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Girls’ Economic Empowerment

Posted in Publications on November 22, 2017

Aukje te Kaat

Globally, there are 600 million adolescent girls in developing countries who face persistent discrimination and violence. Many are at risk of dropping out of school, early marriage and childbirth, FGM and negative health outcomes. These threats affect their future plans and diminish their career opportunities. Aflatoun International has been partnering with Plan International in Credit Suisse’s Financial Education for Girls programme, to turn this around and advance their economic situation.

Economic empowerment allows adolescent girls to maximise their opportunities, providing them with the knowledge and skills to take advantage of their choices. At the same time, they are given the power and voice to determine their best course of action by influencing the individual, social, and political context in the world they live in. A female is economically empowered when she has both the ability to succeed and advance financially and the power to make and act on economic decisions.

This improved financial capability, and encouragement of saving in particular, can positively influence educational attitudes, health outcomes, social protection and entrepreneurial success. Through both direct and indirect pathways, financial education should be able to contribute to building a solid foundation for economic empowerment, ultimately leading to positive, long-term societal change and economic growth.

The Financial Education for Girls programme was launched in 2014, providing financial education and life skills training to adolescents in Brazil, China, India and Rwanda. It includes a research component that examined different intervention models for adolescent girls’ economic empowerment. A policy brief was produced indicating that there is a need to combine financial education with social and health components in order to truly advance girls’ economic empowerment. It highlighted the importance of addressing context, and the subsequent case studies showcase how this is addressed in each of the four country programmes.

In Brazil, the case study shows how community buy-in can help improve the learning environment for girls receiving Financial Education and Life Skills. It found that community buy-in is an important contributor to the learning environment for girls, and in particular the need to engage fathers.

In Guangnan, China, lack of confidence in the future is a particular issue for girls who are left behind by their migrant worker parents. The case study shows how Financial Education and Life Skills, alongside career guidance, can enable them to overcome marginalisation through a participatory approach which boosts their confidence and improves their interpersonal skills. Combined with career guidance, this broadens the girls’ perception of their horizons and allows them to envision a future beyond the traditional route of becoming a migrant worker.

In Rajasthan, India, it examined which community perceptions are the biggest obstacles to girls’ acquisition of Financial Education and Life Skills and how they can be addressed. A key finding was that although communities may accept the idea of girls acquiring financial education, applying what they learned in non-traditional ways (i.e. outside of the home) is not accepted.

In rural Rwanda, working on gender norms within positive masculinity and leadership clubs had a positive impact on girls’ acquisition of Financial Education and Life Skills. It found that these club activities can have a direct link to improving girls’ economic empowerment as boys accept the concept of shared domestic responsibilities, thus enabling girls to have both more study time and opportunity for entrepreneurial activities.

Through this research, Aflatoun International, Plan International and Credit Suisse hope to contribute to knowledge around the effectiveness of financial education for adolescent girls. Next year the partners continue with the Financial Education for Girls programme in Brazil and China, and Room to Read will implement in Tanzania and Sri Lanka.

If you are interested in becoming involved with Aflatoun, contact us here or send us an email to