IAG Project

The proposed pilot builds on the successful Girls in Risk Reduction Leadership (G.I.R.R.L.) project of the African Center for Disaster Studies (ACDS) at the North-West University in South Africa.

CARE USA and the African Centre for Disaster Studies propose to partner for the implementation of a regional learning and pilot activity in Southern Africa.  The proposed pilot builds on the successful Girls in Risk Reduction Leadership (G.I.R.R.L.) project of the African Centre for Disaster Studies (ACDS) at the North-West University in South Africa.  The proposed intervention will allow CARE and the ACDS to adapt the GIRRL approach for use in other countries in Southern Africa, as well as begin building a regional network to explore new ways of integrating marginalized populations, especially girls and youth, into the design and implementation of disaster risk reduction and risk mitigation programming.  CARE and the ACDS will provide technical assistance to 4 existing CARE country programs and partners (academic partners, local NGOs, and government entities) in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Malawi.  Each country will implement an initial pilot of the GIRRL approach, adapted to their local context.  Learning from the initial round of pilots will be shared amongst countries through regional workshops and exchange of pilot documentation.  This proposal covers the costs of the technical assistance to each country, cross-visits between the GIRRL project in South Africa and the 4 new countries, and regional learning and documentation activities.

Problem Statement

Adolescent girls carry a double burden of vulnerability from both age and gender in facing the impact of natural disasters. However, there has been to-date insufficient development of approaches to better integrate them into mainstream disaster risk reduction planning or provide them with specific capacity-building to reduce their risk profile.

Needs Assessment Summary

“Children, whom are considered to be vulnerable based on less than favourable attributes such as young age, lack of experience, lack of access to resources and limited social power, form a group which make up more than 50 percent of those affected by the severe hazard impact and disasters”.  However there is still very little existing data in Africa regarding adolescent girls in the context of disaster risk reduction, and much of the existing data is for broader groups such as women (gender), and children and young people (age) (Forbes-Biggs & Van Niekerk, 2011).  For this reason, there is significant need to explore the role of marginalized populations, such as adolescent girls, within DRR initiatives as an approach to increasing community resilience (UN-ISDR, 2008).

Until recently, it had often been assumed that focusing on small sub-segments of the population, however vulnerable, was not a cost-effective approach to reducing overall risk at the community or national level. However, recent research is challenging this assumption and showing that, where vulnerability is highly unequal, focusing significant resources on the most vulnerable subsets of the population can actually generate better cost-effectiveness results on macro-level indicators (Unicef, 2010).  The increased understanding that “equity” approaches can be cost-effective and are worth pursuing highlights the current lack of programming models to implement this approach. Specifically, there is a lack of experience in integrating the needs and perspectives of highly vulnerable adolescent girls into disaster risk reduction programming in Southern Africa.

Justification for Intervention

There has been increasing recognition in recent years that different socio-economic groups in society experience differential exposure to and capacity to cope with risks. Vulnerability approaches suggest that gender and age (the focus of this proposal), together with other attributes such as ethnicity or class, are often strong indicators of disaster risk and heavily influence subsequent post-disaster outcomes, including mortality and life expectancy Neumayer & Plumper, 2007).  Indeed, several authors have argued that there is no generalized risk for a given natural disaster, but rather profiles of unequal access to opportunities and unequal exposure to risks, which are produced by the socio-economic context (Wisner, 2000).

As such, the impact of natural disasters is determined by the interaction of nature with economic, cultural and social relations, resulting in differential outcomes for different subsets of the population. It is becoming increasingly clear that better mitigation of the impacts of natural disasters will require “better understanding of the socially constructed vulnerabilities of specific groups of affected people”.1 Likewise, the design of disaster risk reduction approaches must be improved to address the specific risks and vulnerabilities of marginalized segments of society, including those who have not traditionally been explicitly and differentially included as either participants or target beneficiaries in the design of these interventions. The current proposal, drawing on a pilot intervention in South Africa, conducted by the African Centre for Disaster Studies at the North-West University, attempts to promote the specific integration of disaster risk reduction approaches for adolescent girls into existing and proposed disaster risk reduction programs and policies in other Southern African countries, including Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Lesotho.

