Girls Scholarship Program in Kenya

Approximately 85% of primary school age children in western Kenya are enrolled, however only about one-third of students finish primary school. Dropout rates are typically higher for girls. Results suggest that the Girls Scholarship Program led to persistent test score gains in pupils from treatment schools five years after the program. Girls from treatment schools were also more likely to be enrolled in school and to have attended some secondary school at the time of the long-term follow up survey.

 
Policy Issue: 

In many education systems, those who perform well on exams covering the material of one level of education receive free or subsidized access to the next level of education. Such merit-based scholarships are attractive to the extent that they can induce greater student effort, assuming that pupils are motivated to strive for scholarship opportunities. However, the role of student motivation in improving education outcomes is relatively poorly understood. Policymakers have frequently focused their attention on increasing school inputs or improving teacher attendance, assuming that students are motivated to take advantage of these improvements. Merit-based scholarships for girls may offer an alternative to increase female education, and more educated women tend to have healthier children and higher incomes. However, the assumption that pupils are inherently motivated to pursue education, and the effect that educational opportunities can have on female learning, are relatively unexplored.

 
Context of the Evaluation: 

Approximately 85 percent of primary school age children in western Kenya are enrolled in school, but only about one-third of students finish primary school. Dropout rates are typically higher for girls; in 2001 the 6th grade dropout rate was 10 percent for girls and 7 percent for boys among students in this study’s comparison schools at baseline. Primary schools charge fees to cover their non-teacher costs, including textbooks for teachers, chalk, and classroom maintenance (approximately US$6.40 per family per year). There are also additional fees for school supplies, textbooks, uniforms, and activities such as taking exams, and these costs may deter parents from sending children, especially daughters, to school. This project was introduced in part to assist families of high-achieving girls to cover these costs.

 
Details of the Intervention: 

The Girls’ Scholarship Program (GSP) was carried out by International Child Support (ICS) Africa, in two rural Kenyan districts, Busia and Teso. Out of a set of 127 schools, 64 were randomly invited to participate in a program which gave merit-based scholarships to 6th grade girls who scored in the top 15 percent on tests administered by the Kenyan government. For the next two years, winning girls received: (1) a grant of US$6.40 to cover school fees, paid to her school; (2) a grant of US$12.80 for school supplies paid directly to her family; and (3) public recognition at a school awards assembly held for students, parents, teachers and local government officials.

Academic achievement was captured in test scores, which are likely to be a good objective measure, and was not significantly affected by cheating. Exams in Kenya are administered by outside monitors, and district records from those monitors have no documentation of cheating. 

 

Results and Policy Lessons: 

Implementation: Poor existing attitudes towards outside intervention and an educationally disadvantaged population meant that some schools in the Teso district were resistant to the program. Particularly, stronger indigenous religious beliefs and a tradition of suspicion of outsiders caused implementation difficulties, which may have reduced program effectiveness there.

Test Score Effects: The program raised test scores by 0.19 standard deviations for girls enrolled in schools eligible for the scholarship. These effects were strongest among students in Busia, where the program increased scores by 0.27 standard deviations. There are no effects found in Teso. Large positive test score gains were also found among Busia girls with low chances of winning the award, suggesting that there were positive externalities on learning. The average program effect for girls corresponds to an additional 0.2 grades worth of primary school learning, and these gains persisted one full year following the competition. There is also evidence of positive program externalities on the entire class; boys (who were ineligible for the awards) saw scores increase by 0.08 standard deviations on average. 

Student Attendance: While the program impact on school participation is nearly zero among girls in the pooled Busia and Teso sample, the impact in Busia is positive at 3.2 percentage points. This corresponds to about a one-quarter reduction in school absenteeism.

Teacher Attendance: The program had a large impact on overall teacher attendance; in the pooled Busia and Teso sample there was a 4.8 percentage point increase in overall teacher attendance, and if these attendance gains were concentrated only among 6th grade teachers then this would imply a 7.6 percentage point increase in attendance. Once again, effects were larger in Busia—the impact on overall teacher attendance there was 7.0 percentage points, roughly halving overall teacher absenteeism. Teachers could potentially be gaming the system by diverting their effort towards students eligible for the program, but there is no difference in how often girls are called on in class relative to boys in the program versus comparison schools, indicating that program school teachers probably did not substantially divert attention to girls. This finding suggests that greater teaching effort was directed to the class as a whole.

Merit Scholarships and Inequality: The scholarship award winners did tend to come from relatively advantaged households, raising concerns about the distribution of benefits from this program. But in terms of student test score performance, the positive externalities affected all students, and were not concentrated amongst the most privileged. 

Parental Involvement Effects: Anecdotal evidence from teacher interviews suggests greater parental monitoring occurred in Busia as a result of the program. One Busia teacher mentioned that parents began to “ask teachers to work hard so that [their daughters] can win more scholarships.” Another Busia teacher asserted that parents visited the school more frequently to check up on teachers, and to “encourage the pupils to put in more efforts.” When teachers were asked to rate local parental support for the program, 90 percent of Busia teachers claimed that parents were either “very” or “somewhat positive;” in Teso the analogous rate was only 58 percent. Thus, the greater improvements in both student and teacher attendance and performance in Busia as compared to Teso suggest that merit scholarships are most effective in the presence of local parental accountability and involvement, either formal or informal. 

Commitment Savings Products in the Philippines

We evaluate a unique "commitment" savings account, in which individuals restrict their right to withdraw funds until they have reached a self-specified goal. Clients are also given the option to automate transfers from a primary account into the commitment savings account, and given the option of buying a lockbox to store their money, with only the bank possessing a key. The account helped people save more after one year, and increased decision making power for women in the household.

 
Policy Issue: 

A growing literature on intra-household bargaining finds that increases in female share of income, regardless of any other changes, can provide women with more power within the household. This can lead to an allocation of resources that better reflect preferences of women, including education, housing, and nutrition for children. Many development interventions have thus focused on transferring income as a way of promoting empowerment, and argue that these empowerment mechanisms justify increased attention and financing to microfinance institutions (MFIs), perhaps including subsidies. However, there is little rigorous evidence to confirm that expanding financial access and usage can promote female empowerment.

 
Context of the Evaluation: 

Over the past several decades, savings in the Philippines has largely stagnated. In the 1960s, the domestic savings rate was over 20 percent of GDP in the Philippines, making it one of the highest in Asia. At present, the country’s savings rate hovers between 12 and 15 percent – far below the level of savings for most East Asian countries, which ranges from 25 to 30 percent.  Low savings are believed to contribute to the country’s slow economic growth compared to the rest of the region. Past studies have led to a belief that Filipinos are consumption-oriented, with little desire or capacity to save. Filipinos are believed to use credit primarily for daily needs, and bankers report that salary deposits are often withdrawn within the same day. However, there is evidence to suggest poor and low-income Filipinos do save, or at least have the capacity to do so, as informal savings mechanisms appear to be widespread throughout the country.

 
Details of the Intervention: 

The Green Bank of Caraga, along with researchers, designed and implemented a commitment savings product called a SEED (Save, Earn, Enjoy Deposits) account. The SEED account provides individuals with a commitment to restrict access to their savings, thus potentially helping with either self-control or family-control issues. Each individual defines either a goal date or amount, and is subsequently unable to withdraw from the account until the goal is reached. Other than providing a possible commitment savings device, no further benefit accrued to individuals with this account: the interest rate paid on the SEED account is identical to the interest paid on a normal savings account (4 percent per annum).

Researchers trained a team of marketers hired by the partnering bank to visit the homes or businesses of existing bank clients in the commitment-treatment group, to stress the importance of savings to them. This process included eliciting the clients’ motivations for savings, and emphasizing to the client that even small amounts of saving make a difference; marketers then offered them the SEED product. Another group of individuals (the marketing-treatment group) received the exact same marketing script, but was not expressly offered the SEED product. 

The field experiment sample consists of 1,777 Green Bank clients who have savings accounts in one of two bank branches in the greater Butuan City area, randomly selected for the baseline interview. A second randomization assigned these individuals to three groups: commitment-treatment (T), marketing-treatment (M), and comparison (C) groups. One-half the sample was assigned to T, and a quarter of the sample was assigned to each of groups M and C.

After one year, a follow-up survey was conducted to assess (1) inventory of assets (to measure whether the impact on savings represented a net increase in savings or merely a crowd-out of other assets); (2) impact on household decision making and savings attitudes; and (3) impact on economic decisions, such as purchase of durable goods, health and consumption.

 
Results and Policy Lessons: 

Savings Product Take-up: Twenty eight percent of those who were explicitly offered the SEED product opened an account. After twelve months, about half the clients had deposited money into their account beyond the initial opening deposit, and one third regularly made deposits. It appears that SEED helped about 10 percent of the treatment group to save more.

Impact on Savings Balances: For the commitment savings group, average savings balance increased by 42 percent after six months and by 82 percent after one year. This increase in savings also does not appear to crowd out savings held outside of the participating bank. 

Household Decision Making Power: The SEED product leads to more decision making power for women in the household, and likewise an increase in purchases of female-oriented durable goods. The outcome was measured as a decision-making indicator, calculated as the average of responses across nine decision categories (expensive purchases, assistance given to family members, recreational use, etc). Findings indicate that assignment to the treatment group leads to between 0.14 and 0.25 standard deviation increase in a decision making index. 

Self-Perception of Savings Behavior: Results also indicate that the SEED product leads women who report themselves as favoring present consumption over future consumption in a baseline survey to self-report being a disciplined saver in the follow-up survey. The results here suggest that commitment features, in particular loss of liquidity combined with sole control of the account, are particularly appealing to people with greater self-control and have positive impacts on female decision-making power.

1  Lavado, Rouselle F., “Effects of Pension Payments on Savings in the Philippines,” International Graduate Student Conference Series, East-West Center. Nov 23, 2006. http://www.eastwestcenter.org/fileadmin/stored/pdfs/IGSCwp023.pdf (Accessed November 4, 2009)

 

Selected Media Coverage:
Sticking to It - Project Syndicate
Rationalizing Resolutions - Business Spectator
 

Evaluating the Saving for Change Program in Mali

While informal savings groups are common around the developing world, their formats can limit flexibility in responding to members’ needs, particularly when it comes to loans or coping with unexpected expenses. In Mali, Oxfam’s Saving for Change (SfC) program allows groups of women to form a savings group together. Members can also apply for loans from the group, to be paid back with interest. When the group ends, the pool of funds with the loan interest is redistributed to the members. In 200 villages in the Segou region where SfC was implemented, women were 5 percent more likely to be part of a savings group, and savings were 31 percent higher than in the 300 comparison villages without the program. Households in those villages experienced better food security, and had more livestock, but there were no significant differences observed in a number of other economic and social well-being outcomes.
 
