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  • Taking The Girl Effect to Scale


    Changing the pace of girl development

    Investing in Girls

    DFID permanent secretary, Mark Lowcock, on Girl Hub and how partnerships can radically reduce poverty

    A conversation with DFID permanent secretary Mark Lowcock about Girl Hub and the potential of partnerships in development programming

    In 2010 the permanent secretary at the Department for International Development (DFID), Mark Lowcock, dove into uncharted waters when he formed a first-of-its-kind strategic collaboration with Nike Foundation. The result? A new initiative aimed at establishing a new way of delivering development programming at scale for girls. Girl Hub opened its first office in DFID's London basement, but quickly opened offices in Rwanda, Ethiopia and Nigeria to drive work on the ground.

    Q: How did Girl Hub happen?

    A: Girl Hub began when Maria Eitel, the president of the Nike Foundation, and I met four or five years ago in the margins of a meeting for the World Bank Gender Advisory Council. After years of working in the sector, I had a Damascene moment. The evidence was there to suggest that if you change the prospects of an adolescent girl on a big enough scale, you will transform societies.

    Q: Why DFID? Why Nike Foundation?

    A: DFID uses its core capabilities, resources, expertise and a global network to really test ourselves and change for the better. It is an organisation that is not afraid to challenge itself to look at things in a different way and for that reason, the Nike Foundation partnership offered us a tangible way to think and work differently with girls.

    Partly due to the marketing capabilities and partly due to the sense of fun and energy we had in the early Girl Hub conversations the potential of the partnership was clear to me. I thought we could get into something that was a brand new approach to changing girls' prospects at scale.

    Q: You've been quick to point out that this is a strategic collaboration and not a sponsorship. What is the difference?

    A: It was very important to both the Nike Foundation and DFID that we appreciated where we were each coming from culturally. We all understood that we were trying to create a partnership, which is quite different to the way that DFID interacts with other organisations. The power of the Girl Hub collaboration has been to make it something completely different. I think the impact of the work as a result of this way the partnership was set up speaks for itself.

    Q: What are your biggest accomplishments so far?

    A: In December 2011 Girl Hub Rwanda launched Ni Nyampinga - the first teen brand in the country. And in just seven months, Ni Nyampinga magazine has become Rwanda's largest media publication.

    In Ethiopia, Girl Hub was the catalyst for DFID Ethiopia's investment in the £10m End Child Marriage programme, which is on track to reach 200,000 girls in the Amhara region by 2015. And this past May, Girl Hub Nigeria supported a 13-week radio show called Carbin Kwai that was designed to reposition girls in the public discourse and provide a platform for community dialogue.

    But we've only just skimmed the surface of what's possible.

    Q: How can others use your model to take scope to scale?

    A: It is a problem for official development agencies that we can be stuck in our ways of doing things. You can only replicate what we're trying with Girl Hub if you can find a partner who shares your vision and if you are clear about what each party is bringing to the table. But look at the nutrition space - where there is a lot of work going on at the moment. If we could get to the point where there are different sorts of partnerships working to get to grips with that, there is a big prize to be won.





    Seven things you need to know about girls

    Investing in Girls

    The truths we know about adolescent girls – and why they are key to effective, efficient programming

    Experience has taught us seven truths about adolescent girls. When we understand these truths, we get closer to the girls we want to work with and that means we're better informed to deliver the solutions girls need to lift themselves out of poverty.

    1. I'm not a sector, a youth or a woman. I am a girl.

    Girls' lives aren't neatly divided into sectors; they're far more complex. While still at school they are dealing with issues of health, safety and their family's economic survival.

    Most development programmes target youth (15-35) or women of reproductive age (15-49). Girls aged 10-14 - the crucial time when they go through puberty, may drop out of school and may become sexually active - fall through the cracks, while girls aged 15-19 struggle to fit into programmes aimed at older boys and women.

    To unleash her potential, we have to recognise an adolescent girl's unique needs. Otherwise, at best, she will be ignored; at worst, she will be harmed.

    2. I know myself and my situation better than anyone else. Talk to me before you do anything for me.

    Community leaders or family members can tell you what they think about girls' needs, abilities and potential, but only girls themselves can tell you what they care about, what's cool, what they aspire to and the biggest factors that stand in their way.

    To make programmes or policies succeed, we need to harness girls' intuitive understanding of their world.

    3. Many decisions I make, or my family makes about me, are based on risk and how I can stay safe.

    Risk plays a part in every decision girls and families make. Girls are pulled out of school to protect them from wayward male teachers or peers. Even extreme decisions, such as child marriage or female genital mutilation, are often rooted in families' desires to keep girls safe until marriage.

    Risk is real for girls every day. So they need safe environments to grow, learn and to be girls.

    4. Connecting with girls isn't easy for me - but it makes me stronger.

    Girls are often isolated from society at puberty - the moment they have the most questions about themselves and the world. When they are told to drop out of school and help at home, their social network shrinks.

    Networks are powerful. Friends help girls to stay safe and give them the social assets and confidence to succeed through adolescence and deliver their potential to the world.

    5. My trust is earned. I don't trust other girls just because they are girls; I need to know I can count on them to keep my secrets.

    Girls often don't trust each other. If their secrets - which can be anything from a crush on a boy to a plan to escape an arranged marriage - got out, the consequences could include a beating, early marriage or being forced to drop out of school.

    Building trust takes time, but is worth it. Once trust is built, girls develop long friendships. They share knowledge, skills and ideas, and that sharing provides a source of confidence, pride and joy.

    6. I don't plan for the future: help me create small, tangible wins to turn my dreams into reality.

    When girls dream they aim for an unreachable target, such as becoming president, or set their sights low, just a small step above their present situation.

    They aren't aware of good accessible professions, such as the small business owner or the community health worker. They do not know how to achieve their goal, lack role models who have been there and done it, or have a fatalistic attitude about the future. 

     Girls need encouragement and exposure to things outside their world to dream achievable dreams. Then they need the training and support to create plans toward tangible successes. These are steps on the path to achieving bigger goals.

    7. I am an economic powerhouse: when I have economic opportunities, the world wins.

    Girls with economic opportunities grow in value in their communities and their communities grow with them. Girls invest in themselves, their families and other girls, creating a ripple effect that can lift entire communities out of poverty.

    Economically active girls postpone marriage, have their first child later and have fewer children. The knock-on effect on the economy can raise entire countries. 

    The Nike Foundation supports programmes to empower adolescent girls, unlock their economic potential and give them the skills they need to flourish. Every day we work with incredible people and organisations to ignite adolescent girls' potential and unleash the girl effect. We are particularly indebted to Judith Bruce and the Population Council for their thought leadership on adolescent girls.

    It starts with a girl. 


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