  • Forbes-Biggs, K. & Van Niekerk, D.  2011.  The Girls in Risk Reduction Leadership (G.I.R.R.L.) Project: The Emerging Role of Adolescent Girls as Change Agents in Disaster Risk Reduction. (Submitted to Youth and Society)
  • Neumayer T. and Plumper T. 2007. The gendered nature of natural disasters: the impact of catastrophic events on the gender gap in life expectancy, 1981–2002. Annals of the Association of American Geographers97 (3): 551-566.
  • Unicef.  2010.  Narrowing the Gap to Meet the Goals, UNICEF Summary Report.
  • UN-ISDR.  2008. Gender Perspectives: Integrating Disaster Risk Reduction into Climate Change – Good Pr§actices and Lessons Learned.

    Wisner, B.  2000.  The political economy of hazards: more limits to growth?  Environmental Hazards, 20:59-61.


To decrease the challenges faced by adolescent girls in disaster and post disaster situations (and by extension overall community risk of poor outcomes for which adolescent girls are disproportionately vulnerable) by better integrating consideration of and participation by adolescent girls and other marginalized segments of the population into community-based disaster risk reduction.

Critical Assumptions

Local government entities will have sufficient time to participate in pilot learning events. The project aims to include maximum participation from government entities in each country responsible for disaster risk reduction planning and coordination at the national level, so that learning from community-level pilot projects is used to improve integration of marginalized populations, specifically adolescent girls and youth, in national level strategies and interventions. National level government partners are enthusiastic about the approach, but attach differing levels of importance to gender issues and the integration of marginalized populations. It is hoped that active participation of government in some countries will encourage state actors in other countries to increase focus on this area of disaster risk reduction.

Funds are available to implement the pilot intervention in each country. This proposal covers technical assistance, training, documentation and evaluation of pilot approaches in each country, and regional cross-visits and learning events with partners. The actual implementation of the GIRRL project in each country will be funded through activities integrated into pending country-level proposals to OFDA (Zambia, Lesotho, and Malawi), and through CARE’s own funding (Zimbabwe). Should one or more of the pending proposals for Zambia, Lesotho, and Malawi not be approved, CARE and ACDS have made provisions to quickly scale-down the regional learning proposal in a commensurate fashion.

Program Strategy

CARE currently engages in disaster risk reduction programming in the 4 targeted countries (Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Malawi), including ongoing collaboration with relevant government and academic institutions at the national level, coordination with NGO networks and local networks of community-based organizations, and community-level work to improve early warning systems and disaster mitigation and preparedness planning. The African Centre for Disaster Studies is engaged in research around new ways of integrating marginalized populations, specifically adolescent girls, into disaster risk reduction programming, and has tested a pilot approach for this in North-West Province of South Africa. ACDS and CARE are also members of several regional platforms and working groups for knowledge sharing and learning around disaster risk reduction. CARE International is particularly interested in the role that women and girls play in both disaster risk reduction and emergency response. Support for this grant will be provide by CARE USA’s Gender and Empowerment and Adolescent Girls technical assistance units, with the opportunity to disseminate learning from the pilot through regional and global gender networks.

ACDS and CARE will work together to adapt the pilot approach from ACDS’ intervention in South Africa to other country contexts in the 4 targeted countries. CARE will ensure that the pilot interventions are integrated with both existing OFDA and USAID projects in each country and with national approaches and frameworks for disaster risk reduction, in partnership with national networks. ACDS will work with partner academic institutions in each country to document the results of the pilots. Learning from the 5 countries will be exchanged through regional learning events involving the participating NGOs, academic institutions, and government partners, with the expectation that the pilot interventions will lead to improved attention to and integration of marginalized populations in the design of future disaster risk reduction work within the Southern Africa region.

Objective: Improve post-disaster outcomes for adolescent girls by ensuring that their specific needs and perspective are integrated into community-based disaster risk reduction and increase understanding of communities around the need for response planning that specifically addresses vulnerable sub-segments of the population.

Beneficiary Numbers

4261 total direct beneficiaries.

120 direct beneficiaries in the initial stage of the project will be the, NGO and government representatives attending the training in each country, who will then by responsible for the adaptation and implementation of the G.I.R.R.L. Project at the local level in four distinct countries.

