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The Girls’ Advancement Program (GAP) Wezesha Vijana, meaning “Empower Youth” in Swahili, is a tested, rights-based intervention that builds adolescent girls’ health along with financial and social assets to help retain them in school and equip them with skills and knowledge for healthier, more secure lives. The development of social assets is critical to supporting an individual’s conviction and forming the social momentum required to keep girls in school in communities where traditional cultural practices dictate that an adolescent girl’s value to the family and her future stability are inextricably linked to female circumcision and marriage. Social assets take the form of increased communication and support within the family, particularly between mothers and daughters concerning sensitive topics such as sexual maturation and discussion of strategies to address challenges to girls’ success in life, including lack of education. Economic assets gives the girls knowledge through money management, saving habits and income generating to help them meet their reproductive health needs and also help their families to manage small economic burdens. These financial lessons in saving, increased girls’ knowledge of money management to build the foundation for greater autonomy. The assumption is that these knowledge, behavior, and confidence changes will improve girls’ confidence to stand for their rights, decrease pregnancy-related dropout, and keep them healthy and enabling girls to advance further in school.
In 2015-2016 through a strong partnership with P&G, the Wezesha Vijana program reached 6000 girls and 2000 mothers over a 15month period with statistically significant success in deeply rural communities. In 2015, GAP-Wezesha Vijana was recognized as a UNGEI promising practice in girls’ education and gender equality with over ten times as many Wezesha girls scored above average marks in standard examinations compared to a control group. https://www.goodpracticefund.org/documents/Asante-UNGEI-Final.pdf
In 2015, there was an 18% improvement of knowing how HIV/STIs are transmitted, 28* improvement in how and where to seek help for GBV and health services, and +22% improvement on cause and prevention for pregnancy. In 2014 post-intervention research, approximately 90% of project participants interviewed reported that dropout due to pregnancy in their schools had decreased and there was a +46.4 percentage point post-intervention increase in girls reporting that they attended school during menstruation. 90% of surveyed project girls reported having a savings goal after the project and 78% indicated that they had saved within a prior three-month period. In all years, measures of self-esteem have improved across the board, as well as knowledge, particularly about children’s rights and body changes.
Not only does this education transform the lives of women, but it reverberates throughout the entire community. The cycle of gender based violence and poverty is replaced with knowledge, power, self-esteem and a more resilient community.
Key words: financial literacy, gender equality, Girl Education Advancement