Dr. Elizabeth Reed, Associate Professor of Global Health at San Diego State University School of Public Health (Health Promotion and Behavioral Science) has been award $250,000 through the Wellspring Philanthropic Fund (WPF) for her research project Girls Invest, a mobile-enabled economic empowerment intervention for Nigerian adolescent girls to reduce risk for partner violence. The proposed research will involve researchers in San Diego, California and Ibadan, Nigeria. Dr. Elizabeth Reed (Associate Professor, San Diego State University, SDSU & University of California-San Diego, Center on Gender Equity and Health, UCSD GEH) and Dr. Olufunmilayo Fawole (Professor and Dean, University of Ibadan) will co-direct the project. Dr. Susan Kiene (SDSU, Epidemiology and Biostatistics) will serve as a co-investigator and Dr. Rebecka Lundgren (UCSD GEH) will serve as a consultant.
In Nigeria, adolescent girls residing in low-income communities are at high-risk of experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV). One risk factor for IPV is girls’ economic vulnerability. Due to gender-based constraints limiting girls’ opportunities for education and employment, adolescent girls are more likely to experience economic vulnerability and rely on others, including male relationship partners, for financial support. IPV is more common in relationships where girls’ are receiving financial support from a male partner.
Girls Invest seeks to promote girls’ economic empowerment and independence, and thereby, reduce risk for IPV. Girls in Girls Invest are provided with a savings account and receive funds deposited into their accounts upon completion of gender equity and financial skills training modules via a mobile “app.” Each Girls Invest participant recruits two friends to enroll with her in the intervention to promote discussion of new concepts introduced within app trainings.
To determine efficacy, the study will employ a 2-armed randomized control trial of 240 adolescent girls ages 15-19, assigned to the Girls Invest intervention or waitlist control group. The long-term goal of the proposed work is to ensure that girls have the resources and skills needed to support economic independence and self-sufficiency, reducing financial reliance on male partners, and thereby reducing girls’ long-term vulnerability to and harm associated with IPV .
The potential impact of Girls Invest is broad, as 1 in 5 Africans are Nigerian. Thus the implementation of Girls Invest in Nigeria has the potential to benefit a large number of women and girls. In addition, the development of Girls Invest in Nigeria has the potential to inform future adaptations to other African countries. Finally, the proposed research has potential for even higher impact, due to the increase in economic vulnerability as a result of COVID-19, especially among girls who were already living in poverty prior to the pandemic, as well as the coinciding reports of increased IPV during the pandemic.