Improving Child and Maternal Health
Why Adolescent Girl Programming Matters
This research examines the unique and combined effects of two models implemented through Mercy Corps' Sawki program in Niger, which is one of the few FFP-funded development programs to specifically target adolescent girls. The Safe Space (SS) model (35 hours of direct intervention over 8 months) focuses on teaching girls essential nutrition actions, risks associated with early marriage and early pregnancy, reproductive health and the importance of education and basic literacy. The Safe Space + Livelihood (SS+L) model (87 to 91 hours of intervention over 19 to 20 months) includes all Safe Space components, but adds livelihood trainings that focus on livestock management (i.e., goat production, poultry care, and animal health training); gardening activities; and savings and loans activities. The research compares these two groups to a control group, in which girls received no interventions. Like adolescent girls themselves, the data show a complex picture.
- Overall we see that girl-centered strategies are effective in building girls' knowledge on health and nutrition practices, reproductive health and financial literacy; in evolving girls' perceptions on family planning; and in building girls' social capital, although in different ways (the SS model promotes bridging capital while the SS+L promotes bonding capital).
- Importantly, both models were successful in promoting major shifts in girls' beliefs around the ideal age to have a baby and toward contraceptive use. However, the findings also show that acceptance of contraceptives and the desire to delay pregnancy is not easily translated into behavior change.
- Despite the increased intervention hours and additional training for girls in the SS+L model, the girls in the SS model were more likely to be currently saving money and tracking how much money they make compared to girls in the SS+L model and the control group. However, girls in the SS+L model had higher self-confidence when compared to the SS model and the control group.