In 2011, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs published an exhaustive report including studies of and recommendations for improving the lives of rural adolescent girls across the developing world. In Girls Grow: A Vital Force in Rural Economies, the Council describes the unique and unmatched plight of the young woman in a rural area:
“Taken together, the challenges of location, age, and gender often create a triple disadvantage unique to rural adolescent girls. This…severely restricts their development into the vital agents of change that they have the potential to become.”
The report highlights several initiatives in agriculture and nutrition to empower young women in rural economies:
Landesa Rural Development Institute (West Bengal, India) – Landesa has created a program that bestows small plots of land on families with only daughters and no sons, with the requirement that the daughter(s) be given ownership rights to the land. This way, adolescent girls can gain firsthand experience with farming their own land, and also enjoy greater authority and independence within their communities.
Mbaracayu Educational Center* (Paraguay) – Established by the Moisés Bertoni Foundation, this all-girls school in the midst of a forest preserve exclusively serves young women from poor, rural communities. Mbaracayu follows a curriculum centered around agriculture, with a focus in environmental consciousness, sustainability, independence and empowerment. The school also provides its students with the opportunity to participate in internships and conferences across South America.
Employment and Livelihood for Adolescents (Bangladesh, Uganda, Tanzania) – This program, orchestrated by BRAC since 2002, provides financial education and micro-financing for adolescents (who must be a minimum of sixteen years of age to obtain a small-scale loan through the program). As a result, the program helps equip young women in rural areas with the necessary skills to operate their own agricultural ventures.
Initiatives related to anemia – In countries where malnutrition is already prevalent, anemia is of particular concern to adolescent girls, who suffer more from iron deficiencies in their diets than adolescent boys. The Girl Guides Anemia Prevention Badge Project, which operates in Uganda, Swaziland, and Rwanda, encourages girls from the ages of seven to eighteen to participate in educational programs and other community-based initiatives to spread awareness about the prevalence of anemia. In Gujarat, India, a group of students at a secondary school (unnamed in this paper) took on a managing role in the execution of a study on anemia in rural adolescent girls.
*Website in Spanish