As the Her Choice programme comes to a close, we look back on an amazing adventure on which we embarked all together in 2016.
Since the starting phase, when we were still somewhat uneasy operating in a consortium of dozens of partners and hundreds of associates spread across different continents, there have been tremendous developments. We landed in a pressure cooker of linking & learning. Implementation activities took off at an unprecedented pace. Trust bonds grew between partner organisations and stakeholders. Girls, boys, parents, teachers, chiefs and politicians became increasingly involved and turned into committed Her Choice allies.
During my visits to various project sights, I was lucky enough to witness first-hand the effects of our collective efforts. I have seen young women transform from shy girls into confident students with shining eyes, explaining their right to education and sexuality with astonishing eloquence and confidence: true role models, not just for their communities but for their entire generation.
As a result of ongoing efforts to further enhance cooperation and learning, the programme reached a level of stability at which, when the Covid pandemic struck in 2020, much of the work could be continued in an adapted and safe form.
All these aspects and many others that cannot be listed here have borne fruit. The impact evaluation by the AISSR/UvA, which we proudly present today, shows that in the communities where the programme was implemented child marriage has been significantly reduced. Even more so, child marriage has virtually disappeared in a number of places. And maybe even more important, the study shows a striking increase in the number of girls who, based on their increased knowledge of SRHR, claim they can decide if, when and whom they marry.
A particularly amazing result is, that even during the pandemic, many of these results remained stable and were, in some cases, even further improved! Among many other outcomes, the evaluation shows a strong raise in the number of girls attending school, as well as an increase in the number of girls and boys using SRHR services in many working areas.
As a worthy conclusion to a magnificent programme I dare to say that we have created something lasting and unforgettable. Thank you all so much for your astonishing commitment. It has been a huge pleasure and a privilege to work with you during these five years.
I sincerely hope that in the near future an opportunity will arise for us to pick up where we left off and create something wonderful together once again!
Odilia van Manen, programme manager Her Choice Alliance