Binti Shupavu is an afterschool girls’ club program currently operating in government O-level schools in Arusha and Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Championed for and implemented by Tanzanian NGO Girls Livelihood and Mentorship Initiative (GLAMI), Binti Shupavu is a training and mentoring program for adolescent girls tailored to specifically address key challenges that lead to tens of thousands of Tanzanian girls dropping out of secondary school every year. This comprehensive four-year program builds confidence, resilience and determination to succeed amongst young girls through a mix of seminars and small group tutorials delivered weekly by university-educated Tanzanian women. Although this is a multi-component program, the centerpiece of Binti Shupavu and GLAMI’s theory of change rests on the importance of mentorship as a tool for girls’ academic success.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the extreme precarity of secondary school retention and achievement for girls in East Africa. In Tanzania, girls’ secondary school outcomes – especially their transition to tertiary education, continue to lag substantially behind boys’ educational outcomes. Forty-four percent of Tanzanian girls become mothers or pregnant by the age of 19, thus stalling their educational prospects in lower secondary. These trends are typically exacerbated by gender inequalities in Tanzanian households. And in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, these pregnancy-related dropout rates have become even higher due to widespread instances of sexual assault, exploitation and economic precarity. The high number of girls giving birth and/or marrying in their teen-age years, underscores the need for cost-effective interventions that will support girls’ agency and continued learning in the formal educational settings.
Researchers have identified school-based girls’ clubs as a promising institution for supporting and improving vulnerable girls’ secondary school retention and achievement. Marcus et al. (2017) conducted a systematic review of 44 girls/youth club programs located largely in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and showed that the majority of programs positively impacted girls’ soft skills (such as self-confidence, decision making, etc.), and 25% of programs also yielded an increase in school enrollment, attainment and a reduction in dropout rates. Although girls’ clubs’ programming has resulted in improvements in self-efficacy, decision making, leadership, problem solving, negotiation, empowerment and gender positive attitudes the causal link between these skills and education outcomes has yet to be established.
GLAMI, in collaboration with AMPLIFY Girls Network in East Africa and the University of Dar es Salaam, will therefore undertake a control group study to evaluate whether mentoring, particularly through the Binti Shupavu training and mentorying program, increases adolescent girls’ agency and if these increased levels of agency work to improve educational attainment. Please engage with us during the CIES conference to hear more about the processes involved and outcomes of this exciting new research.