Recruiting and Retaining Young Women

AGI Lessons Learned

Recruiting girls may require more time and resources than for other types of beneficiaries. In many parts of the world, adolescence is a restrictive time when girls’ visibility to the outside world diminishes. A multipronged recruitment strategy is typically needed to reach girls. In Liberia, for example, traditional means of recruitment had limited effects reaching the target groups, so the project team took to the streets with loudspeakers and worked hard to convince girls who were school dropouts to apply.

Younger and more vulnerable girls are the hardest to recruit. Every AGI faced challenges recruiting girls under age 18; in both Liberia and South Sudan, girls age 15 to 17 had to be recruited house-to-house. Women over 20, especially if they have children, may be more motivated to join projects because of pressing financial needs. The extremely vulnerable girls will be hardest to reach. Married girls may need the permission of their husbands or mothers-in-law; domestic workers may need consent of their employers. The girl herself may also need to be persuaded that she is worthy of and welcome to participate in the program.

It may take additional effort to retain more vulnerable girls once they have been recruited. Recruitment is just a first step—projects may need to do more to prevent vulnerable girls from dropping out. In Liberia, trainees sign a commitment pledge (see above) that spells out exactly what is expected of them and what the project will and will not do for them. This pledge assists in managing expectations and is continually referred to during training. Project participation is also creatively incentivized through positive competition techniques and coaching.

Build young people's social capital and enthusiasm for the project in low-cost ways—by making friends, having fun, and playing sports. Making the project more enjoyable can increase attendance and completion rates, and social activities can be used to reinforce learning objectives. Social empowerment can also lead to better project outcomes—behavioral and social skills matter for success in the labor market.

Recruiting youth is a community affair; young people, and particularly adolescent girls, often do not have sole authority to decide on their own actions. To reach these youth, multiple stakeholders and even entire communities may need to be engaged. To reach adolescent girls, it may also be important to work with boyfriends, husbands, and fathers and to identify male leaders who will support the program.

Recruitment can be conducted in a number of ways—including:

  • Word of mouth
  • Messaging through community leaders
  • Partnering with youth centers, health clinics, and NGO networks
  • Tasking youth who have been identified as leaders to recruit other girls in their neighborhoods or communities
  • School-based recruitment
  • Community theater
  • Door-to-door mobilization
  • Organizing through parents or men/boys as fathers or partners
  • Flyers
  • Loudspeakers
  • Radio announcements
  • TV commercials

Each approach has pros and cons in terms of time and cost, ability to reach the most youth, and ability to garner community support for the program. There are also important implications for who will be reached and who will not be reached with each strategy. For example, if recruitment is done through flyers, illiterate youth may not be reached. Youth with low self-esteem may be able to read a flyer, but may not feel that they themselves are eligible for such a program. If recruitment is done through community leaders, important leadership buy-in may be gained, but youth who are unknown or seen as unfit by the leaders may be excluded.

AGI pilots used a variety of recruitment strategies as follows:

AGI Recruitment Strategies
AGI Pilot Recruitment Strategy Resources and Tools


Social mobilization through school management shuras (SMS) in every secondary school in the project districts

Tool icon Afghanistan Social Mobilizer ToR
Haiti Recruitment through four local community-based organizations (CBOs) Resource icon Haiti REOI for CBOs
Jordan Recruitment of young women through community college representatives; recruitment of private sector partners through local chambers of commerce

Tool icon Jordan Community College Representatives ToR

Resource icon Jordan Fact Sheet for Students

Resource icon Jordan Fact Sheet for Chambers of Commerce and Firms

Laos PDR Call for proposals, outreach at schools, business associations, and so on  

Widely-advertised community events

Prior to recruitment, EPAG conducts community entry assessments to gauge community support and capacity for the program.

Resource icon Liberia EPAG Community Entry and Assessment Guidelines

Tool icon Liberia EPAG Community Assessment Tool

Resource icon Liberia EPAG Round Three Guidelines for Recruitment and Selection

Resource icon Liberia EPAG Round Three Recruitment Factsheet

Tool icon Liberia EPAG Round Three Selection Tool and Score Guide for Business Development Skills

Tool icon Liberia EPAG Round Three Selection Tool and Score Guide for Job Skills

Resource icon Liberia EPAG Literacy Recruiter’s Guide


Outreach and communications campaign to ensure that poorer, less educated, and more vulnerable girls could access the program

The project also established Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with outreach partners such as the Nepal Muslim Women Welfare Society (NMWWS). A system of financial incentives for training providers encourages them to recruit, train, and place more disadvantaged girls (see Implementing Results-Based Contracting).

Resource icon Nepal Communication and Outreach Strategy

Resource icon Nepal MoU with Outreach Partners

Resource icon Nepal Trainee Selection Guidelines


Widely advertised public campaign to raise awareness about the project in selected sectors

Resource icon Rwanda Recruitment Announcement

Tool icon Rwanda Application Form

Resource icon Rwanda Message to Parents and Guardians

South Sudan

Recruitment through a door-to-door census

While conducting the survey, interview teams talked to the parents and adolescent girls about the AGI objectives and activities in an effort to spread information and grow community support for the program.

Tool icon South Sudan Community Census Form

If the project is not exclusively targeted to girls, then some extra effort may be needed in the targeting and in the recruitment process to ensure that: (1) there is female participation; and (2) the project is reaching the intended “type” of females. Consider using a target for female enrollment (for example, specifying that women are at least 50 percent of participants) and use appropriate strategies to reach girls. Recruitment for any youth program should also pay close attention to age, as there is a tendency for youth programs to be dominated by older youth.

Once recruited, it is equally important to ensure that the trainees do not drop out. AGI projects maintained good participation rates by engaging parents and communities in project events, building young women’s confidence and commitment through coaching and mentoring, and developing young women’s communication skills and bargaining power through the life skills training. In the Liberia pilot, for instance, where nearly 70 percent of participants were young mothers, providing childcare services was essential to girls’ participation and completion. The projects also aimed to make training fun and engaging such as with attendance prizes and contests. The Girls’ Club model in South Sudan included sports and games to develop teamwork skills and discipline, and help keep girls (and their communities) engaged in the project. Sports can also be empowering for girls as they exercise their right to be active and visible in public spaces.

Strategy Tool
In Liberia, both the trainees and the service providers sign a commitment pledge that clarifies their respective responsibilities. This pledge helps ensure that trainees have realistic project expectations and serves as a reminder of their commitment throughout project implementation.

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