During the past four years, over 42,400 adolescent girls in 458 villages were reached through Save the Children’s Kishoree Kontha (Adolescent Girls’ Voices) research program in southern Bangladesh’s Barisal Division.
The program’s goal was to reduce poverty by improving the health, education, economic opportunity, and social well-being of adolescent girls. Participants received a structured set of four different intervention packages, with each village within the target area randomly allocated to one of the intervention packages. In addition to a control group, the packages included: (1) a basic package of literacy, social competency, and reproductive health training; (2) a livelihoods package which included the basic package plus financial literacy training and participation in savings groups; (3) a full package which included all of the above, plus a nutrition incentive of cooking oil conditional on delayed marriage; and (4) solely a conditional nutrition incentive of cooking oil.
The program was implemented in partnership with the Bangladesh Development Society and the U.S.-based Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) at MIT, which serves as the research partner.
Initial quantitative and qualitative findings indicate that interventions positively impacted girls’ confidence, involvement in community activities, parental perceptions of girls, school retention, age of marriage and first pregnancy, and other indicators of girls’ empowerment. Using the Developmental Assets Profile—a self-administered questionnaire measuring the personal and community assets young people need to succeed throughout adolescence—Save the Children found that girls who received the basic training package experienced an increase from a “fair” to “good” level of developmental assets. These assets included knowledge, skills, behavioral competencies, and positive experiences (self esteem, family support, reading for pleasure, etc.) that have a proven correlation with positive youth behaviors. A qualitative assessment in April/May 2010 found positive changes in community perception and treatment of adolescent girls, as well as increased social capital among girls in the program and cases of delayed marriage and first pregnancy.
In addition to targeted interventions designed to empower adolescent girls and increase age of marriage, Kishoree Kontha piloted Safe Savings Groups which developed girls’ financial literacy and laid the groundwork for economic empowerment. Save the Children found, through qualitative research, that this was a critical component in increasing girls’ well-being, giving families the means to realize positive changes for girls such as school retention and delayed marriage.
 Developed by the US-based SEARCH Institute
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