Publication: Empowering Adolescent Girls in a Crisis Context: Lessons from Sierra Leone in the Time of Ebola

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Bandiera, Oriana
Buehren, Niklas
Rasul, Imran
Smurra, Andrea
In Sierra Leone, the empowerment and livelihoods for adolescents (ELA) initiative sought to enhance adolescent girls’ social and economic empowerment by providing life skills training, livelihood training, and credit support to start income-generating activities. The Ebola crisis occurred during the project, resulting in curbed implementation. In contrast, younger girls (12 to 17 years old) who resided in communities that benefitted from the program in high Ebola disruption areas were more likely to be in school and saw their numeracy and literacy levels improve. However, as younger women spend less time with men in the presence of ELA, men likely shift their attention to older girls: the evaluation finds an increase in unwanted and transactional sex by older girls in areas highly exposed to the Ebola crisis. As the program was implemented, the Ebola epidemic hit Sierra Leone. First, in an effort to stem the spread of the disease, the government-imposed quarantines, limited travel, and closed public spaces such as markets in certain areas, which significantly impacted the economic activities of men and women. Second, schools were closed for an entire academic year. Finally, Sierra Leone’s limited health resources were diverted into caring for patients and preventing the spread of the epidemic, limiting their ability to attend to other issues such as sexual and reproductive health. These results show how safe spaces interventions can be effective even in the face of large-scale shocks such as Ebola crises as seen in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda, as well as other shocks constraining economic and social life, by buffering girls from the adverse effects of crises.
Bandiera, Oriana; Buehren, Niklas; Goldstein, Markus; Rasul, Imran; Smurra, Andrea. 2019. Empowering Adolescent Girls in a Crisis Context : Lessons from Sierra Leone in the Time of Ebola. Gender Innovation Lab Policy Brief;No. 34. © World Bank, Washington, DC. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.
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