Agency and Empowerment for Adolescent Girls: An Intentional Approach to Policy and Programming

Prerna Banati, Lauren Rumble, Nicola Jones, Sarah Hendriks


As national governments roll out COVID response plans, an opportunity arises to re-cast adolescent girls’ programs to centrally anchor them on girls’ voices, leadership, ambitions, and assets in development policies and programs. Drawing together the evidence on what we know works for adolescent girls, as well as the growing literature on positive strengths-based programming which are gradually and increasingly being applied, this commentary calls for a girl-intentional approach to policy and programming. A girl-intentional approach is described through 3 case studies, which illustrate the additionality of new or improved adolescent knowledge, skills, and competencies; improved opportunities for adolescent engagement, voice, and agency; improved community safety and support; stronger, healthier relationships; and stronger and healthier norms, attitudes, values, and goals. The case studies describe program hooks that facilitate operationalization, point to measurable outcomes, and identify opportunities for scale, including the re-opening of schools. Overall, inter-sectoral solutions that address the myriad of issues affecting an adolescent girl’s life and tackle pervasive gender inequities require greater emphasis by development actors and national governments.


adolescent girls; gender equality; empowerment; participation

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