7.2 Protect AGYW by “Repelling” Those Who Threaten Them and Their Assets

AGYW face multiple barriers as they build assets and seek economic independence. Bruce observed that “Males, even poor young males, have a better chance of holding onto income and assets. They are not at active risk from exploitation by the females in their household- the reverse however is not true.” YEO programs need to take active steps to protect AGYW as they enter the work and marketplace and protect the economic assets they build from economic participation.

  • AGYW should not have to suffer sustained sexual harassment and abuse in order to provide for themselves and their families. “Sextortion,” researched by Mary Hallward Driemeier, Lead Economist for Financial and Private Sector Development at the World Bank Group, is where sexual favors are traded instead of money for routine business dealings. Sexual harassment and sexual abuse remain rampant in work and business places and affect all women. New research from the World Bank reveals how frequently women must endure harassment and abuse as they build their businesses. Box 7.2.1 offers some information on how frequent sextortion may be when applying for licenses and dealing with inspectors.
  • YEO practitioners must identify the “sharks” for AGYW in a particular context, understand the process they use to strip girls of their assets, and plan a response. Sharks may be the intimates of AGYW: their parents, families or partners. They may have overt or subtle ways to remove assets from AGYW. YEO practitioners should understand how that practice works or is embedded in social practices in order to plan an effective response. Girls play a key role in identifying strategies to defend themselves and in some cases find alternative living options.
  • The “survivor bias” may prevent us from understanding what AGYW endure and what is possible with the right investments. As Bruce noted, programs for AGYW may rely on accounts from alumni of programs or other women who have successfully negotiated many of the economic, legal and cultural challenges that young women face. Bruce highlighted that many of the early mass credit programs served young woman, but with completed family size. Appropriate age-graded financial products (and credit is not always the most appropriate intervention for younger populations) develop as do procedures for “onboarding” girls before the negatives—before they have children or are compelled to exchange sex for gifts and money into YEO programs. Current randomized control trials will not likely yield the kind of information we need because there are relatively few programs of enough scale, and many of them are built around “survivors” giving us no full view of the real potential of earlier investments in girls. What will be extremely helpful at this moment are longitudinal studies when investments are made in enough girls, with enough things early enough to make a difference and followed over time. For greater detail about protecting AGYW in humanitarian contexts, see Chapter 5.

7.2.1 Research Spotlight: "Sextortion" In the Workplace

The World Bank has compiled initial data indicating the extent of extortion in the workplace. The following graphic shares examples of when frequently' heard of sexual favors were raised in certain transactions.42