Project Extension: Scaling youth-led social support and mentorship for marginalized girls

20 October 2023
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Credit: GPE/Carine Durand

In the context of its extension until 2027, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX), a joint endeavour with Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), is offering costed extensions to a selection of current applied research projects. Following a competitive process, the project Scaling a youth-led social support and mentorship program to improve quality of education for marginalized girls in Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe is one of those selected.


Poverty, location, and gendered social norms can all detract from a girl’s capacity to receive quality education. Financial burdens, sexual exploitation and early expectations of marriage can serve as additional interlinked barriers as girls age into adolescence. While access to education in Sub-Saharan Africa continues to improve, interventions are needed to ensure that this progress translates to better life and learning outcomes for girls who require support to stay in school and learn. Adopting frameworks for equity and inclusion is needed to move girls away from the margins.

At the centre of this project is an evidence-based, youth-led social support and mentorship program, known as the Learner Guide program. The program looks to improve girls’ access to and retention in secondary education and equip them with a broad set of life skills necessary to transition to productive, fulfilling livelihoods. This project is examining opportunities and barriers to the intervention’s uptake alongside national stakeholders in Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Results to date

Following the project’s participatory action research framework, its implementation has engaged a variety of stakeholders throughout the research process. The project recruited a group of technical advisory officials and Ministry decision-makers in each country to visit schools where the Learner Guide program had been implemented and offer guidance on how the program could be scaled in their contexts. The project has supported a deepening commitment to civil society and government partnerships. The gatherings and meetings that have taken place have shown a common alignment between the program and many national education priorities across the region.

Upcoming Plans

Building on the momentum and widespread endorsement of the Learner Guide program, the extension will focus on the integration of the program into national education systems in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Initial project findings will be used to identify potential gaps and understand the requirements for effective scaling of the program in these countries. Ultimately, the extension looks to build an implementation roadmap for the countries—a concrete set of steps co-created alongside the government that will lay out the costed requirements to scale the program. Providing a tangible guide is necessary to build on the momentum that the project has built so far and contribute to inter-country learning on how best to reach disadvantaged young girls.

Further details on the project and updates can be found here.