Using mobile phones to empower out-of-school adolescent girls in SNNPR, Ethiopia

Out-of-school girls’ platforms in Ethiopia

Celine Herbiet
23 June 2021

Out-of-school girls’ platforms in Ethiopia were affected by the COVID-19 restrictions, as gatherings and face-to-face meetings between adolescent girls were limited. In response to this, UNICEF in partnership with VIAMO has launched a 16-week remote training in February 2021 for adolescent girls who are leaders of Girl Clubs. Through Interactive Voice Recordings (IVR), 195 girls (age 15-24) in- and out-of-school girls from SNNPR received weekly content on FGM and guidance on facilitating discussions on harmful practices with their peers. The technology ensures two-way communication so that girls can provide feedback on what is being sent to them and participate in quizzes to test their knowledge.

Mado Azazg, a 19-year-old adolescent girl from SNNPR, shared the following on the initiative: “It’s an easy way for girls to get important information. I found the information interesting and I want to talk about it with my friends.” The topics that have been translated to the mobile curriculum are similar to the life skills curriculum used in the Girls Clubs, with lessons on negotiation and decision making, self-managed PSS messages and exercises, healthy relationships and conflict management, reporting and community structures and safe facilitation under COVID-19 safety measures.

Mado Azazg, a 19-year-old adolescent girl from SNNPR

The first lesson of the remote training “outlining the learning journey ahead” reached 197 girls club leaders in SNNP through their mobile phones. Of this number reached, 140 girls completed the lesson’s narrative (or key messages) and 72 girls completed the quiz, which asked the following question: “Were you able to discuss issues around FGM and child marriage with members of the Girls Clubs during COVID-19?” 59 girls answered “yes” and 13 girls answered “no”. The second lesson on how to keep girls engaged when face-to-face interaction is limited, reached 166 girls, with 115 of them completing the lesson and 71 completing the quiz. The quiz asked girls whether they feel confident to interact and engage with the Girls’ Club members, and 64 girls answered they do feel confident to do so.

The latest lesson that was sent out, “refresher knowledge on FGM”, reached 145 girls with only 46 of them answering the following question: “Do you feel confident in saying “NO” to FGM and protecting other girls from being cut, for example by working together with community structures against FGM?” Three out of the 46 Girls Club leaders shared they don’t feel confident to refuse FGM and protect other girls. Overall, these first results show that more efforts are needed to ensure girls remain engaged throughout the lesson, including completing the quizzes, as well as throughout the complete course. UNICEF is working with BoWCY to monitor results, understand better why girls drop-out of the call and how to stimulate girls’ engagement (for example through awarding certificates of completion).

Based on the results of this learning initiative, the IVR messaging to Girls’ Club leaders will be scaled up to other regions in Ethiopia. The partnership contributes to the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme to Eliminate Female Genital Mutilation by exploring alternative implementation modalities and ensuring that programming can continue even in humanitarian contexts and COVID-19.