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Study Overview

Addressing gender bias in Sierra Leone through community action and teacher training
Study is 3ie funded:
Study ID:
Initial Registration Date:
Last Update Date:
Study Status:
Change History for Status
Changed On Previous Value
07/28/2021 Ongoing
Sierra Leone

This study is an experimental impact evaluation of a gender education program in Sierra Leone, implemented by Save the Children, called School Me. The overall objective of School Me is to reduce gender-based disparities in basic education outcomes by creating an empowering environment for girls and boys in the community, school and home. In Sierra Leone, the School Me project will be evaluated through an experimental impact evaluation designed to estimate the effect of the School Me program on the quality of the learning environment, gender norms and education outcomes (literacy and socio-emotional skills, primary school retention and completion).

Registration Citation:

Leer, J., 2017. Addressing gender bias in Sierra Leone through community action and teacher training. Registry for International Development for Impact Evaluations (RIDIE). Available at: 10.23846/ridie129

Additional Keywords:
gender, social norms, basic education
Secondary ID Number(s):

Principal Investigator(s)

Name of First PI:
Jane Leer
Duke University
Change History for Affiliation
Changed On Previous Value
07/28/2021 Save the Children
Name of Second PI:

Study Sponsor

Save the Children Korea and Save the Children US
Study Sponsor Location:
United States

Research Partner

Name of Partner Institution:
Save the Children International
Type of Organization:
Sierra Leone

Intervention Overview


School Me! is designed to address girls' primary school dropout as symptomatic of the larger social phenomenon of lower social status of girls and women in many of the countries where Save the Children works. School Me! engages key actors – girls, boys, parents, teachers, community and religious leaders – to explore, challenge and change unequal gender norms at school, at home, and in the community, so that girls and boys have increased and equal opportunities to learn and to participate in the decisions that affect them. In Sierra Leone, School Me! targets 30 upper primary school communities in the Western Rural Area. The intervention includes (1) a package of community-based behavioral change activities, including dialogue and role play led by a core group of Gender Champions (community members who have volunteered to lead their peers in a process of identifying and addressing barriers to gender equality in their communities), and (2) a series of interactive workshops designed to empower teachers to systematically address gender bias in the classroom, while also strengthening overall capacity in literacy and numeracy instruction.

Private Intervention Details:
Theory of Change:

Problem: Persistent gender disparities in education outcomes, and persistently low levels of learning, primary school completion and secondary transition for both boys and girls (relative to national/international goals). Assumptions: Engaging community actors (parents, families, teachers, education and community authorities) to identify and challenge the root causes of gender-based disparities and low-quality education in their communities will lead to improved educational outcomes, with gender equity. Activities: 2 year intervention targeting teachers, education authorities, students, and parents, including (1) Behavior change communication strategies led by community "Gender Champions" trained by Save the Children, and (2) A package of teacher training in gender sensitive pedagogy and improved literacy and numeracy instruction. Outcomes: Systematic support for gender equality, reduction in gender-based division of roles/responsibilities/opportunities/rights is prioritized at the community level. Teachers apply positive, child-centered and gender-sensitive pedagogical approaches. Impact: Schools and communities are safe and supportive learning environments for girls and boys. Girls and boys demonstrate improved literacy and greater empowerment (operationalized as academic self-efficacy, voice, behavior and decision-making, among other constructs). Schools demonstrate improved and gender-equitable primary school retention and completion.

Multiple Treatment Arms Evaluated?

Implementing Agency

Name of Organization:
Save the Children International - Sierra Leone
Type of Organization:
NGO (International)

Program Funder

Name of Organization:
Save the Children South Korea
Type of Organization:
NGO (International)

Intervention Timing

Intervention or Program Started at time of Registration?
Start Date:
End Date:
Evaluation Method

Evaluation Method Overview

Primary (or First) Evaluation Method:
Randomized control trial
Other (not Listed) Method:
Additional Evaluation Method (If Any):
Difference in difference/fixed effects
Other (not Listed) Method:

Method Details

Details of Evaluation Approach:

The School Me impact evaluation will use an experimental method to estimate the effect of School Me on educational outcomes and gender norms at the child level, gender norms and caregiving practices at the caregiver level, and upper-primary (grades 4-6) school retention, drop-out and completion rates at the school level. The experimental impact evaluation follows a cluster-randomized controlled trial method, in which 30 of a total of 60 eligible schools were randomly assigned to participate in School Me (intervention group) and 30 were assigned to serve as the control group (“business as usual,” no School Me activities).

