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Evaluation database

Evaluation report

2016 ROSA: Formative regional evaluation of UNICEF’s contribution to the empowerment and rights fulfilment of adolescents in South Asia

Author: Asmita Naik (Team Leader), Katie Tong (Case Study Specialist), Mary Ann Perkins (Editor)

Executive summary

With the aim to continuously improve transparency and use of evaluation, UNICEF Evaluation Office manages the "Global Evaluation Reports Oversight System (GEROS)". Within this system, an external independent company reviews and rates all evaluation reports. The quality rating scale for evaluation reports is as follows: “Highly Satisfactory”, “Satisfactory”, “Fair” or “Unsatisfactory”. You will find the link to the quality rating below, labelled as ‘Part 5’ of the report, and the executive feedback summary labelled as 'Part 6'.


This formative evaluation was commissioned by UNICEF in early 2015 with the aim of gathering learning from around the region in programming for and with adolescents in order to inform future strategy and action. The evaluation covers all eight countries in South Asia and spans a 15-year time frame of 2006 – 2020 covering multiple five-year country programmes. The scope of the exercise is broad covering the full range of interventions in existence. UNICEF’s country level experience dates back to the 2000s with particularly substantial programmes in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal. By the end of the evaluation research, there were known to be at least 145 UNICEF-supported initiatives or groups of initiatives relating to adolescents in South Asia. These interventions germinated independently of each other, in different ways and at different times.


This formative evaluation was carried out as UNICEF begins to develop its Adolescent Strategic Framework in South Asia and to invest substantial resources in adolescent-related work. The principle aim is to help develop UNICEF’s programming with and for adolescents in the region; and to generate evidence on UNICEF’s performance in directly and indirectly promoting the empowerment and rights fulfilment of adolescents. The evaluation contributes to mainstreaming an adolescent perspective in sectoral programming, enhancing convergence across sectors and strengthening initiatives that explicitly focus on programming with and for adolescents.

The evaluation TOR sets out the objective as follows: “the evaluation will assess the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability of existing UNICEF programmes in mainstreaming or explicitly addressing adolescent-related issues. The evaluation will also examine if the programmes currently being rolled out or in the pipeline are evaluable. Specifically, it should be determined whether or not the programmes are adequately defined and their results verifiable. The evaluation will identify lessons learned and provide recommendations on how to strengthen adolescent programming and mainstreaming or convergence approaches in the countries of the region.”


The evaluation used a case study approach which involved visits to five countries (eight visits) – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India (States of Assam, Gujarat Jharkhand) and Nepal. The remaining three countries (Maldives, Pakistan, Sri Lanka) were reviewed by desk study. The study was carried out by a two-member team over a period of 165 person days. Qualitative methods were used primarily consisting of focus group discussions and interviews. UNICEF programming was assessed against evaluation questions formulated under the OECD DAC evaluation criteria – relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability. There was a particular focus on the extent to which UNICEF’s interventions were resulting in the empowerment and rights fulfilment of adolescents. Adolescent participation was strongly emphasized: adolescents were consulted extensively and formed the majority of evaluation contributors. Of the 1,276 contributors to the evaluation, 785 were adolescents or youth (528 females and 257 males). Adolescents were also engaged in an experimental ‘adolescents as evaluators’ methodology whereby the adolescents themselves carried out evaluation research in certain locations.

Findings and Conclusions:

UNICEF’s work on adolescents is deeper and more extensive than was known by UNICEF itself at the start of this evaluation. Far from being a new area of work, UNICEF Offices in the region have built up a significant repository of work – the evaluation unearthed an unexpectedly large number and there are likely more to uncover, especially in the many States of India. The significant effect of UNICEF programming on adolescent empowerment was apparent; this was tested time and again in different locations and the findings are consistent. At the same time, UNICEF's programmes across the region demonstrate considerable inefficiency; they lack integration with other areas of work, they are inadequately monitored and evaluated, and the learning from these experiences is insufficiently codified, shared and built upon across the region. UNICEF's programmes are highly effective but also highly inefficient. The two findings are not irreconcilable since while individual programmes are effective, the inefficiencies all relate to the inability to properly capture, assess, disseminate and maximise these successful experiences across the region as a whole. UNICEF’s own internal weaknesses constrain its ability to capitalize on the strengths of its programming for and with adolescents.


UNICEF headquarters, UNICEF ROSA and UNICEF country offices
1. Integrate adolescence more systematically into corporate planning documents to enable more consolidated planning and reporting on programmes for and with adolescents.

2. Improve knowledge management to better capture, disseminate and learn from the rich experiences taking place across the region.
3. Enhance organizational learning on adolescent participation to give staff the tools and practical knowledge to apply these approaches more extensively in programming.

UNICEF ROSA and UNICEF country offices
4. Strengthen planning, monitoring and evaluation to help improve programming for and with adolescents through evidence-based research.

UNICEF country offices
5. Foster greater convergence and mainstreaming of programmes for and with adolescents across all sectors of UNICEF’s work to expand the reach of UNICEF’s programming to greater numbers and a wider range of issues.
6. Improve knowledge and understanding of issues facing adolescents in the region to enhance programming and advisory work on the second decade of life.
7. Enhance the capacity of UNICEF and its partners on programming for and with adolescents so that they are better equipped to understand and respond to the unique challenges of working with this age group.
8. Renew efforts to reach the most disadvantaged adolescents in areas of operation as, despite efforts, the most marginalized, excluded and at-risk adolescents are not always benefitting from UNICEF activities.
9. Place more emphasis on building the capacity of parents as duty bearers to ensure adolescents benefit from a supportive enabling home environment.
10. Continue to strive for gender equality in programming for and with adolescents: continue addressing issues facing adolescent girls while also implementing programmes that meet the needs of adolescent boys.

Lessons Learned:

Programming for and with adolescents
UNICEF needs to move with the times, take stock of progress and achievements and re-tailor activities to the most pressing needs. The evaluation highlighted the need for a nuanced understanding of the context, historical connections and modern-day needs in programme areas.

Adolescent group work, participation and empowerment
A wide range of activities attract adolescent participants. Fun and creativity are key elements in effective adolescent group work. Sports can also work well, and can mobilizing girls and boys.

Equity: Reaching girls and boys
Priority issues facing adolescents differentiate along gender lines with child marriage, sexual harassment and the attitudes of male teachers identified as problems for girls; whereas addiction, suicide, drugs, corporal punishment and child labour were identified as problems for boys.

Equity: Reaching the most disadvantaged
Projects working in more homogenous impoverished communities such as tribal groups in India (Gujarat and Jharkhand) which lack basic infrastructure (water, electricity and sanitation) and have little differentiation among the population tend to have wider participation.

Working with partners who have hands on experience with marginalized communities increases the chances of reaching those most in need.

Ways to facilitate mainstreaming and convergence
Capacity building of staff across all sectors can help them to design programmes that meet the development needs of adolescents. In addition, staff across sectors need capacity building to help them identify the links between their work and adolescence.

Convergence needs to be embedded at higher levels of the organization. Management backing of convergence efforts and political will are essential alongside mechanisms to enable senior management to coordinate work on adolescence across the country programme.

Note: You will find the report below labeled as follows:

  • REPORT - Abridged Report
  • PART 2 - Full Report
  • PART 3 - Annexes to the Full Report
  • PART 4 - Database Annex to both Abridged and Full reports
  • PART 5 - GEROS quality rating
  • PART 6 - GEROS executive feedback summary

Full report in PDF

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Report information



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