Designing and Implementing Evidence Based Life Skills Training Programmes and Girls Clubs

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There is growing evidence that life skills programmes may serve as a particularly effective avenue for addressing internal constraints women face in exercising agency, by strengthening women’s “power within”—self-efficacy, aspirations or attitudes about gender. The majority of rigorous evaluations of adolescent girls’ programs also found positive impacts of varying consistency, on other meaningful outcomes such as:

Girls’ education: Including higher enrolment, participation, and completion. 
Female labor participation: Including an increase in the likelihood of employment, monthly earnings, and type of work.
Reproductive health/Marriage choices: Including delays in age child marriage and/or childbearing, and prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases.
Gender-based violence: Including decreased incidence of violence against adolescent girls and gender equitable behaviors of boys.

See more on the life skills evidence landscape in our Life Skills policy brief

This life skills programme design guide, co-developed by J-PAL and the Girls Education Challenge, aims to serve as a resource for policy makers, funders, and adolescent girls programming leaders who seek to design life skills programmes, boost girls agency and improve life outcomes for girls and women. The guide is intended to share some practical considerations for the design of life skills programmes, drawing from the large body of  evidence from across various such programmes particularly in low-middle income countries. 

This guide proposes a theory of change for life skills programming, articulating the need for them, how and why they can be effective, and uses this as a foundation for proposing practical considerations in designing and implementing life skills programmes. It prompts stakeholders to: 

  • Identify the barriers girls face and contextual drivers: Before implementing life skills programs, it is crucial to understand the problem, assess the appropriateness and scope of life skills programming in the local context, and identify the barriers girls face. Understanding whether girls' agency is primarily impacted by internal or external barriers helps tailor interventions effectively. 
  • Identify mechanisms for change: Various mechanisms, including enhancing "power within," providing information, teaching negotiation skills, and strengthening social bonds, contribute to boosting girls' agency. The knowledge of the existence and manifestation of these mechanisms can inform the curation of life skills content that best suits the intended long-term impact and local context. 
  • Pay particular attention to implementation details: Successful implementation involves active engagement of the community and caregivers, selecting appropriate logistics for club sessions, developing effective facilitators, and measuring success through monitoring and evaluation.