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Girl-led community change through co-created book on sex and rights

Girls write a book together about sex, health and rights to be distributed in public schools for community education.

Photo of Gabrielle Alicino

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What specific problem(s) are you trying to address?

Sexual exploitation and teenage pregnancy are pervasive in Liberia. It is more likely for a 15 year old girl to be pregnant than it is for her to know how to read 1 sentence. More Than Me started when Katie Meyler met an 11 year old girl named Abigail, who was giving oral sex for clean drinking water. She paid school fees for girls who were working on the streets, but realized that schools were often a place of further neglect. Sex for grades and other transactional sex is common in Liberia. After this realization, More Than Me opened a free all girls academy where girls have access to two meals per day, healthcare, and family planning. Our girls say that a main problem is misinformation about sex in their community.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the problem(s) you are working to address?

- How might we ensure girls know their rights and have access to treatment and education to avoid pregnancy and disease? - How might we best educate adults in the community about sexual and reproductive health so that valid information is passed on to their children? - How might we ensure our girls are safe from abuse, in schools and communities where men and boys are present? - How might we change cultural norms around reporting and prosecuting rape?

Explain Your Idea

Tenneh Jackson Kaba, a Case Manager at More Than Me Academy, convened a group of students ages 13-18 to discuss their experience of understanding sex and their reproductive rights. These girls are among the most vulnerable living in West Point, the biggest slum in Liberia. Many of them had been involved in or exposed to sex work before becoming students at More Than Me. They have now had 1-5 years of access to counseling, healthcare, and education and have incredible ideas about what is needed and what helped them the most. Our idea is to leverage the experience and knowledge of our young people to create public awareness and education around sexual and reproductive health to distribute to communities through our public school network. They are interested in writing a book that illustrates the myths and truths about sex, girl’s rights, and family planning. The girls will help write and create guides for creating safe community spaces where boys, girls and adults can learn about these issues using the book as an educational tool. The book and guides will be distributed through our public schools - 19 this year and up to 100 in 2018. At each school a female community leader, similar to Tenneh, will be selected to lead health clubs and will receive training about health and reproductive issues. This will be the education component of a larger partnership with government community health workers to ensure access to family planning drugs in the communities where we work.

Name the three most important ways that your idea will address your identified problem(s).

1. Teach girls, boys, and communities about sexual and reproductive health 2. Empower girls and community women to lead education around sexual and reproductive health and act as role models to their peers and in their communities 3. By making girls and their communities aware of their rights, we will change cultural norms around reporting sexual abuse

How is your idea unique?

Our idea is unique because it emphasizes teaching entire communities about sexual and reproductive health. Most programs focus on girls only, and honestly we might have done that too, if we didn’t hear directly from girls how important it is to include boys and adults as well. Everyone in Liberia is suffering from a lack to adequate information. This idea empowers girls to create culturally relevant and informative material and act as leaders in their country. While there are other awesome organizations working around girl’s health and empowerment, we believe materials created by girls will be the best way to reach their communities and elevate the role of women as leaders. We are open to partnering with organizations on other parts of this work. While education is the focus of this challenge, we are partnering with government on health care delivery mechanisms, that will be more effective once communities know facts about family planning and sexual health.

What are some outstanding concerns or questions that you have regarding your idea?

- In a country where there is not a strong reading culture, is a book the best tool for delivering information? We might consider a radio show to have discussions on sexual and reproductive health instead or in conjunction with a book. - What are the complementary government supports necessary to ensure girls can report sexual exploitation and rapists are tried? - What are the best practices in sub-Saharan Africa around health education and health care delivery that we can adapt?

Who are your end users?

Girls and women in Liberia will benefit if this problem is addressed. Control over their own bodies leads to empowerment, increased education, increased lifetime earnings, healthier children and families, and reinvestment in their community. Liberian communities are the end users of this intervention, since we are aiming to educate girls, boys, and adults. 19 communities will be immediately impacted through our school network this year, but as we expand our schools and codify our program we hope to reach 500 More Than Me Public Schools and to open source our program so that any school in Liberia can leverage it.

Where will your idea be implemented?

