By Meghan Cutherell, A360 Senior Program Manager, Sexual and Reproductive Health, PSI
Girls’ agency is a prerequisite for effective action against climate change. Implementers and policymakers, therefore, need a simple framework now to center girls – their voices and experiences – as we collectively adapt to a changing climate.
The climate crisis is a problem which requires collective action even among those not directly programming in the climate mitigation space; drawing from learnings from our flagship adolescent contraceptive program A360, we propose focusing both on shifting social norms and building up girls’ internal capabilities to support girls to take ownership of their health and lives—beyond any single, siloed health area.
ENGAGE, AND WHERE POSSIBLE TRANSFORM, GIRLS’ ECOSYSTEMS TO CHALLENGE THE UNDERLYING NORMS THAT RESTRICT THEIR AGENCY AND HEIGHTEN THEIR RISK.
We understand which external actors influence girls’ choices and engage them directly to shift mindsets about the importance of girls’ voice and agency. For example, A360’s interventions in Ethiopia and northern Nigeria engage married adolescent girls’ husbands and community leaders in conversations which reinforce the value of girls’ choice in decision-making regarding contraceptive use.
TAKE A ‘WHOLE PERSON’ APPROACH BY FINDING INTERSECTIONS WHERE IT CAN BE POSSIBLE TO MEET SPECIFIC AREAS OF NEED AND CONTRIBUTE TO BUILDING GIRLS’ SELF-EFFICACY AND RESILIENCE.
Does she have the internal skills and confidence to make choices that are in line with her preferences? We identify 1-2 central soft skills that enhance girls’ foundational capabilities and build those wherever you can. For example, A360 ensures that contraceptive counseling and service delivery are paired with content around goal setting and core soft skills – such as decision-making and negotiation.
These elements are not new or groundbreaking. Intentional and meaningful approaches do not need to be complicated – in fact over-complication can lead to inaction. Instead, if we can commit to intentional focus on these two factors, our collective action can leave space for girls to be part of the solution.
Photo caption: A360 Southern Nigeria participant engages in the program’s Love, Life, and Health session, a program co-developed alongside young people.