Women’s Empowerment in Action
Evidence from a randomized control trial in Africa
We evaluate a multi-faceted policy intervention attempting to jump-start adolescent women's empowerment in Uganda, a context in which 60% of the population are aged below twenty. The intervention aims to relax human capital constraints that adolescent girls face by simultaneously providing them vocational training and information on sex, reproduction and marriage.
The Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA) program is designed to improve the lives of adolescent girls through the simultaneous provision of two types of skills: vocational and life skills. The program is implemented by the NGO, BRAC Uganda. In contrast to school-based information campaigns on adolescent health, the ELA program operates outside of schools, through development clubs that are in a fixed meeting place in the community.
At baseline 5,966 adolescents were surveyed: 3,964 (2,002) from treatment (control) communities. Despite the high degree of geographic mobility of adolescent girls in Uganda, 4,888 (3,522) adolescents were tracked to midline (endline) follow-up, corresponding to a two-year (four-year) tracking-rate of 82% (59%), that is comparable to rates from studies in similar contexts.We find that four years post-intervention, adolescent girls in treated communities are 48% more likely to engage in income generating activities, an impact almost entirely driven by their greater engagement in self-employment. Teen pregnancy falls by 34%, and early entry into marriage/cohabitation falls by 62%. Strikingly, the share of girls reporting sex against their will drops by close to a third and aspired ages at which to marry and start childbearing move forward. The results highlight the potential of a multi-faceted program that provides skills transfers as a viable and cost-effective policy intervention to improve the economic and social empowerment of adolescent girls over a four year horizon.