Adolescent Girls Power Programme

 

The program for Adolescent Girls started its operations in East Africa in November 2017 where 31 partners were identified and organized in 10 clusters to work in Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kneya The Adolescent Girls Power program aim is to support adolescent girls to transform and change the structures that denies them choice and power. The program create dialogue between different actors to foster critical, intersectional thinking amongst practitioners, support national and regional sites of solidarity in the four counties of East Africa.

 

Rationale

Importance of Adolescence 

Adolescence marks the period of development and transition from childhood to adulthood. During this time of intense and rapid change, social, economic, biological, and demographic dynamics set the stage for adult life Just as the risk factors exist around children, so do protective factors. Protective factors serve as mechanisms to limit the risk possibility of the violence actually occurring even if risk factors exist. They provide mechanisms that help the family and child to have healthy ways of coping with the compounding risk factors. A supportive family environment and system of support around the family, combined with stable family relationships and nurturing parenting skills are core elements. In addition, social protection or livelihoods help prevent the stress of poverty. Community factors, including supporting adults outside of the family, communities who support families are critical. Finally, access to key services, enforcement of laws, and government investment in human development all play a contributing role.

Easily forgotten in the effort to prevent violence is agency and resilience of the child. The capacity to adapt and thrive despite adversity is a result of interactions between supportive relationships, biological systems, and gene expression. Science tells us that it is the reliable presence of at least one supportive relationship and multiple opportunities for developing effective coping skills that are the essential building blocks for strengthening the capacity to do well in the face of significant adversity. 

Identified factors promoting effectiveness of intervention programs are as follows:

  • Multi-layered approaches that target combinations of risk factors

  • Holistic change that encourages positive change in cultural and inherited norms across society

  • Facilitating increased consciousness through reflection, critical analysis and skill acquisition for long-term context dependent impact

  • Stakeholder ownership and influence that lends social capital to the cause to improve immediate and long-term impact

  • Clarity of purpose and successful outcomes

  • Rigorous program design that allows for meaningful quantification of impact

 

Overall, based on the research, the big philosophical underpinnings that are guiding our work include:

 

  • Shifting power in philanthropy: a core objective of the initiative is to find ways to build relationships of genuine trust, meaning and reciprocity with partners. Our focus on the cluster model is a first step in that process. Over time, this may also include developing participatory grant-making models that work to put decision making powers in the hands of children and youth to support youth-led work programs. 

 

  • Child-Centred: In order to further our work, we will take a child-centred approach, focusing on the question of how the work we support furthers the interests of the child, grounded in child rights, children’s agency and their resilience. This means engaging in deep learning about how these concepts translate into the language, culture and systems of the places where our partners work.

 

  • Holistic Approach: The strategy presents a shift from single- focus interventions (for example a cluster focused on parenting skills) to a holistic focus, where each cluster focuses on the individual, family, community, and societal change. This means they will address the multiple issues affecting the safety of children. . 

 

  • Place Based: Place based approaches focus support and resources in specific geographic areas, for example a community within a city, or a district, depending on capacity. In order to realize success, they depend on deep relationships with systems leaders and community organizations that are anchored in those communities. They work cross-sectorally to address the multiple factors affecting the people whose lives we are trying to impact. They also require ongoing support to not just the program but to the relationships among the organizations.

​Violence against Adolescent Girls

The research on violence against children fails to give full consideration to the differences in risk and experience of violence faced by adolescent girls and boys, as compared to younger children. When programs focus on youth, they fail to consider gender differences among adolescents. At the same time, research on violence against women often neglects to recognize the specific risks that adolescent girls face. As a result of the lack of a gender and age perspective, the specific needs and vulnerabilities of adolescent girls often remain invisible or sidelined when programs and policies to end violence against children and violence against women are designed (Patton et al., 2012).

Program Framework: A Power Building Perspective

This program will pursue the core strategic objectives of the overall organizational strategy:

           

  1. Create safe spaces and supportive environments

  2. Strengthen adolescent girl’s power

  3. Transform the root causes of violence

 

The specific approach toward those goals, and the emphasis will respond to the specific needs and considerations of adolescent girls.

