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Study Overview

Sahel Women's Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD): Empowering Adolescent Girls in Mali
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The Sahel Women's Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD) is a regional project aiming to reduce gender inequalities and accelerate the demographic transition by addressing both supply and demand constraints to family planning and reproductive and sexual health. In Mali, the government has put in place a triple intervention to tackle multiple aspects of women's empowerment. Girls and young women aged 12-24 years old living in rural areas attend life-skills traning session in Safe Spaces, participate in job training courses and middle-school students receive a conditional cash transfer for attending school. Life-skills training courses are provided in parallel to boys and men. As part of a cross-country study, the present impact evaluation will test the safe space model at scale in the Sahelian context. In particular, the study will evaluate the impact of these interventions on women's family preferences and choices, the knowledge and use of family planning methods, girls' education and women's economic independence. It will also measure the impacts on men's gender equality attitudes, knowledge and practices about family planning. 

Registration Citation:
Health, Nutrition, and Population
Additional Keywords:
Gender equality, adolescent girls, early marriage, early childbearing, empowerment, sexual and reproductive health, engaging boys and men, safe spaces
Secondary ID Number(s):

Principal Investigator(s)

Name of First PI:
Olivia Bertelli
University Paris Dauphine PSL
Name of Second PI:
Massa Coulibaly
Groupe de Recherche en Economie Appliquée et Théorique

Study Sponsor

World Bank, UNFPA
Study Sponsor Location:
United States

Research Partner

Name of Partner Institution:
Groupe de Recherche en Economie Appliquée et Théorique
Type of Organization:
Research institute/University

Intervention Overview


The SWEDD prject aims at improving young girls’ empowerment and delay early marriage and pregnancy in Mali. The project targets girls aged between 12 and 24 years old in 2017 living in 270 villages scattered in the regions of Kayes, Ségou and Sikasso.
The project consists of a four-arm intervention to tackle multiple aspects of girls’ life:
1. Conditional cash transfer to keep girls in middle-school (“Bourses Maman”): bimonthly transfers of 10.000FCFA given to mothers of girls enrolled in middle-school in 2017 under the condition of keeping the girl in school. Each household is eligible for the full duration of the middle-school program.
2. Life-skills and reproductive health trainings provided in safe spaces (“Espaces Sûrs”): trainings provided by local female mentors once per week for two hours over 10 months
3. Vocational job training: provided to girls over 15 years old who dropped out of school or who never went to school. After a 6-month intensive literacy training the girls are trained and accompanied for 12 months to start up their own working activity.
4. Life-skills training provided to boys and husbands (“Clubs des (futurs) maris”): target boys and husbands aged between 12 and 24 years old and provide a similar training to the one provided in the safe spaces.

Theory of Change:

The main hypothesis behind the SWEDD project is that increasing adolescent girls and women's social and economic empowerment is essential to: (i) reduce fertility rates, (ii) improve health; (iii) and increase human capital to lower dependency ratios (iv) increase female labor force participation. Training provided in the safe spaces is expected to delay marriage and childbearing by: (i) increasing girls' knowledge and use of sexual and reproductive health products and services; (ii) changing preferences against early marriage and childbearing (iii) improving aspirations, increasing girls' self-confidence and decision-making power. The conditional cash transfer is expected to increase girls' education and academic achievement, which in turn is expected to delay marriage and childbearing, improve bargaining power, and expand economic opportunities. The job training intervention is expected to increase young women's engagement in economic activities, savings, and earnings and delay marriage and childbearing by increasing the opportunity costs and improving girls' decision-making power. It is further expected that engaging boys and men would have a positive effect on both girls' decision-making power, by promoting equal gender norms, and on health outcomes, by improving men's SRH knowledge. Finally, the expected impacts are mutually reinforcing in that delying marriage/childbearing should allow girls the time to finish school and start participating in the labor market, providing them with some economic independence. At the same time, an increased engagement in economic activities should increase the opportunity cost of having children and hence delay childbearing.

Multiple Treatment Arms Evaluated?

