Effects of a Social Empowerment Intervention on Economic Vulnerability for Adolescent Refugee Girls in Ethiopia

Lindsay Stark, Ilana Seff, Asham Assezenew, Jennate Eoomkham, Kathryn Falb, Fred M. Ssewamala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose This article examines the effects of a girls’ social empowerment program, Creating Opportunities through Mentoring, Parental Involvement and Safe Spaces, on economic vulnerability of participating adolescent refugee girls in Ethiopia. Methods Adolescents aged 13–19 years from three refugee camps were randomly assigned to either a treatment (n = 457) or control (n = 462) condition. Participants in the treatment condition received 40 fixed-curriculum, mentor-facilitated sessions once a week over a period of 10 months, whereas those in the control condition were not exposed to the curriculum. Caregivers of girls in the treatment arm also participated in 10 discussion sessions held once a month over the same period, where they learned about issues relevant to adolescent girls’ well-being and safety. Data were collected from adolescent girls at baseline and approximately 10 months following intervention initiation. Results Using logistic regression modeling, we found that, following the intervention, girls in the treatment arm were no more or less likely than those in the control arm to attend school, work for pay, work for pay while not being enrolled in school, or engage in transactional sexual exploitation. Conclusions Findings suggest that stand-alone social empowerment programs may not reduce economic vulnerability for adolescent girls without simultaneously implementing economic empowerment programs or taking additional measures to address broader structural barriers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S15-S20
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Economic vulnerability
  • Ethiopia
  • Refugees
  • Social empowerment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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