Abstract: Gender Norms and Academic Achievement of Orphaned Adolescents Participating in a Family-Based Economic Strengthening Intervention in Uganda (Society for Social Work and Research 21st Annual Conference - Ensure Healthy Development for all Youth)

18P Gender Norms and Academic Achievement of Orphaned Adolescents Participating in a Family-Based Economic Strengthening Intervention in Uganda

Thursday, January 12, 2017
Bissonet (New Orleans Marriott)
* noted as presenting author
Proscovia Nabunya, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Jami Curley, PhD, Associate Professor, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO
Fred M. Ssewamala, PhD, Professor, Columbia University, New York, NY
Sarah Meyer, MSW, Research Coordinator, Columbia University, New York, NY
Hilda Kakwanzi, BA, Research Associate, Columbia University, New York, NY
Background and Purpose: Although progress has been made in recent years, girls continue to suffer severe disadvantage and exclusion in the education system, particularly in developing countries. Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest proportion of countries with gender parity in education. An estimated 31 million girls of primary school going-age were out of school in 2013 (UNGEI, 2015). One of the barriers to girls’ education in developing countries are the male-dominated social and cultural norms that favor boys’ education vs. girls, especially when a family has limited financial resources. These norms combine with the economic and social demands in families dominated by orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), to further disrupt the education opportunities for girls. Yet, girls’ education is essential in breaking the cycle of poverty, reducing health risks – including HIV/AIDS and promoting gender equality. One of the strategies advanced to promote gender parity in education is cash transfer programmes provided to poor households to encourage school enrollment, participation and achievement for girls. This study examines gender norms and beliefs among adolescent boys and girls participating in a family economic strengthening intervention – a form of cash transfer, and the influence of such beliefs on adolescent’s academic achievement.

Methods:We utilized data from the NIMH funded study known as Suubi-Maka, testing a family economic strengthening intervention for orphaned adolescents in Uganda. Participants were randomly assigned to either the control condition (n=167) receiving usual care for school-going orphaned children or the treatment condition (n=179) receiving usual care plus an economic empowerment intervention in form of children matched savings accounts, and financial management workshops. Interviews were conducted at baseline, 10 and 20-months post intervention initiation. Bivariate analyses were conducted to examine the differences in gender norms and beliefs within study groups. Regression analyses were conducted using gender norms and beliefs at baseline to predict academic achievement at 20-months follow up.

Results: No significant gender differences were observed within study groups at baseline. However, a positive shift in favor of girls was observed on items specific to education achievement at 20-months follow up. Specifically, girls in the treatment group were less likely than boys to believe that: 1) it is more important for boys than girls to do well in school (X2=46.07,p=.000); 2) more encouragement should be given to sons than daughters to go to college (X2=13.66,p=.000); 3) boys are better in school than girls (X2=19.01,p=.000); and 4) girls should be more concerned with becoming good wives and mothers than desiring a professional career (X2=12.01,p=.001). In addition, controlling for participants’ socio-demographic characteristics and the intervention, positive gender norms and beliefs were associated with better school grades (B=-.80,95%CI= -1.29,p=.001).

Implications: Overall, study findings point to the potential of a family economic strengthening intervention in helping to shift the male-dominated traditions and beliefs that tend to disadvantage and limit girls from achieving their academic full potential. Integrating economic strengthening components in programming that care for OVCs, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, may be instrumental in improving both academic achievements for girls and gender parity in education.