Policy Issue:
Community-based methods of saving, such as Revolving Savings and Credit Associations (ROSCAs), can offer informal savings and credit options where access to formal financial services is limited. Under this system, a group of individuals meet regularly to contribute to a fund that is then given as a lump sum to a different member at each meeting. However, ROSCAs can be an inflexible means of borrowing since the pool of funds is fixed and is given to only one member at a time, often by lottery. As such, members cannot necessarily rely on ROSCA payouts to cover unexpected expenses, such as those due to illness or natural disasters. One way to overcome these challenges may be to encourage savings and credit groups to adopt flexible rules that cater better to the needs of their members. Additional research is needed to understand how to better organize ROSCAs and whether they enable participants, especially the poorest, to save and borrow more.
 
Context of the Evaluation:
The Saving for Change (SfC) program began in Mali in 2005 to assist women in organizing themselves into simple savings and credit groups. The program is meant to address the needs of those who are not reached by formal financial service providers or traditional ROSCAs. As part of the program, about twenty women voluntarily form a group that elects officers, establishes rules, and meets weekly to collect savings from each member. At meetings, each woman deposits a previously determined amount into a communal pool, which grows in aggregate size each time the group meets. When a member needs a loan, she asks the group for the desired amount; the group then collectively discusses whether, how, and to whom to disperse the funds. Loans must be repaid with interest, at a rate set by the members, and the interest collected is also added to the communal pool of funds. Saving for Change introduced a novel oral accounting system which helps the women manage each woman’s debts and savings totals.
 
At a predetermined date, the group divides the entire pool among members in proportion to their savings contributions. The timing can coincide with times of high expenditure, such as festivals or the planting season. The interest from the loans generally gives each member a return on her savings of approximately 30 percent, annually. The group can then start a new cycle and establish new rules.  Groups sometimes opt to increase their weekly contributions, accept new members, or select new leaders.
 
Unlike formal lenders, SfC group members lend their own money, so collateral is not required. The fact that all money originates from the women themselves, as opposed to outside loans or savings-matching programs, also increases the incentives to manage this money well. In addition, the program is designed to be self-replicating through “replicating agents” in each village.Once the first group is established in an area, members themselves become trainers and set up new groups in their village and the surrounding area.  
 
Prior to the study, approximately 22 percent of women in the sample area were members of ROSCAs and over 40 percent of households had experienced a large, unexpected fluctuation in income or expenditure during the last 12 months.
 
Details of the Intervention:
In order to test the impact of the SfC program as well as different strategies for encouraging replication, researchers randomly selected 500 villages in the Segou region of Mali  to participate in the study. These villages were randomly divided into two treatment groups of about 100 villages each, and one comparison group with nearly 300 villages. The first treatment group received the SfC program with a structured, three-day training for replicators who received a handbook on how to start and manage savings groups. The second treatment group received the SfC program with an informal, organic training program in which trainers answered questions but did not provide any formal instruction to replicators. The comparison group did not receive the SfC program.
 
Results and Policy Lessons:
Adoption of SfC: Nearly 30 percent of women in treatment villages joined a savings group as part of the SfC program. Those women who chose to participate in the SfC program were, on average, older, more socially connected, and wealthier than non-members. Take-up was higher in villages that received the structured training program than in those that received the informal training.
 
Savings and Loans: Women in treatment villages were 5 percentage points more likely to be part of a savings group, and average savings in treatment villages increased by US$3.65 or 31 percent relative to the comparison villages. The SfC program also significantly increased women’s access to credit. Women in the treatment villages were 3 percentage points more likely to have received a loan in the past 12 months, and this loan was more likely to have come from a savings group rather than from family and friends.
 
Resilience to income shocks: Households in the villages receiving SfC were 10 percent less likely to be chronically food insecure than those in control villages. In addition livestock holdings increased, and households in treatment villages owned on average US$120 more in livestock than those in comparison villages, a 13 percent increase. In Mali, owning livestock is a preferred way to store wealth and mitigate against risks such as drought or illness.
 
Structured vs. Organic Replication: Villages that received structured replication training rather than informal training had higher participation rates in SfC. In addition, households in those villages were less likely to report not having enough food to eat and more likely to report owning assets such as livestock. Even though the structured training program was slightly more expensive to implement, it delivered greater benefits to villages assigned to that version of the SfC treatment.
 
Researchers did not find any significant effects of the program on health outcomes, school enrollment, investment in small businesses or agriculture, or women’s empowerment. 

The Sisters of Success Mentoring and Girls’ Groups in Liberia

As girls pass through adolescence, a number of factors influence whether they complete secondary school, avoid teenage pregnancy, and develop the life skills, attitudes, behaviors and relationships that will set them on a path to a healthy and productive adulthood. This evaluation investigates whether being part of a mentorship and life skills program, “Sisters of Success,” during early adolescence improves outcomes for girls in Liberia’s capital city, Monrovia.

Policy Issue:

Adolescent fertility rates in Sub-Saharan Africa are substantially higher than other regions of the world, with 115 births per 1,000, compared to 72 births per 1,000 in Latin America and just 19 births per 1,000 in Europe.[1] The gender gap in education is also significant, with West and Central Africa having the largest gender gap in education of all regions in the world.[2] Increasing the number of girls who complete secondary school, and reducing early motherhood, are common policy goals across many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. This evaluation will contribute evidence to policymakers on effective programming to reduce school drop-out and teen pregnancy. Secondly, Liberian policymakers, and NGOs working with Liberia, have noted that life skills are fundamental to individuals’ labor market success, but there is little evidence on the impact of life skills training, or the impact of enhanced life skills on real world outcomes. One factor behind this evidence gap is that life skills training is typically delivered together with vocational training, credit, or even cash transfers, thus making it impossible to isolate the impact of the life skills training itself. This evaluation will help fill this evidence gap.

 
Context of the Evaluation:

In Liberia, the adolescent fertility rate is 117 births per 1,000 girls, ages 15-19.[3] Meanwhile, within Liberia, the gender gap in school attendance is high. Only 60 percent of girls complete primary school in Liberia, compared to 71 percent of boys, and 19 percent of men have completedsecondary school or higher, but only 8 percent of women have accomplished the same.[4]

The Sisters of Success (SOS) programis taking place in an urban area of 1.1 million people. The SOS program’s goals are for girls to adopt healthy behaviors, build confidence and self-esteem; learn and practice their rights; begin to develop savings and financial literacy habits; increase their community participation and involvement; and help them work towards their own personal development goals, among others. SOS is coordinated by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), in partnership with two local organizations, EDUCARE, the Planned Parenthood Association of Liberia (PPAL), and volunteer mentors, drawn from the same communities as the girls they mentor.

 
Details of the Intervention:

Researchers hope to find out whether the Sister of Success mentoring program improves specific outcomes for adolescent girls, including their likelihood of staying in school or returning to school, and their likelihood of engaging in risky sexual behavior and becoming pregnant as minors. The study will also deliver evidence on the characteristics of girls for whom the program is more or less effective.      

Sisters of Success will recruit and match girls ages 12-15 with mentors. Each mentor will be randomly matched with ten mentees. Approximately 2,880 girls will participate in the randomized evaluation, with half becoming mentees and half serving as a comparison group.

SOS mentors and mentees meet in “sisterhood sessions,” comprised of two mentors and 20 mentees, which meet twice a month over the course of 15 months. The program also includes extracurricular activities in which larger groups of mentors and mentees do activities together. SOS mentors, who are unpaid, are intended to serve as trusted individuals, friends, advisors, coaches, guides, teachers, and role models for the mentees.

Researchers will collect data on a wide range of topics, such as who and what influences girls to leave school; the social and economic factors that influence when girls first have sex and birth their first child, the number and type of partners girls choose, and their use of contraception. The study will also measure the impact of the SOS program on girls labor market activities and earnings. In addition, researchers will evaluate the relative cost-effectiveness of the SOS program as compared to other policy options. Finally, if the program is effective, this study will pinpoint the key mechanisms that make an impact on girls’ outcomes.

 
Results and Policy Lessons:

Results forthcoming.

 


[1] Population Reference Bureau. “Trends in Adolescent Fertility A Mixed Picture.” http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2013/adolescent-fertility.aspx

[2] http://www.ungei.org/gap/reportWafrica.html

[3] World Bank. Adolescent Fertility Rate. Available at:  http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.ADO.TFRT

[4] UN Development Group. “Fact Sheet: Empowering Women in Liberia.” Available at: http://www.undg.org/docs/11143/genderemail.pdf

Job Networks and Gender in Malawi

In developing countries, women are commonly underrepresented in the formal sector. One potential explanation is that a large proportion of these jobs are secured through informal channels, including employee referrals, which may disadvantage women. Innovations for Poverty Action examined how informal job referral systems affect labor market participation for women in Malawi using a randomized evaluation and found that informal referral schemes systematically disadvantaged qualified women.

Policy Issue:

While the gender gap in labor force participation worldwide has declined sharply over the last thirty years, women in developing countries are commonly underrepresented in the formal sector. This may be due to discrimination or differences in education and relevant skills between men and women. Another possibility is that hiring processes themselves disadvantage women. A large proportion of jobs are secured through informal channels, including employee referrals, and theory suggests that hiring based on social networks has the potential to create inequality for certain groups, such as women. For example, women may be less likely to be hired through a referral if they work in occupations where social networks are less relevant. On the other hand, women could benefit from referrals through their social network if their peers can identify important, hard-to-observe characteristics that employers might otherwise miss. In practice, there is little rigorous evidence on the effects of referral systems on women’s labor market participation. More research is needed to understand how informal job referral systems affect labor market participation for women.

Context of the Evaluation:

Women in Africa are more likely than men to work in an informal occupation such as small-scale farming, street-vending, or domestic labor. In Malawi, less than one-third of women participate in the formal labor force, compared to nearly 58 percent of men. 

IPA often hires enumerators to conduct interviews of farmers, business owners, and households in both rural and urban areas. IPA Malawi has a preference for hiring female enumerators since same-gendered enumerators can be important for administering sensitive questionnaires to women. However, the office has often struggled to find enough qualified women to fill these positions, and women typically comprise only 15 to 20 percent of enumerators hired.