  • Liberia

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Community at risk of disaster

Tell us more about the emergency setting that you intend to implement in

Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world. After a 13 year Civil War, 80% of the country’s infrastructure was destroyed. In 2014 Ebola hit, exacerbating the issues of transportation, healthcare, education and making it glaringly apparent that Liberia would never be a safe and stable place, until systems were rebuilt. More Than Me is part of a national effort to rebuild the education system and our model puts safety, health and education at the center of communities.

What is your organization's name?

More Than Me

Tell us more about you.

More Than Me runs a growing network of public schools in Liberia, using education as a catalyst for social change. We work in partnership with the Ministry of Education in the first nationwide public-private school reform effort in the world. This year we have 18 schools, with the goal of reaching 500 schools and 20% of children by 2021. Our (S)HE Matters model puts schools at the center of community and builds local capacity to ensure safety, health, education, and monitoring for all children. MTM started with the belief that no little girls should have to work the streets when her biggest dream is to go to school. Every decision our organization makes is driven by the needs and dreams of the little girls that we serve.

Organizational Characteristics

  • Women-led organization
  • Locally/community-led organization
  • International/global organization

What is the current scale of your proposed innovation?

  • National - expansive reach within 1 country

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • Yes, for more than a year.

Organization Location

We are registered in the U.S. and based in Liberia. Of our 65 staff, the majority are in Liberia, with three in the U.S. Our team in the US and Liberia talk daily and collaborate on decision making.

What is your organizational status?

  • Registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

What is the maturity of your innovation?

  • Early Stage Innovation: exploring my innovation, refining, researching, and gathering inspiration.

Website

morethanme.org

How has your idea changed based on feedback?

Our idea has evolved tremendously, but specifically we figured out our goals around safety and health for girls: -No “sex for grades” in schools, children know their rights -Adoption of non-violent, non-physical, non-humiliating discipline at home and school = stress-free learning environment -No unwanted pregnancies -Gender parity in our schools Success for us is evidence that girl’s rights are understood, respected, and enacted in our school communities. One way that we will measure this is gender parity in our schools. We also expect that by creating a safe place for dialogue around sexual and reproductive health, there may be an uptick in reports of sexual violence or exploitation. We will measure this and hope that over time we can reduce the instances of this through educational and cultural change methods. We also establish health clinics at each of our schools, which enables us to collect data on pregnancies among teenagers.

Who will implement this idea?

As part of our support for schools, we have a Parent Engagement Capacity Lead (CL) that works closely to build relationships with individuals and engage parents and leaders within each community. This CL will be a great asset for the women that are identified to lead this initiative. There will be one CL for every 5 schools. Since we submitted our initial idea, we have gathered feedback and expanded the scope of this project. In each community we plan to identify a strong woman leader who is trained on this book and the supporting curriculum. Her title, as voted on by the girls and families, will be “Guardian of the Girls.” This person is a trusted, respected adult in the community and will help us to connect across the spectrum of leaders within each unique setting.

Using a human-centered design approach, you may uncover insights that lead to small or foundational changes to your organization’s existing strategy or processes in order to unlock the potential of your idea. How would your organization go about making such changes?

More Than Me is guided by the insights of the true experts: the girls we serve. We first ask the girls, “what’s best for you? What do you want? What do you need? How does this affect you? MTM makes decisions by analyzing if an action supports our mission statement and serves our vision of every girl empowered. We assess the fit with our culture: Does this action embody love? Does it nurture positivity? Will our action relentlessly solve the problem at hand? Are we rewarding honesty? If the answers to these questions are “yes!” then we consider action. Through our actions over the past 10 years, MTM demonstrated commitment to the girls and an openness to adapt to make it happen. We live by Nelson Mandela’s motto, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” And we add, “Now let’s do it.”

What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?

Day-to-day girls face the challenge of basic survival. Preventable and treatable illnesses kill them. Early childbirth kills them. Malnutrition kill them. In the long term, a lack of basic systems kills them. Broken health care systems allow epidemics like Ebola to spread. Broken justice systems allows rampant rape and abuse. Broken education systems threaten the hope that any of this might ever improve. We believe education is the foundation and vehicle to improve every other broken system in Liberia. We start with the school and use that as the hub to address health, safety, and girls' rights.

Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question you need to answer to get there?

