On the Map: Charting the Landscape of Girl Work

Published: December 2009

This document presents the United Nations Foundation (UNF) and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and how they have worked for many years to advance girls around the world. Recognizing the recent growth in girl-related attention and investment, ICRW undertook an initial mapping exercise in 2009 to understand more about the current landscape of "girl work" in the developing world. This paper presents the key findings from this exercise, describing what we have learned about the donors and organizations engaged in girl work, the policy and program efforts underway, and current and future directions for the field. It is hoped that the findings and considerations emerging from this mapping exercise will contribute toward a more strategic and coordinated effort to mobilize additional actors, resources and ideas on behalf of girls around the world

Key Findings

  • The girl arena includes a diverse range of actors, many of whom play multiple roles and bring varying motivations to their work.
  • Despite the diversity of actors and agendas, most stakeholders have a broad, holistic purpose underlying their girl work.
  • The girl arena reaches a broad base of girls and addresses a wide range of issues.
  • Although many issues are being addressed for multiple profiles of girls, the level of programmatic and funding commitment for these efforts remains unclear.
  • There is substantial interest in -- and some concern about -- the priorities of corporate sector investors in girls.
  • Current sectoral work on behalf of girls employs multiple strategies to tackle a range of issues.
  • Girl-focused research and program monitoring and evaluation are lacking, despite increased attention to these elements across all sectors
  • Girl work often cuts across sectors, creating the possibility of more holistic responses for girls.
  • There is tension within the girl arena between "traditional" and "new" areas of intervention.
  • Girl-defined and led programs are few and far between.
  • Despite widespread recognition of the increased "buzz" around girl work, respondents are unsure whether this increased interest in girls is translating into real investments.
  • Fundamental differences in donor approaches influence the girl agenda and create challenges within the girl arena.
  • There is a significant disconnect between how organizations are structured and where the girl agenda hopes to go.
  • A major challenge to scaling up work with girls is getting governments to take up their cause.
  • Across the board, people working in the girl arena appreciate the momentum that has been generated and feel that this is the time to push forward to invest in more programs that reach more girls.
  • The vast majority of groups focus on the people and institutions in girls' environments, not just on the girls themselves.
  • There are persistent information gaps that make understanding the girl arena a challenge.
  • Little collaboration is evident among organizations working on behalf of girls, which can lead to "random" investments that fail to build on past efforts.

Populations Adolescent Girls

Publishers International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)

Funded by United Nations Foundation