Girls’ successful transition through adolescence and into early adulthood depends—in most cases—on the support and guidance they receive from their families. Helping parents and other caregivers to balance girls’ needs for agency and aspiration on the one hand and for guidance and limits on the other is critical.
What we know now:
We know very little about what sorts of programmes help families to successfully shepherd adolescent girls from childhood into adulthood. Most programming and research has focused on younger children—or has failed to consider the ways in which gender impacts child-rearing in adolescence.
- Cash and in-kind transfers (such as food or school supplies) can help poorer families put girls’ education on more equal footing with that of boys’. Bangladesh’s Female Stipend Programme, for example, has helped increase girls’ access to secondary school even in a context where parents’ aspirations for their daughters continue to revolve around marriage and motherhood.
- Norm-change interventions can help parents understand the gendered threats that their daughters face and how those risks can be offset. In Ethiopia, parents’ groups run as part of the Berhane Hewan programme led parents to leave their daughters in school through early adolescence and delay their marriages.
- Positive fatherhood campaigns are encouraging men’s active participation in parenting. The MenCare campaign, for example, is working across sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (including in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Bangladesh and India) to support fathers to challenge traditional gender roles and become caregivers for their children.
GAGE will focus on exploring what sorts of interventions can help parents and other caregivers to meet adolescent girls’ needs in a rapidly changing world. We will address a range of questions, such as:
- In environments where women are over worked and time poor, how can we support mothers and other female caregivers to free their daughters’ time for study and play? While we know that mothers in most contexts tend to see their daughters as more pliable and useful than their sons, we do not know what sorts of interventions might help mothers better balance domestic workloads so that their children have more equitable opportunities.
- How do we help caregivers value education and see its limits? In some contexts parents see their adolescents as ‘smarter’ than they are—simply because their children are more educated. Where that translates into allowing girls to prioritise further schooling and employment over child marriage and motherhood, it is to be encouraged. Where parents are allowing their children to make all of their own decisions (including marrying their ‘first love’)—it is dangerous.
- Can providing information and communication technology (ICT) education for parents help keep adolescents safer when they are online? While adolescents in urban areas of the Global South are increasingly as likely to be digital natives as are their peers in more developed countries, we know very little about how to help their parents help keep them safe from threats that did not exist a generation ago.