Landesa will scale a successful girls empowerment model piloted as part of a previous CGI commitment. This model, which has reached more than 48,000 girls since 2011, has seen incredible results. Evaluations found that participating girls were: 24% more likely to believe that they will inherit land; 13% less likely to drop out of school; 24% more likely to earn their own income; predicted to marry 1.5 years later; and 15% more likely to have their own financial assets.
Landesa is now partnering with the West Bengal government to scale its Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for the Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (SABLA) program, including land-related components developed during the pilot project, across six districts. The program runs primarily through innovative government funded, peer-led girls groups, to which Landesa has added curriculum components on land rights, land-based livelihoods skills including gardening and asset creation, and engagement activities with boys and communities.
Landesa will provide advocacy and technical support to the West Bengal government at state, district, and local levels. Landesa staff will use a train-the-trainer model to train government staff and local NGO workers to implement village-level girls groups led by peer leader girls and community workers, community engagement, and sensitization of boys. During the three-year scaling period, the project will reach 1.2 million girls, their families, and communities.
With land-based livelihoods skills, these 1.2 million girls can cultivate small gardens, generate food, improve nutrition, earn money for school, lessen the pressures of dowry, and improve their families perception of their value. Community awareness of girls vulnerabilities and the value of womens empowerment can result in changes to harmful practices such as early marriage and unequal inheritance.
Activities will focus on advocacy and relationship building, to ensure government commitment and adoption of program responsibilities, and on technical support, to ensure government capacity to carry forward the work. Technical assistance will include train-the-trainer support, covering methodology and curriculum, for government and local NGO staff to implement village-level girls groups, community engagement, and sensitization of boys. In addition, technical support will include monitoring of progress and guidance on necessary course correction or improvement. All activities will be performed at state, district, and local levels and Landesa staff will be involved in some capacity at each level.
The timeline will be phased. Year 1 milestones will include entering all 6 districts, building relationships, foundational infrastructure, and capacity. Trainings for government personnel and others involved in implementation will be held in two rounds over the course of the year.
Year 2 will see robust implementation and introduce intensive monitoring and evaluation. Activities with boys and community members, likely including community meetings and sensitization workshops for groups of boys, will be phased in to all six districts during Year 2 and Year 3, after the core activities with girls are firmly in place.
Implementation will continue in Year 3, with monitoring and evaluation results being leveraged for any necessary course correction and to further promote the model. A Year 3 milestone will be that the West Bengal government will have developed the capacity to continue implementing the program without assistance from Landesa. Advocacy will be ongoing, aimed at generating interest in scaling in additional districts and other states.
India is home to 111 million adolescent girls. In poor, rural areas, girls bear the burden of patriarchal norms, a preference for sons, and a perception that they are burdens rather than assets, heightening their vulnerability to poverty, malnutrition, gender-based violence, lack of education, trafficking, and child marriage. By age 18, 43% are married, and only 49% are in secondary school.
While there is no silver bullet to break the cycle of poverty and patriarchy in which many girls are trapped, there is a simple tool that can make a world of difference: land.
In the developing world, land rights largely determine a family or individuals standard of living and access to economic opportunity. Such rights shape social status, political power, and decision-making within communities. Land rights have the power to break generational cycles of poverty, but to realize their full potential, women must share in them.
In India, girls and women are responsible for much of the labor on land. But while women can access, own, and inherit land by law, social stigmas often deny women these rights. Even before they are women, girls are not well positioned to realize their land rights. Generally, girls in India are unaware of rights to land, how to access them, and how to draw the most benefits from land. Common practices and biases make girls unlikely candidates for inheriting land. Families also pay dowry when their daughters are married, creating the perception that daughters are a burden and not worth investing in.
By teaching adolescent girls about their land rights and giving them the livelihood skills to begin using land as an asset, we can change their understanding of their rights, their perception within their families and communities, and their access to tools such as education.