Providing access to economic assets for girls and young women in low-and-lower middle-income countries: A systematic review of the evidence

Published: November 2012

The aim of this review is to identify interventions which attempt to address the economic barriers faced by girls and young women, in low- and lower-middle income countries, and fragile states. The hypothesis is that if interventions both provide direct access to economic assets for young girls and tackle the wider social issues which impede girls and young women's opportunities to access, build and protect economic assets, this will (i) support their immediate economic, social and psychological well-being (ii) improve their chances of economic success through the accumulation and control of economic assets and (iii) potentially help girls and young women to reframe/change wider social/societal relations. This review addresses the following questions: (i) what is the impact of economic asset-building and/or protecting programmes for girls in low- and lower-middle income countries, and fragile states? and (ii) what are girls and young women's views and experiences of participating in asset-building and/or protecting programmes in low- and lower-middle-income countries, and fragile states?

Key Findings

  • Recommendation for policy and practice: To consider investing in economic asset-based interventions for girls and young women in low- and lower-middle-income countries, and fragile states as they could, potentially, contribute to increasing their enrolment in schools, improving the skills required to engage in income generating activities, and improving sexual health knowledge, and could encourage delays in marriage and pregnancy in line with social and economic empowerment policies for girls and young women in developing countries.
  • Recommendation for policy and practice: To ensure the appropriateness of interventions they need to be culturally relevant and context-specific, taking into account the developmental and social support needs of young women, including subgroups (e.g. by age, location, educational level) and, where possible, be part of a whole-community and family approach to promote greater participation in economic, social and sexual health outcomes. Young people could also be involved in the design and delivery of interventions to promote their appropriateness and relevance.
  • Recommendation for policy and practice: To consider the role and importance of taking a multi-component and theoretical approach when designing and delivering asset-building and/or protecting programmes for girls and young women in low- and lower-middleincome countries, and fragile states. Nearly all of the programmes in the review were complex social interventions, whether they provided micro-finance with business skills training, or school scholarships alongside school subsidies, indicating that the provision of financial incentives for girls and young women alone may not be considered sufficient to produce the positive results desired.
  • Future development of educational incentive programmes should consider strategies that not only encourage school participation but also motivate girls to learn in school. Programme development should place emphasis on improving teaching quality and school infrastructure, and engaging with the wider community.
  • Although evidence of educational incentive programmes found in this review on spillover effects on boys is inconclusive, policy and practitioners should closely monitor and evaluate girl-specific, educational incentive programmes for any unintended positive or negative consequences on boys' outcomes. Knowledge and information about the negative consequences of these programmes is invaluable for future development of similar programmes in other contexts.
  • Providing girls and young women with access to economic assets and developing their skill sets may improve their ability to generate an income, increase the amount they can save, support their participation in school, and increase their sexual health knowledge. However, claims that this will increase their economic standing in society overall, lead to better further educational or career choices or improve long-term sexual health outcomes, as adults, cannot be made.
  • The studies reporting on girls and young women's views suggest that social, practical and financial support is required if they are to maintain safe and active economic participation in society.
  • Further consideration of their experiences of economic assetbuilding interventions should be assessed during programme participation to ensure interventions are more likely to be successful.

Populations Adolescent Girls, Women

Complementary Outcomes Education And Literacy, Gender-based Violence, HIV/AIDS, Sexual And Reproductive Health, Women's Rights

Publishers UKaid, EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London

Funded by United Kingdom Department for International Development