Adolescent girls rely on a broad array of services and systems to help support them transition from childhood to adulthood. In many Southern countries, these systems and services remain under-developed, over-extended and in need of significant support.
What we know now:
Adolescent girls’ capabilities depend not only on strong national laws and policies, but also on robust community-level programming that is underpinned by transparent monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. For example:
- Eliminating child marriage begins with legal codes that prohibit the marriage of those under the age of 18 and spell out concrete punishments for violators. Implementation requires follow-through at the village level, including raising awareness about legal rights and provisions that protect adolescent girls, ensuring that personnel and resources are in place to support the cancellation of planned child and forced marriages where possible—and annulling illegal marriages when necessary.
- Ensuring that adolescent girls have access to sexual and reproductive health care relies on policies that grant girls access regardless of whether they have their parents’ or husbands’ permission and make services free for all. Implementation depends not only on the availability of actual products, but the training and attitudes of local providers.
- Protecting girls from violence depends on laws that do not seek to prove perpetrator’s innocence by blaming the victim, justice officials willing to prosecute even neighbours where necessary, and safe-houses and therapists who have the expertise and resources to provide the practical and emotional support that survivors need to move forward.
GAGE’s research, while recognising that one size does not fit all, will focus on how to help systems and services work together for girls. For example, we will explore:
- How do policies, laws, strategies, and institutional dynamics affect and shape programmes relevant to adolescents? Where programmes target women—but ignore the age-related needs of the youngest—or where they target adolescents and youth—but ignore the gender-related needs of girls, adolescent girls tend to remain invisible and underserved. GAGE will explore how to visibilise girls.
- What is the quality of implementation of these policies, laws, and strategies in terms of how services and systems are executed on the ground? For example, what is the awareness of community leaders of the relevant legislation—and how can we improve awareness and follow-though?
- What is the potential of systems and services strengthening work for adolescents to be taken to scale? Good practice examples abound throughout the Global South—sometimes the result of particularly dedicated local leaders and sometimes the result of ground-breaking NGO interventions. How to support broader systems take up that learning and roll it out across broader areas is a core question for GAGE.
- What do adolescents think and feel about the services and systems with which they interact? Encouraging adolescent uptake requires listening to adolescents—and ascertaining what age- and gender-related barriers they feel are keeping services and systems from meeting their needs.