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Girls’ clubs and empowerment programmes



​This Research and practice note outlines the role girls’ club and empowerment programmes can play in promoting adolescent girls’ wellbeing and changing the gender norms that constrain their lives. It draws on fieldwork in Ethiopia, Nepal, Uganda and Viet Nam, an ODI systematic review of communications programmes, and secondary literature.

Girls’ clubs, which may be drop-in sessions or regular meetings, organised by community groups or girls themselves, are an increasingly popular approach to promoting adolescent girls’ wellbeing. They help girls cope with the physical and emotional changes they experience during adolescence, and equip them with knowledge and skills to help them challenge discriminatory norms within their home and wider community. Typically, they aim to empower girls by giving them access to information about their rights (including their sexual and reproductive health). They also equip them with life skills, which build their self-confidence and help them to negotiate for their rights and voice their concerns. The approach aims to broaden girls’ horizons and encourage them to envisage and realise a better future.

This note highlights examples of girls’ clubs that have led to increasingly gender equitable attitudes and practices, from programmes in Burkina Faso to Bangladesh. However, despite the potential of this type of programme, there are common limitations and weaknesses and important knowledge gaps yet to be addressed. This note explores these, before offering recommendations to enhance the positive contribution that clubs can make to girls’ lives, such as ensuring that club leaders are adequately trained, and preparing for possible backlash and resistance from the local community and key gatekeepers. 

Rachel Marcus and Sophie Brodbeck