By 2022 we hope that this book and curriculum has reached 1000 schools in Liberia, impacting over 250,000 children directly, and over 1 million community members. We hope to see an increase in gender parity, reduction in teen pregnancy, and reduction of sexual exploitation as a result. Our biggest question is how de we change norms about sexual exploitation of girls? Can a community based approach, without governmental support, systems and enforcement work?

What is it that most attracted you to Amplify instead of a more traditional funding model?

During Ebola, in the most intense and scary of times, our team came together and sang a song. It went, "I am the hero, you are the hero, we are the heroes." It would echo, voice over voice, each morning as we sang before we went out to save lives, watch people die, and do everything we could to save Liberia. We weren't health experts. We were just people listening to each other, working together, and fighting with everything we had to survive. Amplify respects that, so let's work together.

Do you intend to implement your Amplify idea in refugee camps / temporary settlements?

  • We aim to implement our Amplify idea in support of displaced populations, but not in a refugee camp / temporary settlement.

How long have you and your colleagues been working on this idea together?

  • More than 2 years

How many of your organizations’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed idea live?

  • Over 50 paid, full-time staff

Is your organization registered in the country you intend to implement your idea in?

  • We are registered in all countries where we plan to implement.

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Above $1,000,000 USD

What do you need the most support with for your innovation?

  • Program/Service Design

11 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Spam
Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Hi Gabrielle Alicino and Team -

We’re excited to share feedback and questions with you from a set of experts that are supporting this Challenge.

We encourage you to think about this feedback as you continue to improve your idea, whether that’s refining it or adding more context. You are welcome to respond in the comments section and/or to incorporate feedback into the text of your idea. Your idea and all associated comments will all be reviewed during the final review process, but all critical information should be in the body of your contribution somewhere.

*The solution proposed takes a comprehensive approach by engaging not only girls, but boys, adults, community members, the education system, etc. It will be important for the team to determine the best ways to engage cultural, religious or community leaders in this initiative, and determine ways of reaching youth that do not attend school.
*One thing I *love* about this idea is that it's youth led, and that it gives girls an opportunity to be experts of their own experience - and to put that learning into a book. I also really like that the book will come with a learning curriculum that is supported by a caseworker.
*It would be great to understand the further development of the curriculum.
*As you’ve noted, a potential challenge is the need to link up with local health organizations and government agencies to ensure that this project isn't censured or dismissed. I think a strong risk analysis will be necessary in the first stages of implementation.
*One area for growth is around measurement - what will success look like? How will you know when you've achieved what you want to achieve?
*This team is doing a good job incorporating context specific considerations in their approach. It would be great to further understand your considerations of the recent electoral change in Liberia.
*How does your team collaborate across the US and Liberia?
*I think creating a book for and by girls on sex education is a new idea. I think there are examples of similar projects in India. It may be interesting to explore the creation of a *process* to make such a book, and that process could then be delivered in other contexts. Maybe a toolkit or a workshop or a curriculum that culminates in a book, so others could use and adapt it.
*It would be great to learn more about whether schools will take this up, and if you feel you have the right networks to make this happen.
*I would love to know who funds you! It's not explicit on your website. What corporations, institutions and foundations do you accept funding from- and how much?

In case you missed it, check out this Storytelling Toolkit (ideo.to/OZznV4) for inspiration on crafting strong and compelling stories as well as the recorded Office Hour (ideo.to/Gf1Cs6). Storytelling is an incredibly useful tool to articulate an idea and make it come to life for those reading it. Don’t forget - the last day to make changes to your contribution on the OpenIDEO platform is October 26 at 11:30PM PST.

Have questions? Email us at amplify@ideo.org

We look forward to reading more, and thank you for the important work that you are doing!

Spam
Photo of Gabrielle Alicino
Team

WOW! This is such incredible feedback! Thank you for your thoughtful questions. Here is our response:

*Engaging communities:
Absolutely. As part of our support for schools, we have a Parent Engagement Capacity Lead that works closely to build relationships with individuals and engage parents and leaders within each community. This Capacity Lead will be a great asset for the women that are identified in each community to lead this initiative.

