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Building a brighter future

Posted in Publications on June 28, 2016

Experimental Evidence on the Impact of Financial Literacy and Reproductive Health Education For Adolescent Girls in Tajikistan.

The small Central Asian country of Tajikistan is defined by both its stunning landscape—dominated by the 20,000-foot peaks of the Pamir and Alay mountain ranges—and its dramatic poverty. Recent data show that 47% of families live below the poverty line and only 7% of the land is arable.1 The country has struggled since its independence from the Soviet Union and ensuing five years of civil war. While Tajikistan is largely calm today, independence and war left families—and especially women—vulnerable. In the search for stability, Tajiks revived traditional cultural and social values that has led to the withdrawal of girls and women from public life and placed more focus on their domestic responsibilities. At the same time, men are migrating to Russia for work—migrants now comprise an estimated 600,000 to 1 million of the total Tajikistan population of 7.7 million and are the hub of HIV infection because of their contact with sex workers.2 The economic landscape in country is also bleak for women, where nearly twice as many men earn wages as compared to women, primarily because of women’s lower levels of education, training and work experience, as well as cultural barriers that limit professional opportunities available to them.

Key Findings

The Aflateen+ program, targeting adolescent girls aged 14 to 18 in Tajikistan, demonstrated significant positive impact on girls’ knowledge of HIV/AIDS; on their support for more equitable gender norms; on their frequency of saving, and on their propensity towards entrepreneurship and plans for pursuing a career. The evaluation did not find attributable effects of the program on girls’ health and nutrition knowledge, their strength of social networks, the actual amount of money saved, or on girls’ expected or ideal age of marriage or childbirth

Conclusion and Implications

Overall, the data show that Aflateen+ has the potential to enable teenage girls to gain critical life-skills needed to improve their futures. Building girls’ knowledge around HIV/AIDS, more equitable gender norms and saving money can positively affect their self-confidence and motivate them toward starting a business and other entrepreneurial pursuits. This holds promise for improving women’s financial contributions to their families and communities, which has been shown to help decrease maternal and infant mortality rates and, ultimately, poverty.

At the same time, the results show that the program did not consistently deliver the intended knowledge, such as on reproductive health, to many girls in the intervention group. Thus, quality of program implementation should be investigated. Data also show that Aflateen+ did not influence girls’ perception of the ideal age for marriage or for having their first child, arguably the most important intended outcomes. While the program and research was not implemented long enough to analyze impacts on actual age of marriage and first birth, previous research on fertility highlights the need to change women’s plans for the
number of children they desire as a necessary precondition to changing their actual practices. In this regard, the Aflateen+ curriculum appears to need improvements in order to enable adolescent girls’ to take more responsibility for and control over their lives, their bodies, and their futures.