3.5 Where do we go from here?
Exciting advances in the evidence base on economic opportunities for adolescent girls and young women hold significant promise for this sector of the YEO field. More needs to be done on numerous fronts. Building on the content in the AGYW track, participants at the 2012 GYEOC selected four topics of particular concern, prioritizing them as critical to the continued evolution of the field. They include:
- Synergies between economic empowerment and health (as well as monitoring for unintended effects of economic programming): While evaluations presented at the 2012 Conference were generally positive about the synergies between economic opportunities and health outcomes, there is still a need to ensure that economic programming ensures AGYW safety, protection, and education. Unintended impacts might include a forced tradeoff between education and income generation, loss of traditional social and safety networks (this can be addressed by ensuring that programming opens new social networks for AGYW), and possible backlash against AGYW who gain increased economic opportunities as a result of program interventions.
- Active citizenship: Participants felt that the sector needs to address active citizenship and leadership for AGYW in a more systematic way. Preparing girls for citizenship and leadership could have a multiplier effect on international development as women leaders may be more likely to address systemic barriers for AGYW. This would also link to greater efforts to engage boys and young men into programming, to promote gender equity at a more comprehensive level.
- Role models and mentorship: During the introduction to the 2012 Conference, Fiona Macaulay, Founder and CEO of Making Cents International, discussed the “secret sauce” or special ingredients of YEO programs. Participants in the AGYW track discussed identifying the secret sauce for mentorship and role models. They addressed several issues that need to be clarified around role models and mentors, including: retaining mentors, deciding who is the “right mentor,” clarifying their roles and purposes, and the support of male role models.
- Deciding who to target for economic opportunities programming: This discussion asked fundamental questions about identifying target populations based on vulnerability, overall theories for change, and promoting enabling environment. Conversation focused on how programs engage with both boys and girls to influence outcomes for all youth, including girls. It also looked at decision-making around participation of in-school and out-of-school youth.
Participants also mentioned the importance of legal frameworks, such as customary law or inheritance, that continue to limit the economic aspirations of AGYW.