Educating girls – reducing teenage pregnancies in Malawi
Background The program “More educated girls – Reducing teenage pregnancies in Malawi” (2014- 2016) (RTP) is a test and invest project financed by Save the Children Norway/Norad and implemented by Save the Children Malawi and partners. Through the program, SCN has supported efforts to retain girls in schools and reduce teenage pregnancies in Malawi. Purpose/objective In 2016, SCN initiated an external evaluation of the project to take stock on progress and learn from the findings of what has worked well and what should be adjusted to improve the project going forward. Methodology The evaluation relied on qualitative data collection in Malawi, covering three project districts in addition to interviews in the capital. More specific elements of the methodology include; Theory of Change workshop in-country with project staff, literature review, individual key interviews and group interview/FGD. Key findings Relevance: Overall the relevance of the project is undisputed. The issues the program tackles are clearly important in Malawi. Progress towards achieving results: The success of the program is currently being measured based on indicators which do not adequately reflect the complexity and comprehensiveness of the program approach. Although not specifically responding to the quantitative indicators of the project, there are several positive results that can be documented: Working with mother groups to strengthen their abilities and skills in supporting girl retention rates was consistently noted by mother group FDG as an asset. Improved ability of teachers to provide pupils with information regarding SRH, and in promoting a safe environment for students. The most noted results, as claimed by matron and patrons interviewed, visible amongst children members of school clubs was the Improved ability of Child Protection Committees to support a safe environment for children Improved knowledge amongst youth members of youth clubs on SRH issues. Improved gender dynamics amongst member of youth clubs. This includes empowerment of females regarding their own sexuality. More equal gender relations between girls and boys who regularly attend lectures as part of the youth clubs in health centers which focus on SRH. The improvement of skills amongst mother groups who work towards girl retention in school more generally. Improved knowledge about the impact of births on the body and the reduction of pregnancies close together. Reduction in sexually transmitted diseases. Increased awareness of the threats faced by girls in schools including for example propositions by male teachers. Partnership and child participation and role of civil society partners: The program works with an extensive number of partners at the government and civil society level, both at the national and local levels. The relationships are good and productive. It is important to note that the knowledge and expertise of different partners in their fields appears to be very extensive and that thus far the program has not been able to fully and systematically exploit this knowledge for the collective benefit of the program; second, that the government bodies are not currently particularly open to changing the way they work with the topics at hand. The latter means that considerable attention and effort will be required to secure the sustainability of the program. Sustainability, Scalability and Replicability: The premise that people who are trained will go on to train others appears not to have happened systematically. Direct training of health workers, teachers etc. aimed to enable the trainee to improve its ability to work with adolescents have yielded positive results. However, these trainings are dependent on the continued support from SC. Together this means that a different approach with increased focus on advocacy at the government level to ensure the government takes on responsibilities for the direct trainings may be beneficial for the sustainability of the project. Context and community structures: This program is clearly positioning itself to achieve social change. Social change is not generated over night and therefore consistent long term efforts are required. SC has chosen to work with a series of entities and bodies that already exist (teachers, health care workers, mother groups etc.), still strong partnerships with Malawian government entities to ensure that activities carried out by the program are incorporated into government led initiatives is crucial to ensure the sustainability and longevity of the program. Recommendations Relevance SC should consider how issues of gender relations, masculinity, and the role of men/boys in active sexual relationships and parenting should be included in relevant curricula. SC should consider how to address the needs of the new-born children to ensure that they do not suffer (reduced care or nutrition) when their mothers return to school. SC should consider including elements into relevant curricula that addresses the challenges faced by disabled children. Progress towards achieving results SC should consider reducing the number of activities it undertakes to ensure that each activity can be adequately monitored/reflected upon. SC should consider enforcing a single rule regarding per diem/coverage of costs of trainings and meetings. SC should focus on prioritizing activities that are not dependent on the snow ball effect multiplier element. SC should consider developing qualitative indicators that are better suited to capture the achievements of the program through focusing on behavioral change. SC should consider identifying a series of quantitative indicators that focus on provision/delivery of services (output) rather than on outcomes to supplemented the qualitative data (see above recommendation) Partnership and child participation and role of civil society partners If SC chooses to invest in the refinement of different curricula, SC should consider including children more actively as part of this process. In future SC should consider involving partners in a more active way in order to ensure that their knowledge is capitalized upon during both program design and implementation phases. Sustainability, Scalability and Replicability SC can choose to: a) Continue to implement the program activities as they are, but change the way it measures progress to ensure that it can better measure the social change character of the current program package. This approach would require that SC remain committed long term to the implementation of program activities to ensure sustainability b) Utilize the current activity package as a way to develop tools (curricula and protocols) that can be introduced into the standard service package implemented by the government in future (training of teachers, health care workers, mother group members etc.) and hence focus on the refinement of the tools used and on advocacy to have these adopted and implemented by the government in the future. Clearly these are not mutually exclusive, but quite complementary. In fact, (a) can be a key element to informing (b). Context and Community structures This program is not one which meets the expectations of all communities. Particularly communities with well-developed aid dependency ideas. Therefore, SC should consider focusing on communities which believe in, accept the provision of knowledge as a valuable form of assistance. SC should consider engaging beneficiaries in agreements that require them/ make them accountable to share the knowledge gain. Comments from the organisation due to weaknesses in the evaluation report, Save the Children commissioned an internal review and together with the end-line report, this will make the basis for further programme development decisions.