Details of the Intervention:

IPA Malawi conducted a competitive recruitment drive to find qualified men and women to serve as enumerators for its ongoing field research activities. At the conclusion of the interview process, candidates who applied through the recruitment drive were asked to refer a friend or relative to apply for the position and were offered compensation for making the referral. The referral process was randomized along two dimensions. First, candidates were randomly assigned to be told what gender of person they must refer:  a woman, a man, or someone of either gender. Second, randomly selected candidates were given a “finder’s fee” that was either fixed at 1000 or 1500 Malawi Kwacha (MWK), or variable between 500 and 1800 MWK depending on the qualifications of the person they referred. 

The random variation in the structure of the finder’s fee allowed researchers to observe how the characteristics and quality of referrals vary under different incentive schemes. For example, when applicants earn a fixed monetary sum, they often have stronger “network incentives”—incentives to refer people who give them the highest social payments, such as general goodwill and strengthening of relationships. When their compensation is based on the quality of their referral, on the other hand, they have often have stronger “performance incentives”—an incentive to refer people of high ability. 

Applicants were eligible to receive payment if their referral attended and completed a recruitment session. Applicants were also asked to complete an anonymous questionnaire assessing the quality of their referral and explaining whether or not they had shared any of their payment with the referral.  In addition, applicants were contacted by an IPA staff member to ask how they had chosen their referral and how the payment had been used. Referees were not given any direct compensation as part of the program.

Results and Policy Lessons:

Researchers found that qualified female candidates were at a strong disadvantage when social networks were used in the hiring process. While 38 percent of the original applicants themselves were women, only 30 percent of referrals were women among applicants who were allowed to refer someone of either gender. The difference in referral rates was driven entirely by male candidates who, when given the choice, systematically referred other men. While women refer women 43 percent of the time, men refer women only 23 percent of the time.

In addition to the imbalance in the gender of referrals, researchers found significant differences in the quality of referrals made by male and female applicants. While men made referrals who were as likely to qualify for a job as the average applicant, women were 18 percentage points less likely to refer someone who qualifies than a male candidate, regardless of which gender they chose to refer. In other words, even in the rare cases when men referred women, those women were more likely to qualify than the women referred by other women.

These trends do not appear to be driven by segregated social networks. Men were just as likely to be connected to qualified women as they were to qualified men. Results suggest that the observed differences in the gender of referrals could be due to differences in the kind of social payments (such as general goodwill or the potential for monetary or in-kind payments from their referrals in the future) that men and women receive. Women might receive higher social payments from individuals who are significantly less likely to qualify than the average applicant. Overall, incentives within both men’s and women’s social networks make it harder for qualified women to get job opportunities through referral-based hiring schemes. As a result, employers may want to consider the potential for discrimination when designing referral-based hiring procedures.

HIV/AIDS Prevention Through Relative Risk Information for Teenage Girls in Kenya

Kenya's Ministry of Education has developed an AIDS curriculum for schools. However, this curriculum has not been effective in reducing the rates of infection and pregnancy. Information on the distribution of HIV infections by age and gender is not included in the official HIV curriculum for primary school. IPA evaluated the impact this information could have on teenager’s sexual decisions. Results found that girls exposed to the program were less likely to be pregnant in the next year. A follow-up survey is currently being conducted in order to measure longer-term impacts.

Policy Issue: 

The vast majority of HIV/AIDS cases occur in sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly 2 million people become infected with the virus every year. One quarter of these new HIV infections are among people under 25, and almost all are due to unprotected sex.  AIDS is incurable and no successful AIDS vaccine has been developed, so policymakers must focus on other preventative measures. Ensuring the adoption of safer sexual behavior among youth remains critical to preventing the transmission of this disease.

Context of the Evaluation:

Kenya has the eleventh largest HIV infected population in the world -- over 6 percent of Kenyans are infected.1  Children are seen as a “window of hope” in the fight against AIDS, because their sexual patterns are not firmly established. In an effort to prevent HIV infections in new generations, the Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology integrated HIV/AIDS education into the primary school curriculum in 2001. However, by 2003, this curriculum had not been fully implemented, likely due to teacher inexperience and discomfort with talking about this sensitive material.

Details of the Intervention:

In Kenya, as in most African countries, 25-year-old men are far more likely to have HIV than 16-year-old adolescent boys. This means that sexual relationships with older partners (often called “Sugar Daddies”) are particularly dangerous for adolescent girls.

Information on the distribution of HIV infections by age and gender is not included in the official HIV curriculum for primary school, however. To test the impact this information could have on teenager’s sexual decisions, ICS conducted a “Relative Risk Information Campaign” in 71 schools randomly selected among 328 primary schools involved in another HIV intervention evaluation. A trained project officer visited each of those 71 schools and, with the authorization of the teachers, spoke to Grade 8 students for a 40-minute period. Students were shown a 10-minute educational video on “sugar daddies”. The video screening was followed by an open discussion about cross-generational sex. During the discussion, the project officer shared the results of studies conducted in Kenya and Zambia and Zimbabwe on the role of cross-generational sex in the spread of HIV. In particular, the project officer wrote on the blackboard the detailed prevalence rates of HIV, disaggregated by gender and age group, in the nearby city of Kisumu, a place familiar to the students.

Results and Policy Lessons:

Impact on Unsafe Cross-Generational Sex: As a result of this intervention, the incidence of childbearing was reduced by 28 percent (from 5.4 percent of girls getting pregnant within a year, to 3.9 percent). This suggests that the intervention reduced the likelihood that girls engage in unsafe sex. Specifically, the intervention seems to have reduced unsafe cross-generational sex: the rate of childbearing with men five or more years older fell by 61 percent, with no offsetting increase in childbearing with adolescent partners. 

Cost-Effectiveness: This targeted approach cost US$98 per pregnancy averted. Researchers came up with several possible estimates of cost per HIV infection averted based off of various estimates of the ratio of the risk of HIV infection to the risk of cross-generational pregnancy; these estimates ranged from just under US$400 to almost US$2,000. These rough cost-effectiveness estimates compare favorably with other HIV prevention programs, such as treating sexually transmitted infections, voluntary HIV testing, and male circumcision.

 

1CIA World Factbook, “Kenya,” accessed June 6, 2012. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ke.html.

Selected Media Coverage:
Pascaline Dupas

Estimating the Impacts of Microfranchising on Young Women in Nairobi

Youth unemployment is a major challenge in many low-income countries, and evidence suggests young women in urban areas are disproportionately affected. This study in Kenya evaluates the Girls Empowered by Microfranchising program, which connects unemployed participants with local business franchisors and provides mentoring and startup capital for participants to launch businesses. The study will measure the direct impacts of the microfranchising intervention on participants; compare program impacts to the effect of a cash grant program; and estimate the impact of new microfranchises on nearby businesses.

Policy Issue:

Youth unemployment is a major challenge in many low-income countries, and evidence suggests young women in urban areas are disproportionately affected. While many programs have attempted to increase young women’s physical and human capital, evaluations of these programs have generated mixed results. However, there is mounting evidence that multifaceted economic empowerment programs that combine job skills or vocational training with more holistic life skills education can have substantial impacts on the entrepreneurial activities of young women. Microfranchising is a recent policy innovation that falls in this category. Microfranchising programs connect unemployed participants with local franchisor businesses, providing motivated individuals with an established business model and the capital and business linkages needed to make their business model operational. In developing country settings where formal sector employment is relatively unavailable to young women, microfranchising programs may be especially valuable. This study is the first ever impact evaluation of a microfranchising program.

Context of the Evaluation:

This study targets young women aged 16 to 19 residing in slum areas of Nairobi. In Kenya, 55 percent of urban women aged 15 to 25 in the labor force are unemployed, as compared with 34 percent of young men in urban areas, 28 percent of young women in rural areas, and 18 percent of young men in rural areas.1

The International Rescue Committee (IRC), the implementing partner in this study, which had implemented a microfranchising program in Sierra Leone, partnered with researchers and IPA to evaluate the impact of the Girls Empowered by Microfranchising (GEM) program in Kenya.

Description of the Intervention:

Researchers are conducting a randomized evaluation in Nairobi to measure the direct impact of the GEM program on a range of participant outcomes, compare program impacts to the effect of cash grants comparable in value to the microfranchising package, and estimate the effects of the GEM microfranchises on existing businesses.

After IPA conducted an initial survey in 2013, 1,341 willing participants were randomly assigned to either the GEM program, a cash grant program, or a comparison group.

Women assigned to receive the GEM program, implemented by the IRC in coordination with two community-based organizations, were invited to attend an orientation, followed by a 10-day business and life skills training course, and a several-day-long franchise-specific training. Those who completed the trainings received start-up capital in the form of equipment and supplies worth approximately US$200 to start up a new business. The micro-franchisees then launched their businesses with one of two relatively well-known firms in Kenya, a prepared foods franchisor and a hair salon franchisor. Mentors from the community-based organizations regularly visited participants, providing ongoing support over the first months after launching the business.

Women assigned to the cash grant program, implemented by IPA, were invited to initial information sessions where they learned about the unconditional cash grants of 20,000 Kenyan shillings (approximately US$200).  Grants were distributed at subsequent meetings and participants were given the option of receiving the grants in cash or through mobile money transfers.

In addition to comparing the impact the GEM program to the provision of comparably sized cash grants, researchers are measuring the direct impacts of the microfranchising intervention on participants approximately one year after launching a microfranchise; the indirect impacts of the GEM program on women whose friends participated in the program; the number of microfranchises that succeed or fail within the first year and factors associated with success; and the impacts of the newly launched microfranchises on pre-existing businesses in the target neighborhoods.

Results and Policy Lessons:

Results forthcoming

 


[1] UNDP. Discussion Paper: Kenya's Youth Employment Challenge, January 2013. 

Negotiating a Better Future: The Impact of Teaching Negotiation Skills on Girls' Health and Educational Outcomes

In Sub-Saharan Africa, young girls drop out of school at higher rates than boys. Parents often invest more in sons than in daughters, by allowing them more resources for education, such as school fees, and time away from house chores for studying. Adolescent girls are also more likely to contract HIV from older, more sexually active male partners, on whom they often depend for financial resources. Girls’ education and negotiation skills for women are therefore viewed as important tools for reducing school dropout rates, early pregnancies and the HIV rate among young women. This study, conducted in the capital of Zambia, assesses the impact of teaching girls negotiation skills on health and education outcomes.

