatSave) and Making Cents International to develop the Girls Dream Savings Account that AGEP participants are able to open. The NatSave account has a very low minimum opening balance, and any amount can be deposited or withdrawn with no fee. While girls are able to make deposits on their own, in order to adapt to the Zambian legal minimum age of 18 for opening accounts, girls select a cosignatory—a woman aged 18 or older—to assist with account opening and withdrawals. This financial mentor can be the girl’s mother, however the participant has the option to choose another female in her life who she trusts (i.e., older sister, teacher, aunt, neighbor).
In partnership with the Ministry of Community Development, Mother Child Health (MCDMCH) and InSTEDD, the Council is developing an e-Health Voucher that AGEP participants can redeem for a package of health services at contracted public and private health providers. The services covered by the voucher include basic wellness exams as well as age-appropriate sexual and reproductive health services. Service providers use text messages to interact with a web-based system that logs and issues authorization for the services in real-time. The Council trains providers at participating clinics in the provision of adolescent-friendly health services and conducts ongoing monitoring and quality-assurance visits at participating clinics. Providers are reimbursed per service provided based on pre-approved rates.