Since we submitted our initial idea, we have done more research and development and expanded the scope of this project. In each community we plan to identify a strong woman leader who is trained on this book and the supporting curriculum. Her title, as voted on by the girls and families, will be “Guardian of the Girls.” This person is a trusted, respected adult in the community and will help us to connect across the spectrum of leaders within each unique setting.

*Curriculum Development
We will leverage both the girls experiences and insights as well as other existing programs and guides to inform the curriculum. One resource that we have identified is the Hesperian Health Guide called “Health Actions for Women.” This is an expansive guide that covers a number of actions, topics, roleplays, and activities around sexual health, gender based violence, family planning, and community change methods. Parts of this resource can be adapted to guide a larger curriculum associated with the books.

*Risk Analysis
We have established relationships with the director of girls education and issues with the Ministry of Education, and we have relationships at the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection. There is a current change in power in Liberia, so some relationships will have to be reestablished with the new administration, but many are with civil servants who will be continuing on in a new administration.

In reality though, resources and enforcement in Liberia is scarce. Community based action and interest in this project will be the main determinant of its success.

*Measurement

Monitoring is a key component of our work. Our specific goals around safety and health for girls are:
No “sex for grades” in schools, children know their rights
Adoption of non-violent, non-physical, non-humiliating discipline at home and school = stress-free learning environment
No unwanted pregnancies
Gender parity in our schools

Success for us is evidence that girl’s rights are understood, respected, and enacted in our school communities. One way that we will measure this is gender parity in our schools. We also expect that by creating a safe place for dialogue around sexual and reproductive health, there may be an uptick in reports of sexual violence or exploitation. We will measure this and hope that over time we can reduce the instances of this through educational and cultural change methods. We also establish health clinics at each of our schools, which enables us to collect data on pregnancies among teenagers.

*The election:
More Than Me has been working in Liberia for over 12 years and due to the relatively small size of the country we have a number of relationships with current and potential leaders of the country. While we recognize there will be new relationships and trust to build with the change of power, our established track record in the country during Ebola and general trust from the communities we work with in rural villages will help to bolster our credibility and likelihood that the new administration will work with us. The future political environment remains relatively uncertain, but a peaceful transfer of power and the continuation of Partnership Schools for Liberia (the Ministry program we are part of) throughout the coming year are nearly certain at this time.

Spam
Photo of Gabrielle Alicino
Team

WOW! This is such incredible feedback! Thank you for your thoughtful questions. Here is our response:

*Engaging communities:
Absolutely. As part of our support for schools, we have a Parent Engagement Capacity Lead that works closely to build relationships with individuals and engage parents and leaders within each community. This Capacity Lead will be a great asset for the women that are identified in each community to lead this initiative.

Since we submitted our initial idea, we have done more research and development and expanded the scope of this project. In each community we plan to identify a strong woman leader who is trained on this book and the supporting curriculum. Her title, as voted on by the girls and families, will be “Guardian of the Girls.” This person is a trusted, respected adult in the community and will help us to connect across the spectrum of leaders within each unique setting.

*Curriculum Development
We will leverage both the girls experiences and insights as well as other existing programs and guides to inform the curriculum. One resource that we have identified is the Hesperian Health Guide called “Health Actions for Women.” This is an expansive guide that covers a number of actions, topics, roleplays, and activities around sexual health, gender based violence, family planning, and community change methods. Parts of this resource can be adapted to guide a larger curriculum associated with the books.

*Risk Analysis
We have established relationships with the director of girls education and issues with the Ministry of Education, and we have relationships at the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection. There is a current change in power in Liberia, so some relationships will have to be reestablished with the new administration, but many are with civil servants who will be continuing on in a new administration.

In reality though, resources and enforcement in Liberia is scarce. Community based action and interest in this project will be the main determinant of its success.

*Measurement

Monitoring is a key component of our work. Our specific goals around safety and health for girls are:
No “sex for grades” in schools, children know their rights
Adoption of non-violent, non-physical, non-humiliating discipline at home and school = stress-free learning environment
No unwanted pregnancies
Gender parity in our schools

Success for us is evidence that girl’s rights are understood, respected, and enacted in our school communities. One way that we will measure this is gender parity in our schools. We also expect that by creating a safe place for dialogue around sexual and reproductive health, there may be an uptick in reports of sexual violence or exploitation. We will measure this and hope that over time we can reduce the instances of this through educational and cultural change methods. We also establish health clinics at each of our schools, which enables us to collect data on pregnancies among teenagers.