Policy Issue:

When young girls drop out of school, they are often unable to develop the skills necessary to support themselves. They often rely on male partners for resources, and those partners often demand sex in return for financial support.  Such relationships are prevalent across sub-Saharan Africa, leaving young girls highly vulnerable to HIV infection and unwanted pregnancy, evidenced by the two-to-one ratio of HIV rates among young women versus their male counterparts. 1 The World Health Organization has identified negotiation skills for women and expanded efforts to keep girls in school as critical tools for reducing HIV rates among women in sub-Saharan Africa. 2 Designing school curriculum to provide girls with a stronger education and new skill sets has the potential to change gender dynamics and improve health outcomes for this vulnerable population.

Context of the Evaluation:

School data for Zambia shows a dramatic decline in female enrollment from primary to secondary school years.3  While this drop is normally attributed to the commencement of school fees in the eighth grade, a closer look reveals that school dropout rate increases prior to the fee increase. In grade five, the drop-out rate is three times higher for girls than boys. 4

This project tests the impact of negotiation training in addition to the current school curricula on HIV/AIDS, health, and education outcomes among Zambian girls. Through a randomized controlled trial, this study analyzes whether negotiation skills that allow a girl to reshape her understanding of a conflict and her communications with others, can ultimately result in more favorable resource allocations.

Details of the Intervention:

This study isolates the impact of teaching information versus teaching negotiation by layering two interventions on top of a "social capital" program, including time with other girls in a safe space.

About 2,400 grade eight girls from across 20 schools in Lusaka will be randomly assigned to participate in one of three two-week programs.  About 120 girls will be engaged per school, with roughly 40 girls in each program:

  • Social capital: girls meet after school to play games; receive  a snack notebooks, and pens

  • Information: girls meet after school to learn information on HIV and importance of schooling and to play games, also receive a snack, notebooks, and pens

  • Negotiation plus information: girls receive above program plus negotiation training

The Negotiation Curriculum is structured by four principles: "Me," or identifying one’s own interests and options in conflict situations; "You," or identifying the other person’s interests, needs, and perspective; "Together," or identifying shared interests and small trades; and "Build," or developing win-win solutions.  The curriculum also accounts for some negotiations in which it is necessary to be patient, or "Take 5," and others in which the only outcome to keep the girl safe and healthy is to walk away and not negotiate.

Outcome measures will measure both the size and source of impact, capturing transformations in the girl's capabilities, her interactions with others, and the outcomes of those interactions:

  • Survey data: Self-perception, outcomes of arguments and discussion, reported locus of control, intra-household allocations, and sexual risk exposure. Impact on the family measured through parent and sibling surveys to see if gains in participant well-being come at the expense of other family members.

  • Real outcomes (administrative data from schools): Rates of pregnancy, school attendance and advancement, and potentially STI/HIV rates

  • Behavioral measures: Take-up of an additional opportunity that requires child-parent negotiation, altered willingness to pay for schooling by parents, responses to negotiation scenario or partner game.

Results and Policy Lessons:

Results forthcoming.  If successful, this program curriculum could be scaled up countrywide in partnership with the Ministry of Education to increase schooling attainment and lower HIV infections at a relatively low cost.

For more information about this project, click here.

To watch a video about this project, click here.

[1] (UNAIDS (2010) "UNAIDS report on the global AIDS epidemic" p.183)

[2] WHO's Gender, Inequalities, and Health (2009): http://www.who.int/gender/hiv_aids/en/

[3]UNICEF (2011) "State of the World's Children." p.107

[4]Zambia DHS 2007, p. 21

Nava Ashraf

Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents in Sierra Leone

Adolescent girls living in low-income settings may be trapped in a vicious cycle that prevents them from attaining employment and achieving better health outcomes and reproductive autonomy. Researchers will evaluate the impact of a program in Sierra Leone that aims to address this problem by bundling health education, vocational skills training, and micro-credit. They will evaluate the impact of these programs components, together and individually, on girls’ economic activity, engagement in sexual and risky behaviors, and future goals.

Policy Issue:

Adolescent girls in low income countries appear to be trapped in a vicious circle where low skills and poor labor market opportunities make girls turn to (often older) men for financial support; this increases the chances of childbearing that, in turn, further reduces the chances of acquiring useful skills and future labor force participation. In previous research in Uganda, researchers found that a combination of health education and vocational skills training can break the vicious circle. This study aims to assess where the causal chain starts, namely, whether it is the lack of health education, skills, or credit that keeps adolescent girls trapped in the vicious cycle of high fertility and low labor force participation.

 
Context of the Evaluation:

In Sierra Leone, teenage pregnancy and early childbearing are pervasive: of all pregnancies, 34 percent occur amongst teenage girls (SLDHS 2008) and 40 percent of maternal deaths occur as a result of teenage pregnancy (MICS 2010). In 2013, the Government of Sierra Leone launched a Strategy for the Reduction of Teenage Pregnancy, which aims to reduce the adolescent fertility rate by 4 percentage points by 2015. As part of this strategy, the government has partnered with UNICEF and BRAC to implement the Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA) program. BRAC is implementing the ELA program in six countries globally. In Africa, the program has already been implemented and evaluated in South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

 
Details of the Intervention:

Researchers designed a randomized evaluation, which is being implemented by IPA, to evaluate the impact of the ELA program and its various components on girls’ economic activity, engagement in sexual and risky behaviors, and aspirations. In addition, they will assess if the program affected girls who did not participate in the program but have social ties with those who had. 

The program operates from adolescent development centers, or “clubs,” staffed by BRAC trained mentors, who are older adolescent girls from the same communities. Researchers will evaluate the following three program components, together and individually:

  • Health education ("life skills training") which is mostly delivered by trained mentors, covers the following topics: sexual and reproductive health, early pregnancy, menstruation and menstrual disorders, leadership among adolescents, gender, sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS, family planning, gender-based violence, and adolescent responsibility within the family and community. Group learning is encouraged through participatory classroom trainings. In addition, the girls receive issue-based sexual and reproductive health training from the BRAC Health Program. Girls aged 13-24 can participate in the health education training.
  • Vocational (“livelihood”) training covers the skills required to engage in different income generating activities and financial literacy. Girls can choose to receive training in hairdressing, tailoring, animal husbandry, or agriculture. The training lasts about a month and is delivered by local service providers in Sierra Leone. The financial literacy module covers topics such as budgeting, financial services, financial negotiations, and accounting. Following successful completion of training, trainees receive input supplies to start their chosen business activity. To prevent school dropout, only girls aged 17-24 are eligible for training.
  •  Microcredit  Eligible girls who are engaged in a self-employment activity will be offered credit of up to US$100 to finance their business. The loan duration will be one year with an annual interest rate of 25 percent and weekly repayments. Girls aged 17-24 are eligible for credit.

Participants will be randomly assigned to one of the following four groups, each consisting of 50 villages and 1,400 adolescent girls:

(1)  Health education

(2)  Health education, vocational training

(3)  Health education, vocational training, microcredit

(4)  Comparison group: No program

Results from this replication study will allow for a cross-country comparison of the program’s effects and help to build the evidence on the program’s impact. In addition, by introducing different treatment groups this evaluation aims to separate the effects of the programs different components, which will provide important information to partners on how the program should be expanded. Moreover, information drawn from individuals about the relationships they have with others in their village, known as social networks data, will reveal how information and skills acquired by program participants spreads to non-participants.

Results and Policy Lessons:

Results forthcoming.  

Read more about the ELA Sierra Leone program here

Read about previous research on the program in Uganda here.

The Impact of Women Policy Makers on Public Goods in India

Policy Issue:

In 2008, women accounted for 18 percent of parliament members worldwide, and only 13 countries had a female head of government. This underrepresentation has prompted governments to adopt reservation policies; assuring women will have a role in political leadership by reserving a certain proportion of seats for female candidates. Reservation policies clearly have a strong impact on women’s representation, and some evidence suggests that women and men have different policy preferences. However, very little is known about the actual impact of women’s representation on policy decisions.

 
Context of the Evaluation:

In 1993, a constitutional amendment in India called for a random one third of village council leader, or pradhan, positions to be reserved for women. The village council, which encompasses between five and fifteen villages, is responsible for the provision of local infrastructure – such as public buildings, water, and roads – and for identifying government program beneficiaries. Although all decisions in the village council are made by majority, the pradhan is the only full-time member and exercises significant control over the final council decisions. The village council is required to organize two village meetings per year, during which they present their proposed budget and report on their activities in the previous six months. The pradhan must also set up regular office hours where villagers can lodge complaints or requests.

 
Details of the Intervention:

Researchers studied the policy consequences of mandated representation by determining whether there was any difference in the provision of social services between male and female led village councils. As village councils were randomly selected to be reserved for women, differences in investment decisions can be attributed to the reserved status of the council.

Data was collected in two locations: Birbhum in West Bengal and Udaipur in Rajasthan. In Birbhum, data was collected in two stages. First, in each village council, researchers conducted an interview with the pradhan, asking about his or her family background, education, previous political experience, political ambitions, and the village council’s recent activities. In the second stage, from the 5-15 villages represented by each village council, three villages were randomly selected to be surveyed for available public goods and existing infrastructure. Researchers also collected minutes of the village meetings, and gathered data on what complaints or requests had been submitted to the village council in the last six months. Two years later, the same village level data was collected from 100 village councils in Udaipur. However, there were no pradhan interviews.

 
Results and Policy Lessons:

The results suggest that reservation affected policy choices. In particular, it affected policy decisions in ways that seem to better reflect women’s preferences. In West Bengal, women complained more often than men about drinking water and roads – 31 percent of women’s complaints were about drinking water and 31 percent were about road improvement, compared to 17 percent and 25 percent of men’s, respectively. These preferences were revealed in the investment decisions of reserved village councils. Village councils reserved for women, on average, invested in 9 more drinking water facilities and improved road conditions by 18 percent.

In Rajasthan, 54 percent of women’s complaints were about drinking water and 19 percent were about welfare programs, compared to 43 percent and 3 percent of men’s, respectively. Unlike in West Bengal, compared to men, women complained less frequently about roads. Only 13 percent of women’s complaints were about roads, compared to 23 percent of men’s. This breakdown of preferences was again revealed in the investment decisions of the village councils. Village councils reserved for women invested in 2.62 more drinking water facilities, on average, and made fewer improvements in road conditions, leading to an 8 percent deterioration.

