Building Girls’ Agency, Voice, and Power for a Better World: Our Theory of Change
By Crystal Sprague, Executive Director
At Global G.L.O.W., we mentor girls around the world to become powerful advocates and confident leaders. From our 10+ years of work, we know that girls (and gender non-conforming youth) want to live lives that are not limited by their gender. We know that the gender inequities girls face are real and pervasive. To explain how Global G.L.O.W. makes an impact in the midst of these assumptions and challenges, we’ve developed two important tools: our new Theory of Change and Conceptual Model.
Our Theory of Change explains how change happens in the lives of the adolescent girls around the world who participate in our signature program, GLOW Club. It details the essential elements of our programs and how those interventions work together to create impact – in this case, to build powerful advocates and confident leaders.
Our Conceptual Model illustrates how the various elements of our interventions work together at a high level, illustrating the concept of impact.
Together, we believe that these tools will allow us to unite mentors, youth, and stakeholders to understand what is needed for girls to have the tools to live the lives they envision.
We believe gender inequalities exist because of a power gap between the genders. GLOW Club addresses that gap by building up girls’ power. In the gender equality research we undertook, we found that one of the known ways to build a girl’s power is by boosting her agency and voice.
Global G.L.O.W. defines agency as the ability to make your own choices about your life and put those choices into action to reach your desired goals.
According to UNDP, biased gender social norms undervalue girls’ capabilities and rights, limiting their choices and opportunities by controlling behaviors and expectations. In addition, biased gender social norms restrict adolescent girls’ mobility, autonomy, and economic opportunities, which, in turn, also limits their access to information and services needed to make informed decisions.
Essentially, gender norms limit girls’ agency in very tangible ways.
One of the best ways to build girls’ agency is through social-emotional learning (SEL) skill-building. GLOW Club is built fundamentally on the CASEL principles of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Our research showed a clear and strong link between SEL skills and the growth of agency when those skills are reinforced.
We define voice as the ability to speak up in any conversation you desire, especially those that affect you, and for your opinions to influence those conversations and any decisions being made.
The other key element to building power that our research revealed (and GLOW Club utilizes extensively) is creating opportunities for youth to practice using their voice. We have many, many opportunities for GLOW Club members to speak up and speak out weekly, in their club and outside the club through various formats and activities. This leads to scenarios like those highlighted here – where Stephanie, Faith, and Duyen each share how they used their voices and the actions that took place as a result.
By continually engaging in these two key areas – developing agency through SEL and creating opportunities for youth to use their voice – the power of adolescent girls will grow and grow and grow in a positively reinforcing feedback loop.
Power is how much voice and agency we get to use. Sometimes it is clear how much power we have in our lives and community and sometimes it is not. Three different types of power are the power you have over your life, your power within yourself, and the power you share with others in your communities when you work together.
We see this often when girls describe the confidence they’ve gained as a result of being a part of GLOW Club: specifically in their confidence to speak out about social issues they’re passionate about. Girls like Linet who learned to speak up about her own painful experiences now mobilizes many other girls to do the same.
In brief, this is exactly what our Conceptual Model describes: agency + voice= power.
Linet’s advocacy is also a perfect example of the long-term impact described in our Theory of Change:
- Linet is advocating for issues she believes in
- She is contributing to changes in gender norms in her home and community
- She is self-guided in her decision-making
It’s never been more important to mentor girls to become powerful advocates and confident leaders. That’s the core of what we do. Now, with the release of our Conceptual Model and Theory of Change, we can describe that path clearly.
Take a moment to read the full white paper that describes everything we learned and used to create these models – or just hop on our blog or Instagram page to read more about the girls around the world becoming powerful advocates and confident leaders as a result of their participation in GLOW Club.
Global G.L.O.W. partners with community-based organizations in 30 countries to operate mentorship-driven programs for girls ages 10-18. Our SEL-based curriculum gives girls the tools to express themselves, advocate for their rights, and challenge the most critical barriers to achieving gender equality. Support our work at globalgirlsglow.org/donate.