Wisdom and Information on Sexual Health Education by Girls (WISE Girls)
WISE Girls aims to empower Syrian and Jordanian adolescent girls to conceive, organize and share a SRHR toolkit with their peers.
Photo credit Mercy Corps
What specific problem(s) are you trying to address?
WISE Girls will address the lack of adolescent-friendly information on SRHR for Syrian and Jordanian girls aged 11-14. Girls’ mobility decreases in adolescence and gender norms and expectations create a culture where SRHR is taboo. Most information is written for women and the information for girls reinforces stigma around puberty, in particular menstruation, and avoids reproductive health. The Syria crisis exacerbated gender norms and gender-based violence, which increased the need for SRHR information. Practitioners face the challenge of designing SRHR programs that meet the needs of adolescent girls; best practices come from adult practitioners removed from the reality of girls.
What are some of your unanswered questions about the problem(s) you are working to address?
We do not know how much or how little girls know about SRHR nor which topics are most relevant. We do not know the best way to present information, as best practices are adult-designed and adult-evaluated. Given stigma around SRHR, we do not know how girls feel they can safely receive this information. By working with adolescent girls to create a SRHR toolkit, we will answer these questions by empowering them to take the lead in conceiving, organizing and sharing SRHR information with peers.
Explain Your Idea
Adolescent girls are experts in their own reality. They understand the challenges they face attempting to safely access information in a risk-filled environment. They grasp their culture in ways that others, including adults within their communities, cannot. Still, what they do not know is as enlightening as what they do know, as girls can uncover knowledge and information to fill the gaps and develop a comprehensive understanding of their bodies by asking questions and seeking answers. Our idea is to bring together a group of Syrian and Jordanian girls to conceive, organize and share a SRHR toolkit that provides adolescent-friendly information. This group of girls will participate in trainings on SRHR, leadership, mentorship and qualitative research while we engage parents and community members. The girls will conduct research on the needs of girls in their community to ensure a diverse representation of opinions and perspectives. They will then create a toolkit that addresses the priorities of girls, fills the gaps in knowledge and information identified by girls and presents the information in an adolescent-friendly way. This toolkit will be available as an app for girls with access to technology (with an audio version for illiterate girls) and in paper form for girls who lack access (with picture supplements for illiterate girls). The toolkit will be open sourced and shared with UN and INGO forums, working groups and clusters to ensure widespread access.
During our girl consultations we asked groups of Syrian and Jordanian girls to create user experience maps for WISE Girls. We then merged the information from their maps into one English-language map.
Image credit Mercy Corps.
Our girl consultations included a diverse group of Syrian and Jordanian girls aged 14-20, including engaged girls, girls with varying degrees of literacy, in-school and out-of-school girls and Kurdish girls from Syria. The Syrian girls are refugees and the Jordanian girls come from host communities. Photo credit Mercy Corps.
Photo credit Mercy Corps.
Name the three most important ways that your idea will address your identified problem(s).
This idea will address the problem by:
1) Providing adolescent girls with the tools, resources and support to identify and educate themselves on the most relevant SRHR topics, which will help them reclaim agency over their bodies in a safe way and navigate the challenges of their complex environments
2) Empowering a group of adolescent girls by training them as researchers and toolkit designers, which will promote alternative, more positive image of adolescent girls in their communities
3) Providing a platform for Syrian and Jordanian adolescent girls in Jordan to identify and articulate the SRHR information they need to lead safe, dignified and empowered lives
How is your idea unique?
Our idea puts girls in the lead to determine the SRHR information that they need, to collect and organize the information and then to share it with their peers. This girl-led initiative shifts the paradigm on the role of girls in programs from participants to active agents of change. Other organizations may consult girls, but we would be the only organization putting girls in the lead. Mercy Corps' Regional Center for the Advancement of Adolescent Girls (RCAA) believes that adolescent girls know what they need to lead safe, dignified and empowered lives. We believe that our idea will be more successful because we will be working with the true experts, the girls themselves, and empowering them as leaders. In our girl consultations, girls discussed existing resources on SRHR and said that they are all inaccessible, difficult to understand and/or inadequate. None were designed by or with girls. The girls believe that a toolkit made by girls impacted by the crisis would fill this gap.
What are some outstanding concerns or questions that you have regarding your idea?
Our girl consultations reinforced the need to determine how to frame this idea to ensure that the girls feel safe and supported by their community. We understand that SRHR is a controversial topic, and we also understand that communities are more receptive to ideas when their members take the lead. In addition to working with girls and parents/caregivers to determine the best way to gain widespread community support, we will recruit young women from the community to guide the process.
Who are your end users?
Our primary end users are adolescent girls aged 11-14 living in communities impacted by the Syria crisis. They will have access to accurate, relevant and adolescent-friendly information created by girls themselves. In addition, UN agencies, international/national organizations working with adolescent girls, government agencies, schools and parents are all users in that they will have access to this toolkit. This toolkit will be open-sourced and shared widely so that as many girls can benefit from the knowledge and information as possible. Although created by Syrian and Jordanian girls living in Jordan, we anticipate that much of the information will be transferred and that adolescent girls throughout the Middle East can use this toolkit.
The girls in our consultations taught us that young adolescents aged 11-14 are in greatest need of resources. Mothers and female caregivers do not typically address puberty until later and we were not able to identify any resources for this age group. The resources that do exist target older adolescents and/or women. They also assume that the user is literate, and many girls impacted by the Syria crisis struggle with literacy. Photo credit Mercy Corps
Where will your idea be implemented?