Researchers investigated whether these results could be explained by the fact that female pradhans were inexperienced, that they perceived themselves as being less likely to be re-elected, or that they tended to come from more disadvantaged backgrounds than men. However, there was no evidence that the policy impact of the reservations was driven by features other than the gender of the pradhan.

Overall, these results indicate that a politician’s gender, and identity more generally, does influence policy decisions. This finding is likely to have implications beyond reservation policy.

Selected Media Coverage:
 

Nurse-led Screening and Counseling for Victims of Intimate Partner Violence in Mexico City

In Mexico, one in four women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner, and addressing violence against women remains a challenge across the world. Researchers in this study are evaluating the impact of a nurse delivered screening and counseling program on the frequency of and injuries from physical and sexual intimate partner violence, reproductive coercion, use of community-based resources and safety planning behavior, as well as the quality of life and mental health of women who have recently experienced such violence in Mexico City.

Policy Issue:

Thirty percent of women worldwide experience physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence sometime in their lifetime.[1] Research demonstrates that women who experience such violence undergo negative health consequences. Previous studies indicate these women are more likely to experience poor mental health; unwanted pregnancies; vulnerabilities to HIV and sexually transmitted infections; risk of antepartum hemorrhage and miscarriage; depression and suicide.  Given the high percentage of women of reproductive age affected by such violence, along with associated negative reproductive health consequences, health care providers can play a critical role in both assessing intimate partner violence in their patients and in mitigating related risks.

While various policies have been implemented to strengthen the health care response to intimate partner violence, most robust designs have been conducted in industrialized countries such as the United States. To date, rigorous evaluations of the few existing health sector intervention efforts have not been conducted in a systematic manner in Mexico. Findings from this study will provide important insights into whether a nurse-delivered program can assist women currently experiencing partner violence in a Latin American context.

 
Context of the Evaluation:

One in four women in Mexico reports experiencing physical and sexual intimate partner violence.[2] For lower income women who experience sexual or physical abuse by a partner in Mexico City, nurses in government clinics are often their first point of contact with the healthcare sector. Training nurses to respond to cases of intimate partner violence may, therefore, increase midlevel health care providers’ capacity to identify cases and to assist these women with health risk mitigation.

This study will inform partners, who include the Secretariat of Health of Mexico City, the National Institute of Public Health of Mexico, and the Mexican Foundation for Family Planning (MEXFAM), an International Planned Parenthood Federation affiliate, about effective programs and policies in Mexico City’s public health care facilities and at the national level.

 
Details of the Intervention:

To evaluate the impact of nurse-led screening and victim counseling on women who experience intimate partner violence, researchers designed a randomized evaluation, which is being implemented by the study team in government health clinics belonging to the Secretariat of Health of Mexico City. The study includes 952 women from 42 health care clinics. Half of the randomly assigned clinics are serving as the “intervention” group, while the other half are serving as a comparison group.

The female participants are 18-44 years of age, either not pregnant or in their first trimester, and reported experiencing physical and/or sexual violence in the previous year in a heterosexual relationship.

Nurses in the clinics assigned to the intervention group underwent a two-week training with refresher sessions on intimate partner violence, the health impacts of such violence, how to document cases, carry out safety planning and perform supported referrals. The comparison clinics offer a minimum standard of care from Mexico City’s government health facilities  (i.e., a referral card for victims only).

Women who agreed to participate in the intervention group completed an initial survey and then received a 30-minute counseling session from a trained nurse. Those participants received a follow-up counseling session three months after the initial survey. Final data collection is taking place fifteen months after the initial survey.

Researchers are asking participants in both groups about occurrence and injuries from severe physical and sexual violence by an intimate partner over the previous year; reproductive coercion; use of community-based resources and safety planning; and quality of life and mental health. Researchers will also conduct in-depth interviews with women and nurses from treatment and comparison clinics to gather qualitative data on which specific aspects of the program triggered any changes.

 
Results and Policy Lessons:

Results forthcoming.


[1]WHO report 2013 http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/85239/1/9789241564625_eng.pdf

[2] Avila-Burgos, Leticia, Rosario Valdez-Santiago, Martha Híjar, Aurora del Rio-Zolezzi, Rosalba Rojas-Martínez, and Carlo E. Medina-Solís. "Factors associated with severity of intimate partner abuse in Mexico: results of the first National Survey of Violence Against Women." Can J Public Health 100, no. 6 (2009): 436-41.

Jhumka Gupta

After-School Girls Empowerment and Satellite-Transmitted Classes in Ghana

Recent efforts to increase primary school education enrollment in developing countries have been extremely successful, yet major challenges persist in improving educational outcomes. In sub-Saharan Africa, high drop out rates, especially for girls, as well as student and teacher absenteeism are major impediments to learning. Many students, especially girls from low-income families in rural areas, miss so much school that they become chronic repeaters. This study assesses the impact of a program that aims to improve student retention and learning outcomes for marginalized pupils in Ghana through distance learning and an after-school girls’ empowerment program.

Policy Issue:
Like many sub-Saharan African nations, Ghana is facing significant challenges in its educational system. One study revealed that teachers in Ghana only spend 38 percent of school hours “engaged in learning.”[i] A driving factor behind diminished learning time is the high rate of teacher and student absenteeism. Teacher absenteeism averages 27 percent annually and as many as 40 percent of children may not be present at school on a given day.[ii]  Students from low-income households miss school the most, and achievement for these students is especially low. Many poor children also repeat, so more over-age children are poor children.[iii] Girls, especially those from low-income families, drop out of school at a higher rate than boys, with early pregnancy playing a large role.[iv] Though almost the same number of boys and girls enter primary school in Ghana, only two girls for every three boys complete high school.
 
The Making Ghana Girls Great (MGCubed) program, implemented by the Global Education Management System (GEMS), is based on the premise that diminished learning time, due to high rates of teacher and student absenteeism, contributes to low learning levels, and that a lack of female role models contributes to a high drop out rate for girls.
 
The program introduces distance learning and after-school girls club called the Wonder Women, both led by facilitators from the community, most of them female. Researchers will evaluate the impact of the interactive distance learning classes, transmitted via satellite, and the after-school program on learning outcomes. The program targets marginalized boys and girls aged 7-14 who are currently enrolled in school, and girls who have dropped out of school or never attended school. The marginalized pupils are defined as those who are above the average age for their class, those who have more than five siblings, those who walk more than 30 minutes to reach school, or those who have a history of not attending school.
 
This evaluation aims to assist policymakers in identifying interventions that ensure optimum retention, increase enrollment, and improve learning for marginalized students, and for girls in particular.
 
Details of the Intervention:
To measure the impact of the MGCubed program on learning outcomes and student retention, IPA will evaluate the distance learning and Wonder Women programs over a three-year period, measuring any changes in the test scores, stated aspirations, and confidence levels of participants over time.
 
The sample size is 147 schools, of which 70 will receive interventions and 77 will serve as the comparison group. Within the 70 treatment schools, 80 studentswill receive the in-school component, and 40 of those students who are girls, plus 10 out-of-school girls, will participate in the after-school Wonder Women program. All students are randomly selected from lists of marginalized pupils from each school.
 
The two treatment groups are, therefore, as follows:
 
1.     Students who receive in-school distance learning lessons only. Forty students at all treatment schools will be taught English and math lessons for two hours per day.
 
2.     Students who receive the in-school distance learning lessons and the after-school girls’ club called Wonder Women. Forty female students at each treatment school will be taught English    and math lessons for two hours per day and will also participate in the after-school program. Ten out-of-school girls will also be invited to participate in the program.
 
The in-school distance-learning classes, which are interactive and transmitted via satellite, provide the consistent presence of a remote teacher, digital content, and a student-centered pedagogical design. It is designed to improve the quantity of instructional hours students receive, as well as the quality of the instruction.
 
The after-school program will run two hours per day for four days of the week. While this program also aims to increase the instructional input hours received by the students, its aim is to empower the marginalized girls to have greater confidence in themselves and to stay in school, or for those who have dropped out, to re-enroll.
 
Trained facilitators will be recruited from teaching staff or from secondary school graduates in the community, with a preference for women facilitators, to lead both distance-learning program and the Wonder Women program.
 
The intervention is taking place in regions that Ghana Education Services has recognized as regions with both known educational needs and operational access. The specific districts are Ada East, Ada West, Shai Osudoku and Ningo Prampram, in the Greater Accra region, and Kadjebi and Nkwanta South in the Volta Region.
 
Data to be collected include test scores, quantitative data on students’ background information, goals and confidence level for girls.
 
 
Results and Policy Lessons:
Results forthcoming.
 
 
 

[i] Abadzi, Helen. "Instructional time loss and local-level governance." Prospects 37.1 (2007): 3-16.
 
[ii]  "What Works in Girls’ Education in Ghana." Prepared by Camfed Ghana. January, 2012. P.8 
 
 
[iv]Gyan, Charles. "The Effects of Teenage Pregnancy on the Educational Attainment of Girls at Chorkor, a Suburb of Accra."Journal of Educational and Social Research 3, no. 3 (2013): 53.
 
Christopher Ksoll

The Role of Incentives in the Distribution of Public Goods in Zambia

Policy Issue:

Non-profit and public organizations increasingly rely on the services of community members to deliver and promote health goods. Community member involvement in the distribution of health goods can have significant benefits for the community at large, but only if the commitment and motivation of the community members is sustainable. While there is a significant literature on the role of incentives in the commercial sphere, there is little evidence on how various compensation schemes affect motivation when a task has a social benefit. Standard financial incentives that increase motivation in the commercial sphere may actually crowd-out intrinsic motivation for socially beneficial tasks, which may reduce overall performance. Alternatively, financial incentives may have little impact on performance if individuals drawn to mission-driven organizations place little weight on financial gains. Thus, the question of how to compensate community agents remains a challenge for many non-profit employers who hope to leverage this valuable community resource.

Context:

Zambia has one of the world’s highest adult HIV prevalence rates at 14.3 percent. It is estimated that in 2009, 1 million Zambians were living with HIV and 45,000 died of HIV related causes. Although male and female condoms are currently the only protection methods available for HIV, condom use is low and its social acceptability remains problematic. The female condom may be particularly important in the public health community, as it is the only female-controlled tool for HIV/AIDS and other STI prevention. However, like many new technologies, a lack of information about correct use, commonly held misconceptions about the product, and insufficient distribution networks hinder uptake and use of the female condom. This evaluation seeks to investigate the use of hair stylists as private sector channels for the distribution of female condoms.

