Karen Austrian

Director, GIRL Center

Nairobi, Kenya

Karen Austrian leads the Council’s Girl Innovation, Research, and Learning (GIRL) Center—a global research hub that generates, synthesizes, and translates evidence on adolescents to support investments that transform their lives, especially for girls. Prior to stepping into this role, Austrian led a portfolio of projects designed to empower girls in East and Southern Africa. She develops, implements, and evaluates programs that build girls’ protective assets, such as financial literacy, social safety nets, and access to education. Austrian is the principal investigator of two large, longitudinal, randomized trials evaluating the impact of multisectoral programs for adolescent girls—the Adolescent Girls Initiative–Kenya and the Adolescent Girls Empowerment Program in Zambia—and also leads the Council’s work assessing the social, health, education, and economic effects of COVID-19 on adolescents and their households in Kenya.

Austrian is also actively involved in ensuring that evidence on adolescence is used by global, national, and local stakeholders, having provided guidance on using data for girls’ programs and policies to the Kenya Executive Office of the President Policy and Strategy Unit; line ministries; the World Bank; bilateral, multilateral, and private foundation partners; as well as international, national, and community organizations.

Before joining the Council in 2007, Austrian co-founded and directed the Binti Pamoja Center, a program to empower adolescent girls in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya.

Austrian has an MPH from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, where she was a Sharp Scholar and specialized in reproductive and adolescent health. She has a PhD in public health and epidemiology from Ben Gurion University in Israel. She speaks English, Hebrew, and Swahili and is based in the Council’s Nairobi office.