***all photos with other people are posted with consent and the purpose was also explained to them***

On the third day of my field visit, the main objective was to observe the implementation Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program, specifically, observe a life skills session. I did not pilot any assessment tool but I had the opportunity to conduct another focus group and interview a few people.

The school was around 30 minutes away but for some odd reason the trip made me feel nauseated. All the nausea went away when we reached the school. The cool breeze caused by the rains seemed to have wiped away all the negative feelings I had. This was immediately followed by the warm welcome of the school staff. They gave me a bouquet of paper flowers, which were made by the girls who are part of the girls’ education program. This brought me back to my experience with tutoring public school students in the Philippines back when I was still in high school.

cool weather + schools with big fields where children could play = happy Ian Gee

handcrafted paper flowers made by the students

The main hub where the girls’ education program is delivered is the gender resource center. The gender resource center is where the life skills sessions and mentoring sessions are held. Upon entering the gender resource center, the girls’ education program associate gave me a tour of the the place. It’s a big room with a lot of decorations. Most of the decorations were carefully crafted by the girls. The decorations included the different countries where Room to Read operates, contact numbers in case of emergencies, artworks, and many more. This was another moment that I wish I understood Hindi.

After looking at the decorations, we proceeded with the focus group with the mothers of the girls who are part of the program. While their responses were confidential, I must say that I learned a lot from conversing with them. To be honest, I knew so little about girls’ education programs before I joined Room to Read and now, I have a better understanding of the objectives and aims of girls’ education programs.

with Room to Read staff who are always so generous in answering my questions

Like my focus groups in the previous days, I faced language problems again. This time it was even more complex. At one point, the translation moved from English to Hindi to Chhattisgarhi then back to Hindi then to English. At that point, I knew that I have already lost the main ideas of the conversation. Amidst all those, the Room to Read staff generously summarized the conversations and relayed them to me.

After the focus group, we went on to observe a life skills session. The session was about diseases and ways to prevent diseases. This was really difficult for me because it was discussion based so I only understood probably 2% of what happened.

After the session, I had a short interaction with the girls and they were very generous with their smiles and hellos. They had so many questions and it was just very heartwarming to talk to them. Together with what I observed during the life skills session, I really felt that there was some form of success of the program that was difficult to measure. I can’t seem to find the right words or probably the right tools to capture what I saw and felt but there was something there.

My experience with the girls’ education program school was very short. But because of my experience, I wanted to know more and dive deeper into the program. I think that measuring the impact of this intervention is difficult. Unlike the literacy program, there seems to be a challenge with the abstractness and intangibility of life skills and establishing a causal relationship between the skills and the intervention is complex. However, for similar programs to continue to exist, there must be a way to be able to show results, especially that funders look for assessment of program impact.

To pick your brains again, I have some questions for you:

  1. How can life skills be measured?
  2. Do you think the traditional baseline, midline, and endline assessment be a good fit for an impact evaluation?
  3. When would be the best time to measure the impact of a program similar to Room to Read’s?
  4. How can causality be established especially if we want to measure long term impacts of the program?

I would love to know your thoughts about my questions above! Feel free to reply to this blog in the comments section below.