Private Details of Evaluation Approach:
Outcomes (Endpoints):

Primary outcomes: literacy skills (letter identification, single word reading, reading fluency, accuracy and comprehension), empowerment (academic self-efficacy, freedom of movement, voice, behavior control and decision-making) and adherence to unequal gender norms. The primary outcomes are all child-level. Secondary outcomes: perceived safety and inclusion in the classroom (child level), frequency and extent of caregiver/child learning interactions (child level and caregiver level), and perceived quality of the classroom and community learning environments (child and caregiver level). School-level administrative data, collected and verified by hired (external) enumerators, will be used to compare changes in overall (school-level) enrollment, retention, drop-out and completion between intervention and control schools.

Unit of Analysis:

Hypothesis 1: Relative to "business as usual" education provision, a two year long sequence of teacher training workshops and community-led behavior change communication strategies designed to improve the quality of the learning environment and reduce gender-based discrimination will: * improve upper-primary school students' literacy skills and empowerment * reduce adherence to unequal gender norms among students and caregivers * improve overall rates of upper-primary school retention and completion, and reduce gender disparities in retention and completion

Unit of Intervention or Assignment:
Clusters of schools (groups of schools located close together, in the same or neighboring communities).
Number of Clusters in Sample:
12 clusters of schools. Each cluster includes 2 - 8 schools. There are 60 schools total (30 intervention, 30 control).
Number of Individuals in Sample:
The sample includes 1,413 student/caregiver pairs from 60 schools.
Size of Treatment, Control, or Comparison Subsamples:
There are 727 student/caregiver pairs from 30 schools in the control group and 686 student/caregiver pairs from 30 schools in the intervention group.

Supplementary Files

Analysis Plan:
Other Documents:
Research protocol submitted to (and approved by) Save the Children US Ethics Review Committee.: School Me ERC Protocol 2016.06.29.docx
School Me Baseline Report 2017: School Me Sierra Leone Western Area Rural Baseline 2016.pdf

Outcomes Data

The primary data source is an individual interview and learning assessment, administered to all sampled and consenting student/caregiver pairs by trained enumerators, using tablets. The tools were drawn primarily from the Literacy Boost Assessment (Save the Children), the Global Early Adolescence Study (Johns Hopkins and WHO), and the Gender Equitable Measurement tool (ICRW). All tools were piloted and adapted to the context.
Data Already Collected?
Data Previously Used?
Data Access:
Data Obtained by the Study Researchers?
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Treatment Assignment Data

Participation or Assignment Information:
Data Obtained by the Study Researchers?
Data Previously Used?
Data Access:
Data Obtained by the Study Researchers?
Data Approval Process:
Approval Status:

Data Analysis

Data Analysis Status:

Study Materials

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Registration Category

Registration Category:
Prospective, Category 1: Data for measuring impacts have not been collected

Completion Overview

Intervention Completion Date:
Data Collection Completion Date:
Unit of Analysis:
Clusters in Final Sample:
58 clusters (schools)
Total Observations in Final Sample:
Size of Treatment, Control, or Comparison Subsamples:
28 intervention, 30 control schools


Preliminary Report:
Preliminary Report URL:
Summary of Findings:

The impact analysis (comparing intervention and control group students) shows no observable effect of School Me, except for one outcome: School Me reduced children’s support for unequal gender norms about adults (e.g., the idea that “a wife should always obey their husband, even if she disagrees”). This impact was primarily driven by changes among boys, not girls. In other words, School Me seems to have shifted how boys (but not girls!) think about the division of power and responsibilities among men and women at the household level.

Paper Summary:

This study investigated attitudes towards restrictive gender norms among adolescents in Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone (pooled N = 1,793, Mage(baseline) = 10.3, Mage(follow-up) = 11.6, 50% boys/girls). We examined individual and contextual predictors of gender attitudes, assessed change in gender attitudes over two years, and estimated the effect of a community-based norms diffusion intervention. Multiple regression analyses revealed that being a boy, exposure to violence against women, and restrictive norms among same-gender peers predicted support for a patriarchal division of adult roles, lower educational status for girls, and acceptance of gender-based violence. In contrast to evidence from Western contexts, we found limited evidence of increased flexibility in gender attitudes during early adolescence. However, the intervention significantly reduced support for restrictive gender norms, especially among boys. Findings reveal novel pathways through which young adolescents acquire beliefs about gender, and provide encouraging evidence regarding community-based approaches to shifting adolescents’ gender attitudes.


Paper Citation:
Leer, J., Gassman-Pines, A., DjeBle, E., Kainessie, J., Kennedy, C., Press, S., & Schubert, H. (2021, July 22). Young Adolescents’ Endorsement of Restrictive Gender Norms: Evidence from a Community-Based Intervention in Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone.

Data Availability

Data Availability (Primary Data):
No--Data not expected to be available
Date of Data Availability:
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Other Materials

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Description of Changes:

Study Stopped