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
Syria’s civil war is in its sixth year. Eleven million Syrians have fled, with 4.8 million seeking safety in neighboring countries. Jordan alone hosts over 660,000 formally registered Syrian refugees, with the actual number reaching approximately 1.4 million. Approximately 50% of Syrians in Jordan are below the age of 18. The effect of the crisis has been devastating on the Syrian people and the hosting communities. Adolescents, in particular girls, are some of the most vulnerable.
What is your organization's name?
Tell us more about you.
Mercy Corps has been active in Jordan since 2002 and has been responding to the Syrian crisis throughout the region. Mercy Corps focuses on humanitarian needs while transitioning towards longer-term solutions, with youth holding a key place in Mercy Corps’ Middle East strategy. In the fall of 2016, Mercy Corps established the Regional Center for the Advancement of Adolescent Girls (RCAA). The RCAA a platform that upholds the rights and well-being of adolescent girls and young women by ensuring that girls’ voices, priorities and opinions are intentionally integrated and prioritized by practitioners; listening more carefully, engaging girls more deeply and using paradigm shifting approaches.
Ashley, the Mercy Corps RCAA director, and Ayah, the Mercy Corps RCAA girl officer, are a team of two. Working closely with the Mercy Corps Jordan and regional teams and local partners, Ashley and Ayah believe that adolescent girls are the experts needed to create this toolkit.
What is the current scale of your proposed innovation?
Still in planning phase and does not exist yet
Experience in Implementation Country(ies)
Yes, for more than one year.
Expertise in Sector
Yes, for more than a year.
Mercy Corps is registered in the USA with global headquarters located in Portland, Oregon. Mercy Corps is registered in Jordan where its RCAA is based.
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.
How has your idea changed based on feedback?
We shared our idea with two groups of Syrian and Jordanian adolescent girls in two different communities. These girls refined our idea as follows:
•We will conduct an awareness campaign for parents, religious leaders and community leaders to address girls’ concerns about stigma of participation.
•The girls helped us understand that young girls lack resources whereas older adolescents have more access, which caused us to target younger adolescent girls (11-14).
•The girls noted that Internet availability is limited, so we will make the app downloadable to be used offline.
•The girls were concerned that specific questions might not be answered n the app/toolkit, so we will provide a feedback/questions mechanism to allow users to pose questions/comments.
•The girls said that they and many of their peers have limited literacy and they suggested the app/toolkit be interactive and include videos and pictures.
Two girls talk, draw, reflect and share experiences for WISE Girls. Photo credit Mercy Corps.
Who will implement this idea?
The RCAA will ensure that adolescent girls have the resources and support to transform this idea into a reality. The RCAA, supported by the Mercy Corps Jordan team as well as global team members, has two fulltime staff members in Amman, Jordan and works in collaboration with Mercy Corps Jordan teams as well as local partners. To harness local knowledge and resources, WISE Girls would recruit young, local women to oversee the project full-time as project mentors. Being the link between the RCAA and the girls, the mentors would ground project leadership in truly local knowledge, serve as role models for the girls, help gain community support and mitigate risk, and promote alternative, positive images of women as leaders in communities impacted by the Syria crisis.
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?
Mercy Corps developed the RCAA to collaborate with girls as leaders. WISE Girls is designed for girls to take in the lead in all phases of the project lifecycle. We will collaborate with girls in an iterative learning process of creating an app/toolkit that responds to their needs, understanding that this process may be ambiguous and messy, yet will ultimately result in the most accessible and relevant product possible because of the design process. Decisions happen with a small group of team members, including the RCAA director and Girl Officer, guided by the input from the girls themselves. We see adolescent girls as experts in their own well-being and lived reality and we follow their lead.
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?
Individually, Syrian girls face the trauma of war and displacement and Jordanian girls face increased social and economic hardship and instability. Whether shaken by conflict or conflict-induced hardship, these girls have lost normalcy and stability, which will impact each girl differently depending on her situation. Systemically, the increase of gender-based violence, from street harassment to child marriage, limits their mobility, exacerbates gender norms and curbs their ability to live empowered lives with access to resources and information to make choices. Living in a protracted emergency, girls’ mobility and access is controlled by caregivers/parents and community members, limiting their capacities and knowledge to mitigate risks or develop into constructive, empowered young adults.
Syrian and Jordanian girls discuss challenges to identify opportunities during our girl consultations for WISE Girls. Photo credit Mercy Corps.
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?
Impact: By 2023 over 1 million girls impacted by crises in Syria and Yemen and instability throughout the ME will have learned about their bodies, health and rights through WISE Girls, creating a cohort of girls with reduced risk and increased wisdom, information and power.
Question: How do we scale and replicate this approach and app in other contexts where girls impacted by crises need better access to SRH while maintaining quality and being contextually appropriate to reach over 1 million?
What is it that most attracted you to Amplify instead of a more traditional funding model?
With a human-centered design mindset, the RCAA puts girls in the lead to empower themselves, their peers and their communities because change requires putting resources and decisions into the hands of users themselves. Many traditional donors view this as too ambiguous and risky but we see risk aversion as eliminating the possibility for stronger solutions. Amplify shares our mindset, supports bold solutions and would be a strong partner in undertaking what the traditional model calls impossible
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?
Between 6 months and 1 year
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:
What do you need the most support with for your innovation?
Other Technical Expertise