Unmet Promises to Girls

Video length: 18:50

Presenter: Judith Bruce, Senior Associate and Policy Analyst, Population Council

Presentation: Unmet Promises to Girls

This lecture builds upon the lecture on “Making the Case for Adolescent Girls.” We discuss what the unmet promises to girls are, how they can be mapped at the community level, and how they fit into our theory of change and our programming approach.

What are the promises made to girls?

These promises are made largely via international conventions and national constitutions. While these policies are appropriate and often well intentioned, for many vulnerable girls they are never actualized.

  1. Ending intergenerational poverty
  2. Providing universal primary education
  3. Promoting gender equality
  4. Reducing maternal mortality
  5. Reducing the increasingly young and persistently female HIV epidemic
  6. Rebalancing the resources/population equation

How can these promises be mapped at the community level?

A view of a typical community reveals the abstract and unseen social contract between policymakers and girls.  Promises are mobilized at the community level through such common community assets as schools, health centers, youth centers, banks, etc. These assets create the opportunity, learning, and socialization structure for all who have access. However, studies confirm that while boys have access to these assets/promises and their access grows over time, girls often start with very limited access that decreases over time.

The ideal time to intervene to help girls participate in these opportunities is before their rights are irrevocably lost (e.g., through FGM, HIV infection).

How do these promises fit into our theory of change and our programming approach?

The first step is to locate and map the assets and services available in the community (playing fields, community centers, health posts, banks, NGO centers, etc.). The second is to identify the various categories of girls in the community. Girls differ according to whether they are in school or not; married or not; have a child or not; live with parents (one or two) or alone/with another caregiver, by age, etc. Once you know what kinds of girls are in the community, you can begin to think of strategies to give them access to community resources. This is where our programming approach takes shape. To start, the girls should be grouped with other girls like them (thus, the whole group will share some key characteristics such as ages 10–14, not in school, and living with parents). Work must be done with community members to gain their support to enable girls to access promised resources (e.g. setting aside one afternoon a week when only girls can access the youth center). The aim is to make access a permanent part of the community structure.


If community contracts are well structured, then it is possible to attain the full vision of a community that is accessible to different categories of girls with specific plans in place to ensure their permanent access to rights and promises.

Additional Resources