June 28, 2017—The Population Council today announced the launch of the Girl Innovation, Research, and Learning (GIRL) Center, a new global research and thought leadership hub that will generate, synthesize, and translate evidence on adolescent girls. Led by Thoai Ngo, Ph.D., director of the Population Council’s Poverty, Gender, and Youth Program, the Center seeks to direct strategic investment into solutions proven to transform the lives of adolescent girls.

Today, the world is witness to the largest generation of adolescents (ages 10–19) in history. Despite profound social and economic potential, adolescence is a complex time, particularly for the 600 million girls around the world. About a quarter of girls experience early or forced child marriage (before age 18), their access to public spaces tends to shrink, and almost a third are not enrolled in school, dramatically increasing their risk of early pregnancy. Evidence-based approaches are urgently needed to effectively address girls’ unique needs and circumstances.

“The world is waking up to the power and potential of adolescent girls and the importance of investing in their futures. But too often, the very programs designed to reduce girls’ vulnerabilities lack evidence of effectiveness, or worse, have even been shown not to work,” said Julia Bunting, president of the Population Council. “Now more than ever girls merit our attention, and our limited resources must be directed toward proven solutions that have direct impact on improving girls’ lives.”

The GIRL Center will engage leading experts to identify and promote evidence-based approaches for addressing key issues affecting adolescent girls, including: education, sexual and reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, sexual and gender-based violence, child marriage, migration, and climate change. The GIRL Center is building the world’s largest open data repository on adolescents, including data collected by the Population Council on more than 120,000 adolescents across 16 countries—and therefore maximizing $70 million of investments made during the last decade. Through research collaborations and partnerships, the Center will pursue additional data from organizations working on girl-centered research and programs.

“The GIRL Center was developed as a global resource to ensure that programs and policies intended to have an impact on girls’ lives are based on scientific evidence,” said Thoai Ngo, Ph.D., director of the GIRL Center and the Population Council’s Poverty, Gender, and Youth Program. “By looking at datasets across studies and geographies, we can generate better insights on how girls’ lives evolve through their adolescent years and determine which interventions are most effective at delivering the best outcomes.”

The GIRL Center will serve as an innovation platform, bringing together experts and leading thinkers to generate insights and solutions for girls. Initial analyses will focus on:

  • Child marriage: The GIRL Center will synthesize a global body of evidence on the most effective strategies to reduce the harmful practice of child marriage across various contexts and population groups.
  • Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV): The GIRL Center will examine the impact of SGBV on adolescents, specifically measuring the prevalence of different forms of SGBV, examining the predictors of SGBV, and exploring the linkages between SGBV and other important adolescent outcomes.
  • Mental health: The GIRL Center will study the mental health of adolescents and explore linkages between mental health and other aspects of adolescent health and well-being.

“When girls are given equal opportunities to thrive, they have the potential to be powerful agents in their communities to drive stronger economic growth, foster peace and prosperity, and improve the health and well-being of their families,” said Ann Blanc, Ph.D., vice president, Social and Behavioral Science Research at the Population Council. “This can only be achieved by producing high-quality evidence to better inform policies and programs focused on adolescent girls.”

The GIRL Center is made possible through the generosity of individuals supporting the Mark A. Walker Fellowship Program as well as funding from the MacArthur Foundation and Hewlett Foundation.