“As a young girl, it wasn’t okay for you to talk about sexuality issues, to even talk about personal hygiene and menstrual health openly,” said Emilia Eyo. “The GPI program over the years has been able to demystify these things.”
Emilia participated in the Girls’ Power Initiative (GPI) comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) program 10 years ago. Over the past two decades, GPI has reached more than 50,000 girls throughout Nigeria with this program. The organization provides girls ages 10-18 with safe spaces to learn about their bodies, sexuality, and reproduction. We do this through trainings and school and media activities, such as radio and television shows that we produce in-house. We have received tremendous feedback and glowing testimonies from students like Emilia who have benefited from the program.
Despite the sense of accomplishment we get from such positive informal feedback, it has been challenging for GPI to document and measure the results of our programs. We want to systematically capture lessons learned in a rigorous fashion so that we have reliable data to improve our programs. But our efforts are complicated by the fact that conducting this kind of evaluation is difficult, and the girls are influenced by a variety of stakeholders, including their parents, peers, communities, and the mass media.
However, we have employed strategies and tools that we feel effectively measure the less tangible outcomes of our CSE programme such as self-esteem, confidence, and educational achievement.
To do this, we have been using the Voice, Action, Comportment, Opportunity, and Knowledge (VACOK) checklist. We wanted to go beyond the conventional “Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices” survey—used by many organizations—to measure the complexity of our program and its impact on girls’ lives. VACOK was developed by the Ms. Foundation for Women and modified to suit the context in which we work. It measures:
- Voice—Girls’ ability to speak on their own behalf
- Action—Girls’ ability to use their voices to act on behalf of others
- Comportment—Girls’ ability to carry themselves with pride, respect and dignity
- Opportunity—Girls’ ability to ask for new chances and experiences
- Knowledge—Girls’ ability to give accurate information on sexuality, human rights, and gender issues
The checklist helps us identify incremental changes in behavior that indicate changes in girls’ confidence. We use this tool periodically over the course of the three years girls are enrolled in the program.
One of the requirements for girls in their final year of the program is to conduct community outreach, and this exercise also helps us assess our work. The girls identify a rural community and carry out a needs assessment of other adolescent girls in the area and then carry out a small, simple intervention to address one of the problems identified, such as female genital mutilation, gender-based violence, and teenage pregnancy. During the activity, facilitators assess how well the program participants apply what they have learned and the extent to which they take on leadership roles. Moreover, we use a checklist to measure the results of the outreach work the girls have done. It contains questions to capture which stakeholders were reached and what they learned from the outreach activity. This feedback is valuable for both the girls and our organization.
Among other things, the community checklist is used to measure changes in knowledge among participants and the level of a community’s acceptance or support for girls and GPI’s programs during the intervention.
One of our most useful methods of measuring our contribution to girls’ lives—especially given resource and time constraints and stringent donor requirements—is looking at what we call “change moments.” We ask girls who participate in the CSE lessons to reflect on their life before and after the program and to personally identify turning points in a journal, reflecting on what they learned about themselves, others, the organization, and their immediate social environment. This is done at the beginning of the program, before the first year, and at the end of each year. We analyze the girls’ responses, and information from this analysis contributes to organizational learning and is shared with our donors and partners while serving as an important reference for future programs.
Given the challenges of measuring comprehensive sexuality education, we are exploring other strategies as well. We continue to look for new ways to go beyond conventional high-cost surveys, looking for approaches that harness girls’ creativity and intellect and take into consideration the complexity of the environments they live in.
With contributions from Ndodeye Obongha, Head of Programs, and Sunday Omori, Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Officer