*The election:
More Than Me has been working in Liberia for over 12 years and due to the relatively small size of the country we have a number of relationships with current and potential leaders of the country. While we recognize there will be new relationships and trust to build with the change of power, our established track record in the country during Ebola and general trust from the communities we work with in rural villages will help to bolster our credibility and likelihood that the new administration will work with us. The future political environment remains relatively uncertain, but a peaceful transfer of power and the continuation of Partnership Schools for Liberia (the Ministry program we are part of) throughout the coming year are nearly certain at this time.

Spam
Photo of Gabrielle Alicino
Team

Continued:

*US and Liberia Collaboration:
Our team in the US and Liberia talk daily and collaborate on decision making, program design, and program implementation. We live on Slack, Skype, and Google Drive. Our US team is less than 10% of our overall staff, and much of the US team spends significant portions of time in Liberia.

*Process for creation:
This is an awesome idea! With everything we do, we aim to create a process so that it can be replicated or picked up and repeated by another person or group. Right now, internally, we are creating a “Guide” to everything we do at More Than Me, capturing every internal process we develop. This would be a critical process to capture and develop. An example of how we codify processes is how we establish a Health Station at each of our public schools. Our goal is to ensure there is a step by step way for another school - run by MTM or not - to set up an effective Health Station, too. We will create and document the process by which we create the book and open source it so that it is available to any organization or group that is interested in doing something similar.

We’d also love to learn from other! Can you share what similar projects you’ve seen in India?

*Networks:
This year we operate 1 private girls academy, and 18 public schools across Liberia. We are part of Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL) which is a public private education reform effort, in which 7 partners are operating 200 schools across the country. This is year 2 of a 3 year pilot. Next year, partners will likely expand to 500 schools, and More Than Me will run 50 of those schools. We will begin distribution within our own public school network, and then expand to other PSL Operators. Other operators have already expressed interest in our approaches to safety and health so we believe that this network would be excited at the opportunity to leverage the girl-created book and complimenting curriculum.

*$$$
Our work is made possible by a number of incredible funders and partnerships.
Ministry of Education - Liberia: $250k for year 2 of PSL
Moondance Foundation: $600k
Segal Family Foundation: $80k
California Community Foundation: $35k
Individual Gifts and Recurring Donations: $400k

Spam
Photo of Gabrielle Alicino
Team

Continued:

*US and Liberia Collaboration:
Our team in the US and Liberia talk daily and collaborate on decision making, program design, and program implementation. We live on Slack, Skype, and Google Drive. Our US team is less than 10% of our overall staff, and much of the US team spends significant portions of time in Liberia.

*Process for creation:
This is an awesome idea! With everything we do, we aim to create a process so that it can be replicated or picked up and repeated by another person or group. Right now, internally, we are creating a “Guide” to everything we do at More Than Me, capturing every internal process we develop. This would be a critical process to capture and develop. An example of how we codify processes is how we establish a Health Station at each of our public schools. Our goal is to ensure there is a step by step way for another school - run by MTM or not - to set up an effective Health Station, too. We will create and document the process by which we create the book and open source it so that it is available to any organization or group that is interested in doing something similar.

We’d also love to learn from other! Can you share what similar projects you’ve seen in India?

*Networks:
This year we operate 1 private girls academy, and 18 public schools across Liberia. We are part of Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL) which is a public private education reform effort, in which 7 partners are operating 200 schools across the country. This is year 2 of a 3 year pilot. Next year, partners will likely expand to 500 schools, and More Than Me will run 50 of those schools. We will begin distribution within our own public school network, and then expand to other PSL Operators. Other operators have already expressed interest in our approaches to safety and health so we believe that this network would be excited at the opportunity to leverage the girl-created book and complimenting curriculum.

*$$$
Our work is made possible by a number of incredible funders and partnerships.
Ministry of Education - Liberia: $250k for year 2 of PSL
Moondance Foundation: $600k
Segal Family Foundation: $80k
California Community Foundation: $35k
Individual Gifts and Recurring Donations: $400k

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