Participation For, With, and By Girls: Evidencing Impact

This paper presents the findings of a review of publicly available, published evidence on the efficacy of development projects that self-identify as ‘girl-led’, both within academic literature and from established organisations working with girls.

What is meant by ‘girl-led’, of course, varies hugely. Terms such as girl-led, girl-centred, and girl-focused are often defined fluidly and used interchangeably by various implementation agencies. Because our review contained a wide and diverse range of programme interventions, we divided this range into three categories during our analysis – for, with, and by girls. This paper focuses on ‘girl-led’ work, rather than, for example, a gender-based approach to addressing girls’ rights.

Our review suggests that we need to carefully interrogate work that claims to be girl-led, and ask further questions of it, in terms of both how this classification is understood by those using it, and in relation to the extent of girls’ participation at each stage of the programme cycle. It suggests, also, that while substantive participation may not always be appropriate (because of, for example, budget, or time, or ethical concerns), where possible, engaging girls fully in design, implementation, and evaluation, can significantly augment the value of each of these stages of a programme.