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Girls’ Empowerment in Mali – Impact Evaluation of the ‘Girls Can’ Project

Empowering adolescent girls is a critical factor to ensure gender equality in socio-economic opportunities later in life.  This paper contributes to the understanding of what promotes adolescent girls’ empowerment by evaluating the Oxfam GB project ‘Girls Can’, rolled out in Mali’s Koulikoro region between 2011 and 2015 in twenty five schools of the primary and secondary cycle.

We analyse data from a sample of 913 observations; 325 girls from project schools and 588 girls from comparison schools. Instrumental variables are used to control for the endogeneity of project participation on girls’ empowerment after applying Coarsened Exact Matching to create fully comparable groups of project and non-project schools girls in the dataset.

The study finds that girls targeted by the ‘Girls Can’ project were 4 percentage points more empowered than girls from non-project schools, a statistically significant impact. Adolescent girls from project schools who are in the 13-15 year age group are those most empowered.  Further disaggregation of the empowerment index shows that the project was most impactful in creating a safe and supportive environment around girls.  The implication is clear: when attending school is positively valued and encouraged by parents and community members, girls gain power by remaining in education.

Marcella Vigneri’s expertise includes investigating market and non-market constraints to smallholders’ productivity, analyzing cash crop value chains, and  more recently looking at the socio-economic dimensions of girls’ and women’s empowerment in poor countries. For the past ten years Marcella has collaborated with the Ghana Strategy Support Program (GSSP) of IFPRI.  Her current research is divided between the GSSP and the ILO-UNICEF ‘Understanding Children’s Works’ Program.  Formerly with Oxfam GB’s Program Quality team as Global Impact Evaluation Adviser, Marcella played a leadership role in quality assuring the portfolio of Oxfam’s effectiveness reviews.  In 2012, Marcella also acted as quantitative lead for Oxfam’s “Women’s Collective Action” learning project in Africa.  Marcella has previously worked with the World Bank, as research fellow with the ODI, collaborated with the FAO on issues around children’s malnutrition and food security in Malawi, and more recently lead a quantitative research study on the incidence and causes of child labor in the cocoa sectors of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire for the International Cocoa Initiative (Switzerland).