Description of Intervention:

Researchers partnered with Society for Family Health (SFH) to evaluate their female condom distribution program in Lusaka. SFH’s strategy uses social marketing to promote and distribute health products via community-based agents with connections to the local community. In this case, the community agents were hairdressers and barbers in Lusaka, who were asked to promote female condoms through their shops. Hairstylists were identified as ideal promoters of female condoms both because the familiarity between the stylist and the client creates the potential for successful targeting of female condom to “at risk” customers, and because during the period that a client is in the salon, he or she is a captive audience, allowing the stylist to provide information about the condom.

The study testedthe effect of both financial and non-financial rewards on the selection and performance of agents engaged in promoting female condoms by randomly assigning 1,222 hair stylists to one of four groups:

  1. Small financial rewardtreatment - Individuals received ZMK50 (US$0.01) for each condom pack sold.
  2. Large financial reward treatment- Individuals received ZMK450 (US$0.09) for each condom pack sold.
  3. Non-monetary rewards (Stars) treatment- Individuals received a star for each condom pack sold. Each stylist was provided with a thermometer, akin to those used in charitable fundraisers, which they were instructed to post in a visible location in the salon. Each sale was rewarded with a stamp on the thermometer. In addition, stylists who sold more than 216 packs in a period of one year were invited to a special ceremony at SFH headquarters.
  4. Comparison Group- This group received no incentives, financial or otherwise.

Several key features served to identify the effect of different incentive schemes on performance and the underlying mechanisms: (1) Information was collected on all agents who could have applied for the job, to test whether different incentive contracts attract different agents type; (2) Agents’ performance was measured monthly over a one year horizon, to test whether changes in behavior may be due to a novelty effect; and (3) A modified altruism (dictator) game yielded direct and quantitative measure of the agents’ motivation for the cause, and tested whether financial incentives reduced performance by crowding out intrinsic motivation.

Results:

Condom Sales:Non-financial incentives were the most effective at generating female condom sales. Hair stylists in the “star” treatment sold twice as many packs of condoms (14 vs 7) as agents in any other group. In other words, the likelihood of selling at least one pack was 12 percentage points higher for agents in the star treatment; this represents a 33 percent increase over the mean of the control group. Agents in the high and low financial reward treatments, in contrast, were not more likely to sell at least one pack than agents in the control group. However, the sales levels overall were generally low. Even in the star treatment, the average promoter sold slightly more than one pack per month.

Mechanisms of impact: Further analysis indicates that the non-financial incentives operated through two channels. First, non-financial incentives seemed to leverage intrinsic motivation for the cause - they were more than twice as effective for stylists who are motivated by the cause, as measured both by their donation in the altruism game and by personal characteristics correlated with motivation. Second, non-financial incentives appear to have facilitated social comparison among stylists - the impact of the incentives increased with the number of neighboring salons that received the same treatment.

Contrary to existing evidence, researchers found no evidence that financial incentives crowded out intrinsic motivation. On the contrary, high financial rewards were more effective for agents who scored higher on our motivation measure.

Demand for Nontraditional Cookstoves in Bangladesh

Demand for nontraditional cookstoves in Bangladesh is very low. While women—who bear disproportionate responsibility for cooking—have stronger preferences for improved stoves, they lack the authority to make purchase decisions.

Policy Issue: 

One half of the world's households, and 75 percent of people in South Asia, burn biomass fuels, such as wood, leaves, dung, and peat, for energy. The smoke released from using such fuels has been shown to lead to respiratory diseases and lung cancer, which disproportionately affects women, who are primarily responsible for cooking, and the young children they are caring for. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), indoor air pollution is the single largest risk factor for female mortality. Among the entire population, indoor air pollution is responsible for nearly two million deaths annually. In response, NGOs and governments have distributed tens of millions of "improved" or "clean" stoves, but the adoption and use of these nontraditional cookstoves in the developing world has, with few exceptions, remained extremely low.

Context:

Since the early 1980s, over 100 national and local organizations have developed and attempted to distribute a variety of nontraditional cookstove models tailored to the local needs in Bangladesh. Despite such efforts, 98 percent of the population in rural Bangladesh continues to cook with traditional biomass-burning stoves. A survey conducted in 2006 suggests that women in rural Bangladesh do not perceive indoor air pollution as a significant health hazard and subsequently prioritize other basic development needs over nontraditional cookstoves. When asked to rank the relative desirability of different attributes of nontraditional cookstoves, 47 percent of households cited the ability of nontraditional cookstoves to reduce fuel costs as their most valuable characteristic. The next most-valued attributes were the ability to reduce cooking time (21 percent) and to accommodate a wider variety of biomass fuels (14 percent). Only 9 percent of respondents answered that reducing or eliminating household smoke was the most valuable attribute.

Description of Intervention:

In order to explore households’ preferences, researchers designed two sets of overlapping experiments, both of which provided respondents an opportunity to purchase a nontraditional cookstove. In 2008, households in rural Bangladesh were randomly selected to receive basic health education about the harm of traditional cookstoves and the benefits of nontraditional cookstoves. Afterwards, they were given the opportunity to buy either an efficiency stove that improves fuel efficiency, or a chimney stove that reduces exposure to indoor smoke; the specific details of the offer varied by treatment group.

Each set of experiments was designed to evaluate the relative importance of two common explanations for the low adoption rates: (1) intrahousehold differences in preferences, and (2) lack of information from a trustworthy source about the new technology. For the first set of experiments, households were randomly assigned to one of the following treatment groups:

 

Group

Stove Offer

Offer Recipient

I

Choice of Free Chimney or Efficiency Stove

Husband

II

Choice of Free Chimney or Efficiency Stove

Wife

II

Choice of TK250 (US$3) Chimney or TK50 (US$0.61) Efficiency Stove

Husband

IV

Choice of TK250 (US$3) Chimney or TK50 (US$0.61) Efficiency Stove

Wife

A team of two enumerators visited each household. While one enumerator interviewed the male household head, the other conducted a separate interview with his wife. After completing the survey, either the husband or wife (depending on the treatment group) was given the opportunity to purchase either type of nontraditional cookstove, but was not able to consult with his/her spouse before making the decision.

The second set of experiments tested a common social marketing strategy for disseminating credible information about a new technology. Specifically, it paired random variation in prices and stove type with information about the purchase decisions of village “opinion leaders.” In selected village, within each distinct neighborhood, researchers identified three opinion leaders. These opinion leaders were the first to be offered stoves, and their adoption decisions were then announced in the village. The detailed breakdown of the treatment groups was as follows:

 

Group

Opinion Leader

Stove Type

Stove Price

V

No information

Chimney

Full (TK750, US$11)

Efficiency

Full (TK400, US$5.80)

VI

No information

Chimney

Half (TK375, US$2.44)

Efficiency

Half (TK200, US$4.57)

VII

Publicized adoption decisions

Chimney

Full (TK750, US$11)

Efficiency

Full (TK400, US$5.80)

VIII

Publicized adoption decisions

Chimney

Half (TK375, US$2.44)

Efficiency

Half (TK200, US$4.57)

Roughly four months after the orders were placed, project staff returned to deliver the cookstoves. At that time, households could refuse to install or pay for the stove.

Results:

Intrahousehold differences in preferences: Women seemed to exhibit a stronger preference than men for any improved stove, in particular for the health-saving chimney stoves. When the marketing offer was made to the wife rather than the husband, orders for the healthier chimney stove increased by 11.3 percentage points. This is consistent with the fact that the health cost of indoor smoke is greater for women. However, when a small positive price was charged for either stove, women became marginally less likely than men to order a stove. This may indicate that despite their preferences, women lack authority to make purchases.

During the initial offer, individual choices were kept hidden. However, in the intervening period between stove order and stove purchase, husbands and wives had the opportunity to learn about each other’s choices and preferences, more generally. During this time period, women's choices seemed to converge with their husbands. At the final purchase stage, any gender difference in stove orders had disappeared. Again, it seems as if women could not act on their preference for improved cookstoves when their choice could subsequently be undone by their husband.

Information dissemination:Receiving external information from opinion leaders seemed to matter more when the costs and benefits of technology were not readily apparent. Opinion leader influence on households’ purchase decisions was significantly less for chimney stoves, whose value in removing indoor smoke was apparent, than for efficiency stoves, whose combustion properties were much less obvious.

When the initial stove orders were made, there was very limited information about the new technologies available in the village except for the opinion leader purchase decisions. After orders were placed, the cookstoves were delivered over a period of several weeks and consequently, those receiving cookstoves later could learn from those who received deliveries early. Subsequently, the value of the information acquired from the opinion leaders' choices declined over time, even for efficiency stoves. These results suggest that social marketing programswhich often attempt to use opinion leader influence to increase the adoption of health technologiesare likely to be less effective in the long run as common experience with technologies grows.

Price effects: Reducing cookstove prices by 50 percent increased the number of orders and purchases of efficiency stoves by 25 and 11.6 percentage points, respectively. In contrast, orders for chimney stoves did not change significantly in response to changes in the price; the 50 percent subsidy only increased the order rate from 31.4 percent to 34.5 percent. Such marked differences in price elasticity suggest that in ordering stoves, households were less willing to trade off smoke emissions and health than they were the cook’s time and fuel costs.

 



[i] World Health Organization (WHO). Global Health Observatory. Available at http://www.who.int/gho/phe/indoor_air_pollution/burden_text/en/index.html.

 

Mushfiq Mobarak

Northern Uganda Social Action Fund – Youth Opportunities Program

Youth unemployment is a persistent problem in the developing world, particularly in post-conflict settings, posing both economic and security issues. In growing, stable economies such as Uganda, what holds back youth from reaching their potential?  One theory suggests that youth unemployment is due primarily to the lack of sufficient capital to support entrepreneurship. If this is true, cash transfers or cheap credit could lead to a burst of self-employment. Evidence from other areas, such as studies on microcredit, suggests that alleviating these constraints with loans has little effect on earnings. In Northern Uganda, which is returning to peace after twenty years of war, the government’s Youth Opportunities Program offered cash transfers to groups of youth to increase employment and reduce conflict. Follow-up surveys two and four years later found a shift from agricultural work towards skilled trades and strong increases in income. Women in particular benefited from the cash transfers, with incomes of those in the program 84% higher than women who were not. There were no differences, however, in social outcomes such as community participation, aggression, and social cohesion.

