By Oriana Bandiera, Niklas Buehren, Robin Burgess, Markus Goldstein, Selim Gulesci, Imran Rasul, Munshi Sulaiman
Summary and Key Findings:
Women in developing countries are disempowered relative to their contemporaries in developed countries. High youth unemployment, early marriage and childbearing interact to limit human capital investment and enforce dependence on men. We evaluate a policy intervention attempting to jump-start adolescent women’s empowerment in the world’s second youngest country: Uganda. The intervention relaxes the human capital constraints that adolescent girls face by simultaneously providing them vocational training and information on sex, reproduction and marriage. Relative to adolescents in control communities, after two years the intervention raises the likelihood that girls engage in income generating activities by 72% (driven by increased self-employment), and raises their expenditure on private consumption goods by 38%. Teen pregnancy falls by 26%, and early entry into marriage/cohabitation falls by 58%. Strikingly, the share of girls reporting sex against their will drops from 14% to almost half that level and aspired ages at marriage and childbearing both move forward. The findings suggest women’s economic and social empowerment can be jump-started through the combined provision of hard and soft skills, in the form of vocational and life skills, and is not necessarily held back by binding constraints arising from social norms or low aspirations.