Girl Determined participants having fun- together.
Greetings friends and supporters,
I am so pleased to be able to report on the impact that your contributions are having in the lives of over 2000 adolescent girls across 41 communities in six states of Myanmar. Often in these updates I like to share an individual girl’s story to illuminate the way that Girl Determined has worked together with her to improve her life. However, today I want to share a data-driven story of change. Bear with me. I am a bit of a wonk, but more importantly, we want you to know how Girl Determined develops and improves programming based on our findings and evidence.
You may know that Girl Determined's core program, Circles, is a two-year, after-school leadership program for girls aged 12-17. Of course, some of the girls are not in school, so for them it is an outside-of-the-home or after-work activity. We have crafted, tested and revised a weekly, activity-based curriculum, that participating girls tell us is fun, interesting, helpful, inspiring and engenders confidence and a strengthened belief in one's ability to shape her future.
As we have done in past years we surveyed some of the participating girls at the beginning of the school year and at the close of the school year to understand the impact of the weekly Circles program. Where are we seeing the most progress? In what ways is the curriculum weak? Are they any trends that we did not expect?
We conducted a baseline last year in June and July and end-line survey this year in February and March for 300 of the same adolescent girl participants across the country. Conducting such a survey is no small feat as our research team has to carry heavy bags of questionnaires by foot, bicycle, motorbike, bus and car before entering the data in the office computers. Because girls in different areas speak different local languages we also need to adapt the survey for reliable results.
Using a Salesforce database, a new tool to us, we were able to analyze the data. Below is a summary of each of the four key sections of the survey and what we found. The girls included in the survey were all entering into the first year of their Circles.
This section of the survey relates both directly to the curriculum topics as well as to the program’s process work including comfort with self-disclosure and ability to speak in a groups. The section includes scale questions that have girls answer from ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly agree’ according to their impressions of statements including;
- I know what I am good at.
- I have unique skills and talents.
- I can stand up for myself if I disagree with friends.
Leadership Score - 46% positive change
As these changes in girls’ self-perception and attitudes are fundamental to a girl’s ability to exercise control over her life choices, regardless of how limited those choices may be, they represent the most important aspect of our program. These are transformational and foundational changes in girls’ worlds.
The 46% increase means, when pulled together, and each girl’s individual baseline and end-line compared, we found that 46% of the girls underwent real positive change in her personal leadership and self-perception. Girls’ baseline and end-line were compared and 46% of girls reported positive changes on more than half of the leadership-oriented questions and statements.
Like the Leadership section, girls are asked to respond with the level of agreement to statements, including the following.
- A woman has the right to say no if someone tries to touch her or have sex with her when she doesn’t want them to.
- Sometimes women need to tolerate violence to keep the family together.
- Wealthier people don’t have a problem with violence against women.
- Do you know - I know of a place or person in my community where I can go to report violence or abuse of a girl or women.
Gender-based Violence - 58% positive change
Of the four key areas of the survey we saw the greatest shift in perception and knowledge around gender-based violence. 58% of the girls showed tangible positive change in their views about girls’ and women’s rights to safety and security and, happily, girls now know that the can come to us to report abuse or in search of a safe place. As we continue to build out safety planning and comprehensive sexuality education modules, we expect to see an even greater change in girls’ attitudes about gender role norms and more girls reaching out for help.
We are thrilled with the impact in this area of our programs.
Sexual and Reproductive Health
This section of the survey includes both perception statements and knowledge questions. Some examples:
- I know how to prevent pregnancy. Yes or No
- How risky is hugging someone who is known to be HIV positive? Low to very high risk.
Sexual and Reproductive Health – 41% positive change although this area is not a priority in the first year Circle curriculum.
In the first year of our program we cover very basic sex education topics including puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and consent. Not until the second year do we delve further into STD transmission and prevention as well as sexuality. Including these questions in the baseline survey helped us to learn more about girls’ current understanding sex and social norms. We can now build a stronger curriculum for the second year of the program.
Financial literacy and economic empowerment
This is a new section in our impact analysis and a new addition to our curriculum. Girl Determined implemented special financial literacy days filled with play-based learning in about half of the communities where we work. These days advanced girls’ understanding of common problems like debt and also the use of a bank. Additionally, the empowerment portion of the section comes through our weekly Circles as we confront gender role norms about household and community decision-making.
The survey included questions like;
- Saving and borrowing are both ways to reach financial goals. True or False
- You must be rich to use a bank. Strongly disagree to strongly agree.
- Women should be able to earn their own money. Strongly disagree to strongly agree.
- Women should be able to decide how to spend the money that they earn themselves. Strongly disagree to strongly agree.
Financial literacy and economic empowerment - 53% positive change
We think that this 53% positive change is a great impact for the first year of adding these sessions to our programs. As Myanmar transitions and banks continue to open and employment opportunities shift this is increasingly important knowledge for girls. At the moment there are still no banking packages for young people and predatory lending even apparently benign microlending can turn a girl’s world upside down. So we will continue to enhance this aspect of our program over the coming years.
Attendance had a clear influence on the extent of positive change.
Across all sections of the survey positive change correlated with higher levels of attendance. This shows that the more girls are able to engage with the weekly program, the more they get out if it. A great result.
Furthermore, though more data analysis needs to be done on this, it appears on cursory evaluation, that in communities where we have worked for multiple years, we are seeing greater change through the course of the first year of our curriculum. This may demonstrate that as our weekly Circles become rooted the conditions of the community are changing to the extent that the community has become more amendable to girls taking on leadership roles and bringing their voices forward in both private and public.
For those of you that are still with me after this long, detailed description of impact, thanks for sticking it out. As you can see we are making change! And it is a real honor to be able to present this type of rigorous evidence to each of you.
We are now engaged in collecting data for the current program cycle, which just started. In the future we will work to ensure that girls who have completed our programs learn how to handle the surveys and get the chance to go around the country to meet other girls and conduct the surveys themselves. This will not simply be a useful skill for girls, but our data will be even more reliable as data collection and program participants will be peers.
Thanks for you ongoing support. Please consider becoming a monthly supporter to ensure that we can steadily expand our programs to reach more girls across the country.
All the best,
Photo credit: Andrew Stanbridge