See the full paper herea policy note for the World Bank here, and Chris Blattman’s blog discussion here.

Policy Question:
In developing countries, high unemployment - particularly among youth - is a pressing concern. Jobs, particularly higher-skilled labor and productive small enterprise, provide incomes and reduce poverty. For governments, transitioning from an economy based on small-scale agriculture to one based on entrepreneurship and production is critical for long-term growth. Employment is also seen as important for building social stability and political engagement in communities uprooted by long-term conflict.
 
One form of intervention offers cash in the hopes that youth will invest it in the training and assets to learn a trade or form a business. In the development community, anxiety persists over whether this is an effective approach: will youth with little or no financial or business training be able to direct the money towards successful long-term entrepreneurship?  Previous research also raises questions about the ability of women in particular to invest aid into increasing lifetime earnings, given occupational constraints and pressure to share windfalls.1
 
Uganda’s largest employment program sought to test if an intervention as simple as giving cash could help accomplish the country’s long-term economic and social goals for its youth.
 
Context of the Evaluation:
Twenty years of insurgency, instability and conflict led to high rates of poverty and unemployment in northern Uganda, but by 2005 a measure of peace and stability had returned to the region. The centerpiece of the post-conflict recovery plan was a decentralized development program, the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF). In 2006, to stimulate employment growth through self-employment, the government launched a new NUSAF component: the Youth Opportunities Program (YOP), which provided cash transfers to groups of young adults with the goal of encouraging trade-based self-employment. 
 
Description of the Intervention:
The YOP intervention had two official aims: to raise youth incomes and employment and to improve community reconciliation and reduce conflict. The program, targeted at youth from ages 16 to 35, required young adults from the same town or village to organize into groups and submit a proposal for a cash transfer to pay for: (i) fees at a local technical or vocational training institute of their choosing, and (ii) tools and materials for practicing a craft.
 
The average applicant group had 22 members. Group cash transfers averaged nearly UGX 12.8 million (US$7,108), and varied by both group size and group request. The average transfer size per member was UGX 673,026 (US$374) – more than 20 times the average monthly income of the youth at the time of the baseline survey.
 
Due to vast oversubscription, the 535 eligible groups were selected at random, using a lottery, to either receive the YOP program or be part of the comparison group. A baseline survey was conducted with 2601 individuals in 2008, and 87 percent were successfully followed and interviewed in the endline surveys two and four years later.
 
Results and Policy Lessons:
Overall, the program seemed to have strong economic effects. Four years later, beneficiaries of the YOP program had 41% higher income and were 65% more likely to practice a skilled trade, such as carpentry, metalworking, tailoring, or hairstyling. Hours worked were 17% higher, nearly entirely accounted for by these new professions – while most still farmed part-time, hours spent in agriculture were not different. They were also 40% more likely to keep records, register their business, and pay taxes.
 
Within the sample, gains were highest for those who had the highest initial credit constraints, those with fewest initial assets and access to loans. The effects were particularly strong for women. Women who received the cash grants four years later had 84% higher incomes than women who did not, while men were earning 31% more than their counterparts in the comparison group. This gender difference may reflect particular capital constraints faced by women.
 
While employment programs including this one are often implemented by governments with the aim of reducing social instability or promoting cohesion, the data show no evidence for impacts in these domains. After four years there were no measurable differences in cohesion, aggression, or community and political participation between participants in the YOP program and those in the comparison group.
 
Overall, the data show that the poor used the money effectively; investing in training and tools needed to start businesses and experienced a significant growth in income, even after four years. Even though impacts in social domains were negligible, the economic outcomes show the potential of alleviating capital constraints for spurring economic growth among the poor. 
 
Read the full paper here.
 
A midterm policy report here and policy note by the World Bank here were based on the initial 2-year follow up data.
 
[1] Fafchamps, M., McKenzie, D., Quinn, S., Woodruff, C., 2011. When is capital enough to get female microenterprises growing? Evidence from a randomized experiment in Ghana. Unpublished working paper.

Reduction of Gender-Based Violence Against Women in Cote d’Ivoire

By adding a component of gender discussion to Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) and including males in the proposed intervention, this study assesses the potential for improving the physical, social and economic outcomes for women in Côte d’Ivoire. Does including men in gender discussions in the context of financial decision-making help to reduce gender-based violence and increase economic outcomes for women?

Policy Issue:

Gender-based violence toward women and girls represents a violation of human rights and organizations like the International Rescue Committee (IRC) are actively engaging in rigorous research to determine the most effective ways to reduce this abuse.  Evidence from South Africa suggests that combining gender dialogue components to economic interventions can reduce partner violence.[1] Another program tying discussions of household dynamics to regular microfinance groups in Burundi also yielded promising findings[2]. While many programs that aim to reduce women’s exposure to gender-based violence focus solely on women, few interventions incorporate males to change their attitudes toward gender and their roles in the perpetuation of violence. This study addresses the potential to reduce gender-based violence within the post-conflict context by supplementing economic programs with a gender-training component for men and women.

Context of the Evaluation:

Côte d’Ivoire has experienced two civil wars in the past decade, most recently in November 2010 after a disputed presidential election. As of May 2011, the country has returned to a period of peace and internally displaced peoples (IDPs) are slowly returning to their homes. A recent report from Oxfam, Care and the Danish Refugee Council highlighted the potential humanitarian crisis IDPs represent in Cote d’Ivoire—over 450,000 Ivoirians remain displaced inside Côte d’Ivoire and abroad. About 58% of returnees and 82% of displaced Ivoirians report complete loss of revenue streams, and these populations remain highly susceptible to attacks, harassment and intimidation.

As part of its mission to respond to humanitarian crises and help post-crisis communities rebuild, the IRC uses Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) to increase savings opportunities and capital accumulation for self-selected groups of men and women. VSLA groups are composed of 15-30 community members who decide to contribute to a collective savings fund that members can borrow from, with the loan interest allowing the fund to grow over time. VSLA groups agree collectively on a payout date, when all members will receive a share of the common fund plus interest. The IRC provides initial training and resources such as a lockbox and notebooks, meaning that administrative costs are low and decision-making is driven entirely by the VSLA itself.

Description of the Intervention:

This study assesses the impact of a socio-economic program and discussion group on the incidence of physical and sexual violence and women’s individual agency. A randomized evaluation will be conducted in 24 villages across Côte d’Ivoire, reaching 48 newly-established VSLA groups. Village groups will be randomly assigned to either a treatment arm (gender dialogue program in addition to the VSLA program) or a comparison arm (VSLA program only).  Women will be surveyed before and after the program is completed, while men will be invited to participate in in-depth qualitative interviews. Additional midline quantitative and qualitative data collection activities were added to capture changes in household well-being as a result of the post-election instability in late 2010 and early 2011.

Gender dialogues will be facilitated through the IRC’s current structure for VSLA groups.  In addition to regular VSLA activities, groups assigned to the gender dialogue treatment will encourage men and women to discuss the processes by which economic decisions are made within the household and their current systems of control over household resources. By challenging gender norms within the dialogue groups in the context of savings and spending decisions, women’s position in the household may be strengthened over time.

Results:

Results forthcoming.


[1] (Proynk et al, 2006)

[2] (Iyengar and Ferrari 2011)

Teacher Training and Free Uniforms for HIV Prevention in Primary Schools in Kenya

Policy Issue:

The vast majority of HIV cases occur in sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly 2 million people become infected with HIV/AIDS every year. One quarter of these new HIV infections are among people under 25, and almost all are due to unprotected sex.  AIDS is incurable and no successful AIDS vaccine has been developed. Ensuring the adoption of safer sexual behavior among youth is critical to preventing the transmission of this disease. However, there is surprisingly little evidence concerning the relative effectiveness of different programs to reduce risky sexual behavior.

Context:

Kenya has the 10th largest HIV infected population in the world – nearly 7% of Kenyans are infected.[i] Children are seen as a “window of hope” in the fight against AIDS, because their sexual patterns are not firmly established. In an effort to prevent HIV infections in new generations, in the late 1990s UNICEF and the Kenya Institute of Education jointly developed an AIDS education curriculum, including student and teacher handbooks. However, by 2003, this curriculum had not been fully implemented, likely due to teacher inexperience and discomfort with talking about this sensitive material.

Description of the Intervention:

This evaluation tested two interventions to reduce risky sexual behavior: training teachers on the existing HIV curriculum, and reducing the costs of schooling by providing free uniforms. The 328 study schools were randomly assigned to one of four groups of about 82 schools. Each of the four groups of schools received a different set of programs:

In groups 1 and 3, three teachers were trained on HIV/AIDS and on how to teach the HIV curriculum. The curriculum covers facts about the disease, and encourages abstinence until marriage and faithfulness afterwards. It also teaches life skills, such as how to say “no” to unwanted or unsafe sexual relations.

In groups 2 and 3, children already enrolled in sixth grade classes were given a free uniform. Implementers also announced that students still enrolled in school the following year would be eligible for a second uniform, and distributed uniforms again the following year.

All in all, group 1 schools received the teacher training program only, group 2 schools received the uniforms program only, group 3 schools received both programs, group 4 received no program at all and thus served as a comparison group.

To evaluate the impact of the two programs on sexual behavior and sexual health, survey data was collected on youths’ sexual behavior. Such survey data can be subject to reporting biases, however. It was therefore important to complement this data with an objective measure of the incidence of unprotected sex, which is the main mode of HIV transmission in Kenya. Two such measures were considered: (1) childbearing rates and (2) STI infection rates. Childbearing rates were monitored regularly between 2003 and 2010. STI infection rates (specifically, Herpes and HIV infection rates) were measured during a long-term follow-up in 2009-2010.

Results:

Impact of Teacher Training only: Training teachers on how to implement the national HIV/AIDS curriculum greatly increased the likelihood that teachers teach about HIV in the classroom. Two years after the training students whose teachers had been trained had greater knowledge about the disease and also reported more tolerant attitudes toward those with AIDS. However, the intervention did not reduce childbearing rates among girls, suggesting that it did not decrease the likelihood that girls engage in unprotected sex. It also did not reduce the risk of STI as measured after 6-7 years.

