Empowering Adolescent Girls in Socially Conservative Settings: Impacts and Lessons Learned from the Ishraq Program in Rural Upper Egypt

Stud Fam Plann. 2016 Jun;47(2):129-44. doi: 10.1111/j.1728-4465.2016.00061.x.


In rural Upper Egypt, adolescence is a critical period in girls' transition to adulthood during which they are at risk for a number of negative outcomes, including restricted mobility and early marriage and childbearing. This study evaluates and presents lessons learned from Ishraq, an educational program that established safe spaces for out-of-school adolescent girls in rural Upper Egypt. Baseline and endline surveys were administered to all households containing an eligible girl in the program areas. We analyze the predictors of program enrollment and dropout and use difference-in-differences estimation to evaluate the impact of the program on participants as compared to non-participating eligible girls. Although we find positive impacts on literacy, attitudes toward sports, and reproductive health knowledge, little impact was found on broader indicators of empowerment, and no impact on the attitudes of participants' mothers or brothers. The experience of the Ishraq program highlights several key challenges facing safe spaces programs for adolescent girls, including targeting of a dispersed population with restricted mobility, reaching girls at a young age, achieving community-level attitudinal change, and the need for long-term follow-up of participants to measure behavioral change.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Curriculum
  • Egypt
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Power, Psychological*
  • Reproductive Health / education*
  • Rural Population
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Women's Health