Additional direct beneficiaries are the participants in the pilot interventions in each country (Zambia 2061; Zimbabwe 700; Malawi 1000; Lesotho 500), who will benefit from ACDS field visits and focus groups. These beneficiaries are also direct beneficiaries of the local proposals in 3 countries (Zambia, Malawi, and Lesotho). The adolescent girls develop improved capacity through training interventions oriented toward improving their risk profile while also enabling them to participate in decision making on behalf of a distinctly vulnerable group in society. Indirectly, community members, local partners and civil servants benefit from improved local resiliency derived from the integration and active participation of marginalized community members (adolescent girls) in risk reduction initiatives.

The proposed pilot intervention targeting adolescent girls will be part of a multi-country initiative to adapt a pilot approach from South Africa to other countries in Southern Africa. Technical assistance will be provided from the Girls in Risk Reduction Leadership (G.I.R.R.L.) project of the African Centre for Disaster Studies (ACDS) at North-West University in South Africa, who will provide the initial training and technical assistance to adapt the South African model to the each country’s specific context. Additional technical assistance on gender and applying equity approaches to DRR programming will be provided by the Adolescent Girls and Emergency and Humanitarian Assistance technical units of CARE USA. ACDS will coordinate with active local universities and Disaster Risk Management Departments from each of the targeted four countries, to conduct additional research on the pilot intervention implemented by CARE. Participating ACDS and CARE staff, other participating academic institutions, government departments and civil society partners will attend regional knowledge sharing and learning events to exchange information on the roll-out of pilot projects and generate suggestions for further mainstreaming the participation of adolescent girls in disaster risk reduction initiatives.

  • Capacity Building / Training:  The proposed intervention will provide capacity-building and training to several key target populations, including pilot groups of adolescent girls who will participate in youth empowerment for disaster risk reduction activities, community leaders who will be trained in integrating the perspectives and participation of adolescent girls into community-level disaster risk reduction planning, and CARE and national level partners who will receive training on integrating adolescent girls into disaster risk reduction planning.
  • Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR):  The proposed intervention will contribute to on-going work in Disaster Risk Reduction by introducing the concept of equity approaches and developing tools for planners to better integrate vulnerable, marginalized populations into existing national and local DRR frameworks.
  • Gender Relations:  Experience from the ACDS G.I.R.R.L. pilot intervention in South Africa has shown that gender relations, specifically risks related to traditional gender roles and differential power in decision-making processes at the household and community levels play an important role in differential risk of adolescent girls. The proposed intervention will conduct specific analysis to determine the most salient risks in each of the specific target country’s context. However, it is anticipated that gender relations will emerge as a key factor in all contexts.
  • HIV/AIDS:  The empowerment module for adolescent girls will include modules on SRH empowerment and HIV/AIDS prevention. The interventions targeting community leaders will include awareness raising around the increased risks of gender-based violence and destitution / transactional sex, including HIV/AIDS transmission in post-disaster contexts, as well as the importance of preventing HIV/AIDS as a strategy for reducing the vulnerability of marginalized segments of the population, such as single women and adolescent girls.
  • Protection Mainstreaming:  The intervention is specifically designed to raise awareness of the importance of integrating the views of a vulnerable segment of the population (adolescent girls) into existing disaster risk reduction programs.
  • Youth:  The intervention is designed to help adolescents prepare for, mitigate, and respond to disasters. The activities are specifically designed to address the specific developmental needs associated with this age and gender group. The program will also address the role of adolescent boys as a key stakeholder, and with some similarity of issues related to voice and agency in disaster risk reduction programs.
Project Technical Design

The proposed activity involves adapting the Girls in Risk Reduction Leadership (G.I.R.R.L.) Pilot Project, conducted by the African Centre for Disaster Studies in South Africa to the each specific’s country context, and increasing awareness of the importance of equity approaches for specific vulnerable populations in local disaster risk reduction planning and policymaking. The initial intervention will involve a small pilot to adapt the existing curriculum from South Africa and explore ways to improve integration of adolescent girls into existing disaster risk reduction models in each of the five target countries. Technical assistance to train CARE staff and partners in-country will be provided by the African Centre for Disaster Studies and CARE USA’s gender and adolescent girls empowerment team under separate funding.

