The impact of an adolescent girls employment program: the EPAG Project in Liberia

The impact of an adolescent girls employment program: the EPAG Project in Liberia

Fourteen years of civil war in Liberia devastated the country’s infrastructure and institutions, and left a generation of young people with very low levels of education and training. Girls were particularly disadvantaged, although access to education is rising rapidly, especially for girls: a ccording to the Liberian labor force survey from 2010, the ratio of girls to boys enrolled in primary school has risen from 72 in 2000 to 90 in 2009.

This paper presents findings from the impact evaluation of the Economic Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women (EPAG) project in Liberia. The EPAG project was launched by the Liberian Ministry of Gender and Development in 2009 with the goal of increasing the employment and income of 2,500 young Liberian women by providing livelihood and life skills training and facilitating their transition to productive work.

The analysis in this paper is based on data collected during two rounds of quantitative surveys in 2010 and 2011, the second of which was conducted six months after the classroom-based phase of the training programme ended. Strong impacts are found on the employment and earnings outcomes of programme participants, relative to a control group of non-participants. The EPAG programme increased employment by 47 percent and earnings by 80 percent. In addition, the impact evaluation documents positive effects on a variety of empowerment measures, including access to money, self-confidence, and anxiety about circumstances and the future.

The evaluation finds no net impact on fertility or sexual behaviour. At the household level, there is evidence of improved food security and shifting attitudes toward gender norms. These results reinforce the highly positive feedback received from focus group discussions with programme participants. Finally, preliminary cost-benefit analysis indicates that the budgetary cost of the EPAG business development training for young women is equivalent to the value of three years of the increase in income among programme beneficiaries. These preliminary results provide strong evidence for further investment and research into young women’s livelihood programmes in Liberia.

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