Implementing Agency

Name of Organization:
Ministry of Territory and Population
Type of Organization:
Public Sector, e.g. Government Agency or Ministry

Program Funder

Name of Organization:
World Bank
Type of Organization:
Foreign or Multilateral Aid Agency

Intervention Timing

Intervention or Program Started at time of Registration?
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Evaluation Method

Evaluation Method Overview

Primary (or First) Evaluation Method:
Randomized control trial
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Method Details

Details of Evaluation Approach:

The impact evaluation of the SWEDD project will be carried out with a Randomized Control Trial protocol. The four treatment branches have been randomized at the village level. Given the slightly different eligibility criteria of the interventions, not all villages were eligible for each branch. A census was conducted in 277 villages located in the project areas to identify the eligible villages before collecting the baseline data and assigning the interventions. In the end, 269 villages were retained as eligible. Among those, 76 were assigned to a pure control group. The rest was assigned to at least one of the following interventions:
1. Safe spaces & Clubs de (Futurs) Maris – 95 safe spaces and 50 Clubs of (future) husbands were randomly assigned to eligible villages, one per village. Among the 95 villages assigned to Safe Spaces, 25 were drawn to host the Clubs de (Futurs) Maris as well. The other 25 Clubs were randomly assigned to villages without the Safe Spaces intervention.
2. Conditional Cash Transfer: 108 villages were assigned to receive the Conditional Cash Transfer. All eligible households within those villages were assigned to the transfer. Eligibility is based on having a girl enrolled in middle-school.
3. Vocational-job training: the selection of the eligible villages was constrained by the location of the 25 literacy centers in which the first training phase took place. To facilitate access to the centers, only the villages located within a radius of 15 kilometers around each literacy center were retained, for a total of 215 villages. Approximately two-thirds (139) of these were assigned to receive the job training. All girls aged 15-24 who dropped-out of school very early or never went to school were eligible.
The randomization is stratified by Commune.

Outcomes (Endpoints):

The main outcomes are grouped in the following four categories: 

  1. Sexual and reproductive health: knowledge on SRH (e.g., modern contraceptives, birth spacing, breastfeeding), use of modern contraception, access to and use of health services, fertility and marriage preferences, age at marriage and at first childbearing - all outcomes measured for boys and girls
  2. Education: school enrollment, attendance, performance, and grade completion - all outcomes measured also for non-eligible boys and girls
  3. Economic: employment, participation in (non-farm) income generating activities, income, savings - all outcomes measured at the individual level but some also at the household level
  4. Empowerment and life skills: decision-making power within the household, mobility, self-esteem, attitudes towards and experience of gender-based violence, aspirations about education, employment, and marriage - all outcomes measured at the girl's level, but some concern the household head and the girl's mother

The analysis will concern eligible girls and boys but also their family members to investigate the effect on the household head's aspirations for his/her own daughters and sons and the effects on non-eligible boys and girls within the same household.

Unit of Analysis:

The main hypothesis is that tackling participation in safe spaces, job-training and middle-school education will improve girls' empowerment. This is made of many dimensions: attitudes and opinions about gender equality, self-esteem, decision-making capacity and aspirations for one self, family life preferences and life skills. These improvements will be accompanied by an increased knolwedge of sexual health and services and family planning (Safe Spaces), increased human capital (CCT and job-training) and increased labor force participation (CCT and job-training). In villages assigned to Clubs of (future) husbands, the effect on girls'empowerment should be even larger. 

In addition, family members living in treated villages are expected to improve their opinion about gender equality and to further invest in their girls' education, delay their marriage, improve their aspirations for their girls, treat in a more equal way boys and girls. 

Secondary hypotheses: there is probably an age-group that will benefit more than others, most likely younger girls will benefit more than older girls. Longer-term impacts will include a delayin the age of marriage and possible a reduction in early marriage and childbearing rates.

Unit of Intervention or Assignment:
Number of Clusters in Sample:
269 villages
Number of Individuals in Sample:
7463 girls and 3624 boys with their households (boys and girls don't always live in the same household)
Size of Treatment, Control, or Comparison Subsamples:
Out of 269 villages, 76 are assigned to the control group. 95 villages assigned to Safe Spaces, 50 to Husbands' Clubs, 108 to the school CCT, 215 villages to job-training.

Outcomes Data

Household survey and monitoring data of the implemented activities (attendance sheets, instructors' evaluations, etc.). Survey data are collected at baseline (2017), midline (2020) and endline (2022)
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Treatment Assignment Data

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Data Analysis

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Study Materials

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Registration Category

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

Completion Overview

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Preliminary Report:
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Study Stopped