The ACDS “G.I.R.R.L. Project” intervention was designed to address some of the inherent problems related to the social vulnerability of adolescent girls living in both peri-urban informal settlements and poor, rural communities through the provision of concise, locally-relevant information and the encouraged development of effective decision-making skills. Based on the principles inherent within Disaster Risk Reduction, it also involves activities designed to reduce vulnerability and minimize adverse hazard effects. The project consists of a comprehensive capacity-building program that has been designed to address the root social causes of vulnerability with the target group, as a means of improving their resilience. Adolescent girls are engaged in dialogue to discuss their experiences with risk and vulnerability, both in every day life and in the context of recurring natural disasters. This dialogue is used to identify major physical and socio-economic risks that are then used to design risk mitigation and capacity-building training curricula that specifically meets the needs of adolescent girls. Examples of themes identified in South Africa included: decision-making; team-building; physical and sexual reproductive health; mental well-being; first-aid; fire safety; effective communication, and participation of youth, including adolescent girls in community-based risk assessments and disaster preparedness planning processes. It is anticipated that some of these themes will also be identified in the traget countries as well as issues such as teen marriage, resulting from drought.famine or limited access to education.

In addition to the empowerment modules specifically targeting adolescent girls, the intervention will also target community leaders and existing disaster risk reduction planning structures to reinforce understanding of differential vulnerability and cost-effectiveness of equity approaches, including the specific case of adolescent girls. The girls participating in the empowerment program will be supported to act as ‘leader and resource persons’ to integrate the perspective and needs of adolescent girls into existing planning processes.

The South African pilot intervention was implemented through township schools, identified as an appropriate entry point in that context. Each target country will identify a suitable point of entry through which the project will be implemented. The first step will involve training in the methodology from ACDS and underlying conceptual approaches to vulnerability and programming for adolescent girls from CARE USA. The second step will involve collaboration between each CARE Country Ofiice and ACDS to adapt the methodology to the local context. The third step will involve roll-out of the empowerment training intervention (separate budget per country). The fourth step (which may occur concurrently) will involve development of pilot strategies for mainstreaming adolescent girls into community-based DRR planning interventions, including training and dialogue with relevant community leaders and government partners (separate budget per country). It is anticipated that the results of the pilot intervention will be documented and shared both in-country and with other countries as part of a regional learning and knowledge sharing event with other countries participating in the collaboration with ACDS.

The Third Phase of the project embodies the action phase for the in-country teams, wherein they begin the process of utilising the training from workshop and applying it to their specific target communities. ACDS and CARE will provide technical assistance to each country during this phase.

Central Activities
  • Instigate the implementation of the project
  • Coordinate site visits for ACDS-NWU project manager (4 days in duration each)
  • Provide feedback to ACDS and other participating countries on the outcomes of the pilot implementation

Training and capacity development will take the form of five (5) day workshops for each in-country team. Each team is comprised of the local level participants particularly identified as identified by CARE Country Offices. These teams will receive training based on the contents of manual that will be compiled during the Phase 1 by the African Centre for Disaster Studies (North West University).

This training and capacity development phase aims to improve the capacity of disaster risk reduction implementing agencies in each country to successfully understand: the underlying principles and rationale for targeting adolescent girls, the socio-economic, political, cultural and environmental considerations, the role of critical players including stakeholders, coordinators and facilitators, and the planning, the implementation and the evaluation of the G.I.R.R.L. Project, as it was conducted in South Africa.

Central Activities
  • Coordinate all travel arrangements for trainees to attend five (5) day workshop (in country) inclusive of meals, per diem expenses
  • To communicate arrangements between CARE COs and ACDS-NWU.
  • Facilitate participation of local partners

The Third Phase of the project embodies the action phase for the in-country teams, wherein they begin the process of utilising the training from workshop and applying it to their specific target communities. ACDS and CARE will provide technical assistance to each country during this phase.

Central Activities
  • Instigate the implementation of the project
  • Coordinate site visits for ACDS-NWU project manager (4 days in duration each)
  • Provide feedback to ACDS and other participating countries on the outcomes of the pilot implementation