The purpose of the study was to help girls, communities and Plan to understand the key issues that adolescent girls face today – in their own words. The study had three objectives:
I. To empower adolescent girls and boys;
II. To help Plan’s field staff learn more from adolescent girls and boys about the issues and improvements needed to directly benefit these youth; and
III. To report data and analysis about adolescent girls’ and boys’ perceptions of their own empowerment and gender equality at school in order to provide senior decision makers with credible information to impact change.
The research process aimed to combine social action with social research, by placing explicit value on girls’ and boys’ views. It focused on girls and boys themselves as valuable social actors whose opinions and aspirations matter. In so doing, the methodology builds on emerging good practice from across the development sector.
In order to achieve the three study objectives, the methodology used structured participatory methods to generate a mixture of quantitative and qualitative data. The quantitative data allowed participants’ perceptions to be easily summarised and compared (within strict limits). The qualitative data, generated through participatory focus group discussions on findings from the quantitative tools, provided detailed insight into how participants viewed the issues on a personal level and the underlying factors beneath their perceptions to contextualise the findings from the quantitative study.
The research process yielded substantive results across all three objectives, notwithstanding inherent challenges. Notably, the research process created safe spaces for adolescent girls and boys to share their views on girls’ empowerment and gender equality at school. The study demonstrated that actively listening to girls and boys opened up critical opportunities for them to take more charge of their own development. The study generated findings that can be analysed at local, national and international levels, and can inform strategic decision-making by development agencies, including Plan. There is great potential to influence programme practice: the findings show great promise to empower field managers to respond with greater focus to the most pressing issues of adolescent girls localised at community level.
The study participants were girls and boys between the ages of 12 and 16 from the 11 countries who lived in identified communities and had some level of participation in Plan’s on-going activities. Due to this purposive approach to sampling, different findings might be generated if the study was repeated with adolescent girls and boys who live in more remote rural areas than those targeted in the study, or do not attend school, or do not participate in Plan’s development projects. The findings of this study cannot be taken as representative of any wider population.
11 Plan Country Offices involved in the study: Bangladesh, Benin, Cameroon, Ecuador, Egypt, Liberia, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Paraguay, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Thank you to the 21 Plan Programme Units that participated in the study, along with the 60 communities and 95 schools involved.