Learn. Work. Thrive.

April 11, 2014


Reaching girls during adolescence is critical—decisions made and behaviors established during this period affect their horizons later in life. Here, Liberian trainees receive their training completion certificates.

Photo credit: Eve Lotter, EPAG Coordinator

In 2008, the World Bank launched the Adolescent Girls Initiative to promote the transition of young women from school to productive employment. The program is being piloted in eight low-income countries (Afghanistan, Haiti, Jordan, Lao PDR, Liberia, Nepal, Rwanda, and South Sudan) and is currently reaching some 17,000 girls. Each program is individually tailored to the country context, with a common goal of discovering what works best in programming to help adolescent girls and young women succeed in the labor market? With new knowledge of what works, successful approaches can be replicated and brought to scale.


Many girls are stalled between school and productive work: more than a third—34 %—of young women in developing countries are jobless—out of the labor force and not in school. Although the gender gap in school enrollment has been closing, the gender gap in labor force participation is on the rise (see Figure 1 below).

Reaching girls during adolescence is critical—decisions made and behaviors established during this period affect their horizons later in life. Adolescence for boys typically ushers increased mobility and autonomy, but for girls, it often comes with increased restrictions—fewer opportunities and less freedom to exercise choice. During this formative period in their lives, it is important to provide adolescent girls with the tools they need to become economically empowered young women. 



The Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI) aims to promote the transition of adolescent girls and young women from school to productive employment. Interventions range from business development to technical and vocational training targeting skills in high demand; all projects include life skills training. The design of each pilot is tailored to the local context and addresses the specific constraints faced by girls. A rigorous impact evaluation of each pilot will help build the evidence of what works. The AGI provides a unique opportunity to break new ground—to experiment, take risks and find smart ways of introducing girl-friendly approaches to vocational training and youth employment programs.

Reaching vulnerable girls

Often the most vulnerable girls are unable to participate in training programs due to prohibitive time or monetary costs. The first step toward reaching this population of girls is to understand their needs and constraints. The AGI pilots are finding ways to make programs more accessible to the most vulnerable.

Challenging gender norms in the labor market

Social norms often relegate girls to traditional trades that are typically low paying. Girls’ families, male partners, employers, or even the girls themselves may think that certain jobs are only for men, not “women’s work.” The job skills training components of the AGI pilots aim to equip girls with technical skills for which there is a proven demand in the local labor market.

Bridging the gap to the labor market

When it comes to finding a job, many adolescent girls and young women struggle because they are more socially isolated, with fewer contacts. The AGI pilots are actively helping girls expand their networks and link to employment opportunities. The AGI pilots are also exploring ways to incentivize placement for girls.

Building girls’ assets for entrepreneurial success

The AGI pilots are building girls’ assets—human, social and financial—and supporting girls who want to venture into self-employment. Many of the pilots are teaching girls budgeting and business development skills combined with the opportunity to practice savings.

Bolstering girls’ and young women’s personal agency

Through the delivery of life skills training, the AGI pilots are working to equip adolescent girls and young women with the tools and confidence they need to take advantage of new economic opportunities. Life skills trainings focus on developing girls’ non-cognitive skills across multiple domains (social, emotional, personality, behaviors, attitudes. etc.). Specific topics include reproductive health, rights awareness, problem-solving techniques, communication and negotiation skills, and know-how on managing personal finances. 


Emerging impact evaluation results from Nepal and Liberia show that the AGI has helped young women make large economic gains in employment and earnings.

In Liberia, results show that the Economic Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women (EPAG) project led to a 47 % increase in employment and an 80% increase in average weekly income among project beneficiaries, compared to those in the control group. The majority of the employment increase was driven by the business skills track. The program also significantly increases the frequency and amount of young women’s savings. Results from an end-line survey show that impacts were sustained more than a year after the classroom training ended. The EPAG impact evaluation provides strong evidence that skills training can be an effective policy option for increasing employment among young women in Liberia. 

In Nepal, preliminary estimates of one-year program impacts of the Adolescent Girls Employment Initiative (AGEI) show positive and highly significant effects on employment outcomes. The treatment group experienced approximately a 16 percentage point increase in non-farm employment, for an overall gain of 47%.  Average monthly earnings increased by about 45%. These impacts tended to be larger for women than for men, including young women aged 24 and under. In contrast, limited effects are found on empowerment, reproductive health, or household level outcomes. These results will be expanded and refined in the coming year.

In Jordan, impact evaluation show that a vouch project was less successful. While the job voucher was active, female graduates with vouchers were 39 % more likely to work than female graduates without vouchers. However, this effect was temporary and did not last after the vouchers expired. Outside Central Jordan, girls with vouchers continued to have higher employment rates, but this may have come at the expense of those who did not have vouchers. Employability skills training showed no statistically significant impact on employment outcomes in either the short- or long-term. However training did boost self-confidence and mental well-being among the graduates. Insights from the evaluation are being used to illuminate demand-side and regulatory constraints to the school-to-work transition of young people in Jordan.

Preliminary results from the Haiti AGI are expected in mid-2014. 


The AGI program is supported by US$ 20 million from the Adolescent Girls Initiative Multi-Donor Trust Fund.


The Bank’s partners in the AGI are the Nike Foundation and the governments of Afghanistan, Australia, Denmark, Jordan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Liberia, Nepal, Norway, Rwanda, Southern Sudan, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.


“This is our chance to be independent. This is my chance to learn new things, and be a leader in my community—and one day teach other girls. We can’t allow our fear to overcome us."
— Princess Sheriff, New Kru Town, Liberia

 "Before I went into the program, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know how to communicate well. I didn’t know how a CV is done. Now, I know how to meet with Human Resources and I know how to negotiate.”
— Borhan , Irbid, Jordan

"It is an incredible experience and opportunity for me. My project focuses on manufacture of Lao traditional handicrafts and giving job opportunities to women affected by HIV and AIDS. I’m really looking forward to continue working and to make my dream a reality.”
—Phennapha Phommachanh, Vientiane, Lao PDR

“Before joining this program, I did not think I could ever have some skills to offer out there in order to get a decent job and pay. Now, I have learnt to drive and soon will be employed. I have also learnt so many life skills like family planning, personal hygiene, HIV/AIDS and so on, which my family and friends have also benefitted from. I now believe I can be a life changer.”
—Sunday Margaret, Juba, South Sudan

Learn more: Adolescent Girls Initiative website