 

CRVPF has been exploring the distinctions between supporting adolescent girls from a violence prevention perspective in contrast to a power building perspective. While investment in violence prevention work is essential to ensure the safety or survival of adolescent girls it does not always include a more expansive vision for a transformed world where girls are safe and free and able to live in dignity and fulfil all of their potential.

Keeping in mind the aim of supporting individual girls while also working to transform the larger environment for all girls, this program is framed by an understanding of power that is deeply relational and situational, woven into the fabric of social, cultural, and economic life, and playing out very tangibly in the lived experience of girlhood. The ways in which power building strategies call on us to map, analyse, and ultimately attempt to subvert the ways in which power is currently distributed makes this work explicitly political.

A Power Building Perspective is not a framework or process, but rather a way of thinking about how change happens.  The framework below helps to make it tangible by understanding the process of building up girl’s assets with building up girls’ power.

In thinking about ways in which this framing leads to real-life changes in the lives of girls, building up girls’ power leads to change within a choice framework:

  • Supporting girls to access choices: in the lived experience of being a girl, having power over her own life often means having access to a meaningful set of life choices. Tangible choices that include when she marries, how she earns an income, the kinds of services she can access in community, and the spaces and places she is able to enter and have her voice heard. This kind of work is reliant on a solid understanding of who holds power over community assets and how this affects the services and systems she is able to access. 

 

  • Supporting girls to imagine choice: as well as access to tangible choices, girls also need support to actively imagine how their own lives and their communities might be organised differently. This is especially important because the intersections of poverty, oppression and isolation often lead to a fatalism about lives of violence and marginalisation. This kind of work is most powerful when framed within the context of a broader political education that holds space to understand not only how the world is now, but how it might one day be.  

 

Learning Questions

In addition to supporting the overall learning agenda, this program will also focus its learning on understanding the relationship between power and protection. The starting premise of our learning and inquiry is the recognition that the child protection sector is geared to respond to violence once it has already started; while violence prevention work takes a narrow outlook, often focusing on individual girls rather than a more holistic and wide-ranging response to the underlying causes of violence and marginalization, our inquiry is guided by the following questions:

 

  • How can we think about and frame power as protective?

 

  • What language and process do we need to use to support practitioners grounded in child protection thinking to newly consider Power Building approaches?

 

  • How can we ensure we support protection + prevention work for individual girls at risk, whilst also considering the forces that marginalize and oppress all girls?

 

  • In this context, what does a movement building approach to violence prevention look like?

 

  • What is required to support meaningful girl-led work?

Further, when we pull back and look at the insights drawn through this work, there are three big overarching objectives for this work:

 

  • Shifting power in philanthropy: a core objective of the initiative is to find ways to build relationships of genuine trust, meaning and reciprocity with partners. Over time, this may also include developing participatory grant-making models that work to put decision making powers in the hands of girls and communities.  

 

  • Centering girls in design and delivery of the initiative: further, in order to shift power, we will prioritise learning and doing rooted deeply in girls’ realities, potentials and inherent powers. To start, this means engaging in deep learning about what it means to support girl-led work, and to build from and adapt principles for feminist grant-making for and with adolescent girls.

 

  • Responding to the root causes of girls’ marginalisation and oppression: Ultimately, in order to foster a genuine transformation, all we do (say, learn and teach) must be rooted deeply in the realities of girls lived experience, understanding the systems and structures that keep her marginalised and hidden. To do this, we will begin by prioritising spaces of political education that explicitly name how power operates for girls today, and support us and our partners to imagine a different kind of tomorrow. 

 

 

Partners Capacity Development Support

CRVPF was established to provide grants and capacity development support to community organizations and local NGO’s working closely with communities to prevent violence against children, and help adolescent girls have better choices and make the right decisions. Most of our partners have limited capacities to address these issues and therefore CRVPF has developed capacity development support in the areas of leadership, team building, financial and program development.

The capacity development focuses on leadership and mentorship support to strengthen partners’ leaders to lead and coordinate community movement building to prevent violence and build adolescent girl’s power in a sustainable manner.

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CRVPF is a regional intermediary organisation that provides grants and capacity building support to Community-Based Organisations (CBO’s) and local Non-Government Organizations (NGO’s) in Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia.