11 Steps to Gender Inclusion and Scalability
The data on women and girls in the developing world is limited and often inaccurate, creating a “gender data gap” that renders many aspects of women’s lives unseen. To address the problem of gender exclusion, Batonga implemented a pilot program, “Mapping, Targeting, and Training Benin’s Future Leaders,” in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation.
The goals of this partnership focused on identifying the most off-track girls (aged 15–24) living in Savalou and Bohicon, Benin and engaging them in clubs with social and financial-literacy education, a combination of work and life skills, to improve their economic opportunities and future livelihoods. They also aimed to promote coordination and data-driven approaches to girl-centred programming in Benin and Francophone West Africa.
To achieve these goals, Batonga followed a four-phase approach called LEAP: Locate, Empower and Equip, Adolescent Girls Learning Circle, and Program Expansion. The following is a breakdown of Batonga’s 11-step LEAP approach to gender inclusion and scalability.
Leap Stage One: L Stands for Locate
1. Recruit and train Girl Roster™ enumerators.
Batonga first recruited a team of local enumerators consisting of mentors, partner staff, and Batonga scholarship program graduates. The enumerators were trained to map target communities using the Girl Roster™, collect household-level data, and identify the most “off-track” or vulnerable girls, including orphans, young mothers, and girls who are out of school or who have never been to school. In partnership with the Population Council, Batonga conducted an enumerator training workshop held in conjunction with a facilitated discussion on girl-centred programs, strategies to reach vulnerable girls, and an analysis of the findings from initial mapping activities in Bohicon and Savalou.
2. Customize and conduct the Girl Roster™ and Community Resource Scan.
To capture the most accurate information about the girls living in the program’s target communities and identify mentors for the pilot, Batonga used the Girl Roster™ digital tool. The Girl Roster™ was developed by the Population Council and the Women’s Refugee Commission to strengthen practitioners’ ability to see the full universe of girls in their community and craft intentional plans to reach the most excluded segments. It is a household questionnaire that captures how many girls are in the catchment area and a rapid analysis tool that segments girls by age, schooling, marital, childbearing, and living-arrangement status. The Girl Roster™ is different from other information collection methods in that it reaches all girls in a community, rather than a sub-sample; it is very short (10 minutes per household); and it is conducted by staff rather than external enumerators. Training on this tool, and its accompanying information collection and analysis process, enabled and empowered Batonga to lead transformative change for girls and their communities in Benin.
3. Use data to inform recruitment strategy, club location, outreach, and segmentation.
Batonga’s next step was to formulate a picture of the female youth living in the program areas and develop an informed and intentional plan to reach and benefit the most vulnerable young women in each community. Batonga used these results to define segments of girls based on the following factors:
- Access to education: Has this girl never gone to school? Has she dropped out before completion? If she is in school, is she one or more grades behind, based on her age?
- Parental support/family stability: Does this girl live with only one or neither of her parents?
- Marital status: Has she been married before the age of 18?
- Motherhood status: Has she had a child before the age of 18? Girls living in polygamous families were also given special attention as their unique situation can often increase their degree of vulnerability.
Also of consideration, was whether or not the girls had benefitted from other development programs or resources.
4. Adjust curriculum. Batonga created a new financial literacy and life-skills curriculum, in partnership with Aflatoun.
The curriculum takes an open, girl-centred, participatory approach toward teaching, a technique that often does not exist in the formal school system or in girls’ homes. The content focuses on five core elements:
- Personal exploration and self esteem
- Rights and responsibilities
- Savings, expenses, and using resources responsibly
- Planning and budgeting
- Social enterprise and entrepreneurship
Because the curriculum is modular, Batonga has been able to contextualize and add to it as needed. In the pilot year, supplemental lessons were added on entrepreneurship, finding a job, personal strengths, and gender.
5. Recruit and train mentors, supervisors, and local staff.
In choosing qualified candidates as mentors to facilitate the Girls Clubs, Batonga looked for young women who were exceptional in their environment, and weighted personal qualities above academic qualifications in some cases to ensure candidates embodied the values and characteristics associated with being a good mentor. Batonga then invited qualified candidates to attend a week-long training session facilitated by Aflatoun. After the training, the most qualified mentors were selected. To prepare for expansion and scale-up of the program, a cascade training model was developed, in which master trainers trained new mentors as villages were added. Ongoing refresher courses and trainings were held throughout the pilot.
Leap Stage Two: “E” Stands for Empower and Equip
6. Deliver social and financial literacy education through community-based Girls Clubs.
Empowering young women and girls in “safe spaces” (places where women and girls feel physically and emotionally safe to express themselves without the fear of judgment or harm) has been shown to be effective in improving girls’ livelihoods. For example, a livelihood skills training delivered via Girls Clubs in Bangladesh resulted in a 23 percent decline in child marriage and a 35 percent increase in those earning an income (Source). Batonga’s Girls Club platforms aimed to provide a weekly girls-only space, where participants could access mentors, a peer group, technical and life skills, and a sense of belonging, in a secure environment. Both the physical space and the methodology were girl-centred. The leadership of the club was democratically elected from among participants.
7. Connect girls to income-generating activities.
Through the Girls Clubs, Batonga aimed to foster entrepreneurship and promote economic opportunities. During the pilot, all of the girls became actively engaged in income-generating activities, and each club designed a unique business plan under the guidance of their mentor (e.g., selling cakes and candies). Peer-to-peer training enhanced technical skills, such as liquid soap making. Clubs voted on how to use their income; some clubs invested their income back into the business to scale up or add a revenue stream. One club used the income generated from food products to start liquid and solid soap production.
8. Track participant outcomes through rigorous evaluation.
Throughout the pilot, Batonga focused on monitoring and evaluation (M&E) for learning as well as refining the strategy. The Girl Roster™ was conducted in 21 villages, measuring key girl-level data to inform project recruitment and establish a denominator for project M&E processes. Progress was monitored through quarterly reports from field staff tracking key indicators (e.g., number of clubs launched, number of facilitators trained) and quarterly monitoring visits by project coordinators. Progress was also tracked through an external assessment post-completion. The assessment built upon the data collected through the Girl Roster™ and included key informant interviews (KIIs), focus group discussions (FGDs), and a brief assessment with participants in select Girls Clubs to assess changes in attitude, knowledge, income, and assets.
Leap Stage Three: “A” Stands for Adolescent Girls Learning Circle
9. Establish an adolescent girls learning circle.
To share learnings and best practices, Batonga established Réseau Batonga d’Apprentissage des Filles Adolescentes Bénin, a regional thought leadership network.
10. Document and share best practices to build an evidence base.
The purpose of the learning circle was to share information and lessons learned and to coordinate efforts in the field. The network met on a bi-monthly basis during the pilot. The meetings built local buy-in, engaged stakeholders, leveraged partnerships, and helped establish girls as leaders in their communities.
Leap Stage Four: “P” Stands for Program Expansion
11. Begin scaling.
Batonga then expanded its reach through cluster scaling: identifying areas that met certain criteria (including the presence of partners, local government, and community support), then expanding from one village to the next. This allowed Batonga to save money and time on monitoring and training visits, while building local capacity and leveraging existing relationships. Batonga also adapted its model to include off-grid energy to increase the income-generating power of young women and girls (less than a third of Benin’s population has access to electricity, with access as low as nine percent in some areas where Batonga operates).