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DFID La Pépinière: DRC’s Programme for Adolescent Girls



SDDirect was the lead contractor on DFID DRC’s Programme for Adolescent Girls and Young Women -  La Pépinière (meaning incubator or nursery)- leading a consortium with the Centre Régional de Recherche et de Documentation sur les Femmes, le Genre et la Construction de la Paix dans la région des Grands Lacs (CERED-GL) in Kinshasa and M&C Saatchi World Services.

The overall objective of La Pépinière was to promote the economic empowerment of adolescent girls and young women.  From 2015 - 2017, La Pépinière focused on generating evidence and engagement to design effective innovations that increase the economic empowerment of women and girls.  Below are some highlights from the programme.

Introducing the Girl Led Research Unit

From April 2015, 15 adolescent girls and young women aged between 16 and 24, from diverse backgrounds, were trained as qualitative researchers to form DRC’s first Girl-led Research Unit (GLRU). The GLRU embodies the girl-led approach of La Pépinière, underpinned by our Girl Participation Principles which include meaningful engagement and valuing girls' time and contributions. These principles aimed to ensure girls’ realities were understood and integrated into the design of research, pilot projects and capacity building activities. The GLRU toolkit (French) provides valuable material (describing approaches, exercises etc) for those interested in pursuing peer-led research with adolescent girls.

The GLRU played a central role in supporting La Pépinière’s qualitative research ‘about girls, by girls’ in DRC, which deepened understanding what it means to be a girl in Kinshasa and what adolescent girls’ and young women’s economic and wider empowerment involves in this context*. The Programme Completion Report noted that: “The programme demonstrated the benefits of youth-led research by unlocking different perspectives that only peer to peer interactions seem able to generate, particularly in terms of the nature of relationships that girls enter into and the expectations placed on them”.

The GLRU can be contacted through La Pépinière’s Facebook page.

And the Gender Champions network

Thought leaders on gender were identified from across civil society, government and the private sector and invited to become part of a network of Kinshasa-based ‘Gender Champions’, playing a key role in La Pépinière’s capacity building workstream, complementing the work of the GLRU researchers and the international and national experts.

Together, these three groups brought together the expertise, experience, skillsets and perspectives with the potential to transform the ways in which adolescent girls and young women are understood and actively involved in policies and programming in DRC. 

The primary focus of the gender champions was on building capacity within the Government of DRC and civil society.  They were able to identify opportunities for change in key sectors and at different levels and worked together to implement strategic approaches through complementary activities. Highlights of their work can be found in these four short case studies:

  • Working Together for Better Results Gender Champions model: Case Study 1
  • Working Together for Better Results Gender Champions model: Case Study 2
  • Strengthening child protection practices for adolescent girls and young women Gender Champion model: Case Study 3
  • Working Together for Better Results Putting Girls Front and Centre: Case Study 4

Creating an Adolescent Girls and Young Women Economic Empowerment Index

In 2016 we designed an Economic Empowerment Index for adolescent girls and young women (click here for a tutorial), which we rolled out through a large scale quantitative survey. This allowed us to test various hypotheses related to adolescent girls’ and young women’s economic empowerment (as well as measuring the impact of our ‘mini pilots’ – see below).  This report outlines the concepts, definitions, use and application of the Economic Empowerment Index for the Young Women and Adolescents in the Kinshasa context. Also available in French

The mini-pilots

To assess the potential for innovation, the programme did an extensive stakeholder mapping and capacity needs assessment, an evidence review of ‘what works’ to economically empower adolescent girls and young women, as well as scoping studies of existing interventions as well as of the media and communications landscape. These analyses shaped the design of three ‘mini-pilots’ which ran from 2016- 2017 to test ‘what works’ to economically empower adolescent girls’ and young women and how to tackle the social norms that constrain their opportunities. 

Mini pilots focused on AGYW economic empowerment in the areas of mobile money/ savings; social capital and inspirational role models; and social media interaction. The results of all three of the mini-pilots exceeded expectations in terms of improving financial independence, whilst two demonstrated improvements in AGYW decision making on the use of their savings. Only one project met targets for achieving increases in enabling AGYW to determine their choice of employment. 

A key strategy for the monitoring and evaluation of the mini-pilots was the involvement of the GLRU.  From the outset each mini-pilot implementing partner was paired with two GLRU members and a mentor who were to support the data collection as part of the longitudinal study.   Their involvement and support went way beyond monitoring and led to some changes being made in the design and delivery of the mini-pilots and also contributed to a shift in attitude among staff members of some of the partners, and participants, around the value of meaningful girl-led participation.  Their participation was clearly critical to the success of both the implementation and the monitoring of the pilots.


In the final stages of the programme, learning from the research and mini-pilots (French) was synthesised, informing the development of a revised theory of change, M&E framework and operating principles and criteria for longer term programming.

The Programme Completion Report scored La Pépinière an ‘A’ grade, noting that:

“the programme has developed the evidence base on female social and economic empowerment, which is directly applicable to the DRC but also has a wider relevance internationally… […] aside from the core research findings, La Pépinière has provided a demonstration effect at least of the great potential of employing peer-researchers to un-earth rich and valuable findings about sensitive issues in the lives of AGYW; the strong demand of communities for feedback and the value of deploying peer-researchers in this process; and the credibility that being evidence based adds to youth voice interventions.”



*Research Reports can be found at these links:



Photo credit: Cleo Blackman/DFID