THE GIRL EFFECT MOVEMENT: IMPACT OF SOCIAL COMMUNICATIONS PLATFORMS IN THE EMPOWERMENT OF ADOLESCENT GIRLS
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The 'Girl Effect' is a movement and theory of change launched by the Nike Foundation based on the idea that investing in the empowerment of adolescent girls is the key to breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty. This thesis explores the logic of this discourse and investigates notions of agency, empowerment, and development through girl-centered social communications platforms in the Girl Effect movement. I seek to answer the following research question: How does the Girl Effect movement position adolescent girls to increase their own agency through the use of social communication platforms, and does this strategy have the potential to empower girls and, through this effect, transform society? This line of research is situated within a larger debate that questions the motives of corporations to promote the social good based on principles of smart economics. Within this debate I focus on the impact of three social communications platforms in the Girl Effect movement, Ni Nyaminga magazine in Rwanda, Yegna radio drama show in Ethiopia, and a participatory video program called Video Girls for Change in Guatemala. I argue that while the Girl Effect acknowledges the intrinsic value of increasing girls’ voice and agency, their discourse overwhelmingly revolves around girls’ instrumental value in achieving socioeconomic change. Furthermore, I postulate that transformative development, in the sense that positive change occurs for society at large, cannot be achieved by girls alone and must involve a more holistic approach that engages the wider community, including boys and men, and must be accompanied by complementary policies and infrastructure projects that help girls and women to overcome structural constraints that actively disempower them.