Impact of Free Uniforms only: Free school uniforms led students to stay enrolled for significantly longer, and reduced the incidence of teen marriage and teen pregnancy. Girls who benefitted from free uniforms were not less likely to have an STI after 6-7 years, however, suggesting that some of the adolescent girls in the free uniforms program, while less likely to engage in committed relationships that lead to pregnancy and marriage, might have engaged in casual relationships.

Combined Impact: In schools that received both free uniforms and teacher training on the HIV/AIDS curriculum, the reduction in drop-outs and teenage pregnancy among girls was lower than that observed in schools that received free uniforms only. This suggests that the curriculum’s emphasis on abstinence until marriage may have persuaded some girls who would have delayed marriage thanks to the free uniforms to instead privilege committed relationships, where pregnancies are more likely. On the other hand, the two programs combined led to a significant reduction in the risk of STI. This suggests that among girls who chose to delay marriage in order to stay in school with the free uniform, the HIV curriculum convinced some to abstain altogether in order to avoid the STI risk associated with casual relationships.


[i] CIA World Factbook, “Kenya” https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ke.html (accessed August 25, 2009). 

Empowering Girls in Rural Bangladesh

What is the best way of empowering adolescent girls? Rights-based campaigns? Skills training? Researchers are cooperating with the Bangladesh office of Save the Children USA to evaluate a broad range of interventions.

Policy Issue: 

Throughout the world, cultural stigmatism has often excluded women from receiving education or earning income equivalent to men, though educating a woman increases her financial independence and dramatically improves the chances that her children will survive, be better nourished and better educated. For less developed nations in particular, women may embody a previously untapped source of human capital, and those countries that have embraced more aggressive policies in regards to gender equality in education can be expected to return greater social and economic benefits.

Context of the Evaluation:

When it comes to education, social mobility, and marriage choices, adolescent girls in Bangladesh appear to face numerous barriers. In recent years, school enrollment rates have improved, but girls are still often forced to drop out of school, to be married off at a young age. A recent UNICEF study shows that almost 50% of girls are married by the age of 15, and 60% are mothers by the age of 19. Effectively, this harms their health, education, and future decision-making prospects as well as their future income-generating potential and their status within the family. While some female-empowerment programs focus on rights-based campaigns or skill-building activities within the community, little is known about the relative costs and effects these different programs have on the social and economic empowerment of adolescent girls.

Details of the Intervention:

Researchers are cooperating with the Bangladesh office of Save the Children USA to implement a broad range of interventions, aimed at empowering adolescent girls in southern Bangladesh. The Kishoree Kontha (KK) project operates through small peer-led sessions in Safe Spaces (spaces within a community where adolescent girls can safely meet on a regular basis). Out of a sample of 460 target villages, 307 villages have been randomly selected to receive one of four intervention packages. The remaining villages will serve as the comparison group. The four intervention packages are:

  1. Basic Package: This package provides literacy and numeracy training for illiterate girls, as well as study support and educational mentoring for school-going girls. It also provides social competency training, which includes information on health, rights, and general negotiation and social skills.
  2. Livelihoods Package: This package complements the Basic package with additional sessions on financial livelihood readiness. Rather than providing direct vocational training, these sessions build entrepreneurial and budgeting skills that are applicable to a wide variety of financial opportunities in the community.
  3. Full Package: This package includes all the sessions of the Livelihood package, but adds a direct incentive to delay marriage until the legal age of 18 years old. All girls in targeted villages, between 15 and 17 years old, will be eligible to receive approximately 16 liters of cooking oil per year, on the condition that they remain unmarried. This amount surpasses the financial cost associated with delaying marriage that families must pay in the form of dowry.
  4. Delayed Marriage Package: This package provides only the incentives to delay marriage, as described above, without any peer-led sessions in the communities. As such, it will allow researchers to disentangle the effects of direct conditional incentives from changes in attitudes and skills.
Results and Policy Lessons: 

Results forthcoming.

Training Women to Grow Microenterprises

Previous work in Sri Lanka has found very low returns to capital for female-owned microenterprises, which appears to be in part due to women operating businesses in female-dominated industries with low efficient scale and little scope for growth. This project aims to evaluate the role of business training and capital in getting women who are thinking about starting a business to start it in industries with greater scope for growth, and getting women in these low return industries to switch to more profitable sectors.

Separate business training courses are being offered to randomly-selected out of the labor force women who express an interest in entering the labor force in the next year, and to randomly-selected women currently in business in female-dominated low-return occupations. Half of those who complete the training will also receive a cash grant. One of the innovations of this work is not working with the existing clientele of a microfinance organization, but rather in seeing what the returns to such services are to the average poor woman. This informs us of the potential demand for such services, and can help identify the segments of the population not currently well-served by existing institutions.

Child Protection Knowledge and Information Network (CPKIN)

Policy Issue:

Children in post-conflict environments are a population of particular concern, exposed to violence, displacement, and death of family members. The impact of poverty means that child labor is common among children. Though no reliable data exists, indications are strong that sexual abuse and exploitation is a fact of life for many girls and teenage pregnancy has been identified as a child protection concern. In addition to the physical and mental health challenges posed by war experiences, these children remain susceptible to continued exploitation and abuse, often by those familiar to the child, during peace as refugees return home and community members cope with difficult pasts. 

Context of the Evaluation:

The situation of children in Sierra Leone continues to be precarious as 27% of the 2.7 million children are identified as vulnerable, lacking the protection of a primary care giver. Formal structures for child protection exist within police stations and local Child Welfare Committees (CWCs), but capacity and community trust in such institutions’ efficacy are limited in many rural areas[1]. To reduce violence against children, existing social structures,most paramount, section, and village chiefs, are frequently leveraged to respond to reports of abuse and to mobilize local protective factors.

To respond to the resource constraints faced by formal child protection systems in Sierra Leone, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender, and Children’s’ Affairs (MSWGCA) is experimenting with a policy framework that explicitly links local chiefs and community members to the formal child protection sector.  This policy was articulated in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 2010 by the MSWGCA, CWCs, and the Council of Paramount Chiefs. The MOU and focal person system are currently being implemented in Moyamba and Pujehun districts, with potential to expand the program nationwide.  The MOU creates a framework through which chiefs, MSWGCA, CWCs, and the Family Support Unit (FSU) of the Sierra Leone Police can collaborate to protect children. Village chiefs appoint a focal person for child welfare in a public meeting of village residents. Focal persons report cases of child abuse to chiefs and chiefs, with the assistance of focal persons, follow up with the formal child protection actors to ensure that cases of child abuse are addressed appropriately.

To help focal persons connect informal systems for child protection to the formal roles of the FSU and MSWGCA, UNICEF and other local child protection NGOs have developed a training program that introduces focal persons to general approaches to child protection, as well as to their roles and responsibilities under the MOU.  Despite the grounding of these trainings in both international best practices and local norms and understandings, key stakeholders have expressed concerns about whether one-time trainings will provide focal points with sufficient capacity to effectively serve as a link between communities, chiefs, and formal child protection systems.  At the same time, repeated trainings or sustained in-depth monitoring by international or national child protection agencies is not sustainable in the context of rural villages in Sierra Leone.

Details of the Intervention:

Mobile phones and SMS messaging provide one potential avenue for bridging the gap between the need for sustained support of focal points and the high costs of transportation in rural Sierra Leone.  To leverage the growing use of this technology in Sierra Leone, a consortium of non-profit, academic, government, and private-sector stakeholders have collaborated in developing the Child Protection Knowledge and Information Network (CPKIN).  CPKIN (pronounced as “See Pikin” or “See the Child” in Krio, a language spoken throughout the country) is a system that will be used to send focal persons automated text messages asking questions about the welfare of children in their village and prompting them to engage in discussions in their community to help answer these questions.  Focal persons will then be encouraged to send their answers back to the central CPKIN system using a free text message.  These text message questions and responses will be sent and received through a software program that makes it possible to manage, organize, and analyze high volumes of outgoing and incoming messages with a large list of recipients

There are several hypotheses underpinning the design of the CPKIN program. The first hypothesis is that the process of receiving questions, discussing the questions with community members, and sending answers will encourage focal persons to critically examine the situation of children in their communities and then to act with the resources available in their villages. A second hypothesis is that having a focal person who is active with respect to reporting abuses, taking proactive steps to improve the welfare of children, and engaging community members in discussions regarding children has the potential to cause dramatic shifts in community level knowledge, norms, and practices regarding child protection, which in turn may lead to greater connections between informal and formal child protection systems.

Given the novelty of the CPKIN system as a child protection intervention, it is necessary to assess the extent to which sending regular, open-ended text messages to village focal persons using this system can increase the capacity of focal points and their communities to proactively and reactively respond to local child protection issues. In particular, the effectiveness of CPKIN and the validity of the underlying hypotheses will be evaluated using a randomized evaluation in 140 villages in Moyamba and Pujehun districts. The randomization will occur at the village level, with the 70 villages randomly assigned to the CPKIN treatment, and the remaining 70 villages comprising the comparison group, in which there is no intervention. In treatment villages, the village focal person will receive a one-on-one training on the overall aims of CPKIN, how to receive and send CPKIN messages, and how to use CPKIN as a starting point for engaging their community members on issues concerning child protection.  Shortly after this training, focal persons will begin receiving regular CPKIN prompts.

Baseline and endline surveys regarding child protection and child welfare will be conducted before and after the six to eight month intervention in all 140 villages in order to assess the relative effectiveness of the CPKIN support system, with survey questions designed to elicit two kinds of information:

1.)    The capacity of key stakeholders (children, parents, focal persons, chiefs, FSU, and CWCs—where they exist) to identify and respond to child protection issues.

2.)    The protection and support for children within their communities, and their overall level of welfare (including the prevalence of both abuses and protective factors).

Results and Policy Lessons:

Results forthcoming.



[1] Human Rights Watch. (2011). World Report 2011

 

Returns to Capital among Microenterprises in Ghana

A recent randomized experiment in Sri Lanka found very high returns to capital for male-owned microenterprises, but zero return to female microenterprises. We are replicating this experiment in Ghana, a country with high levels of female participation in self-employment, to see if the results generalize to a different cultural context. The project will also collect much more detailed information about gender roles and empowerment, and occupational choice to test between several explanations for low returns to female-owned enterprises.

The study is being conducted with 800 microenterprises, half male-owned and half female-owned. Half of these will be randomly given grants of 150 cedis (approximately $120), half in the form of cash grants and half as equipment for their enterprises.

David McKenzie
Syndicate content
Copyright 2014 Innovations for Poverty Action. All rights reserved.