Creating Pathways for Girls’ Empowerment

We believe in the power and potential of adolescent girls. Working with families, educators and communities, we build a safe and supportive environment and foster opportunities for girls to increase their skills, knowledge and life choices. By doing so, we create pathways that promote their well-being and enable them to reach their full potential.


Adolescence is a critical time in a girl’s life—when changes in her body, relationships and responsibilities can have life-altering consequences. This stage should be a time for girls to freely discover their talents, gain confidence and plan for their futures. A time for girls to acquire important skills and knowledge that will enable them to navigate critical decisions as they move into their adult years.

Unfortunately, for many girls around the world, adolescence is a time of heightened vulnerability and isolation. Unequal social expectations for boys and girls can restrict their aspirations and achievements. Gender discrimination, along with poverty and other biases, can also limit girls’ access to resources and opportunities. Exclusion from school and vocational training, risks of gender-based violence and exposure to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections are just a few of the inequities that girls can face.

These obstacles, coupled with inadequate support systems, often mean that girls are disadvantaged from an early age and susceptible to harm. Without alternative pathways, these problems can negatively impact a girl’s journey through life, ultimately preventing her from reaching her full potential and restricting what’s possible for her and her family.

Empowering Girls to Succeed

PCI is committed to gender equality and the fundamental rights of adolescent girls and young women. By recognizing girls as powerful, capable agents of change and arming them with the skills and knowledge to navigate critical decisions that shape their lives, we create pathways that enable them to lead healthy, productive lives, free from violence and abuse.

Our girls’ empowerment programs focus on expanding life choices and reducing gender-based vulnerabilities for adolescent girls and young women ages 10-24. PCI equips girls with critical knowledge on reproductive health and HIV prevention; prepares them for safe, dignified jobs through training and education; provides supportive spaces and mentors to develop self-confidence and aspirations; and works with communities to tackle the drivers of gender-based violence and harmful practices.

  • Aligned with the principles of Positive Youth Development, PCI’s girls’ empowerment programs ensure adolescent girls and young women:
  • Have the necessary skills, assets and competencies to be resilient and excel at school, work and in life;
  • Are empowered to make their own life decisions, set their own goals and act without fear of violence, retribution or exploitation; and
  • Have increased access to safe, quality education, health services and economic opportunities.

Preventing Child Marriage

Around the world, 1 in 5 girls is married before her 18th birthday. Despite laws banning the practice, India has the highest number of child brides in the world. To address this fundamental violation of human rights, PCI has joined the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) on a project to reduce child marriages in high prevalence districts of Jharkhand, Bihar, by at least 15 percent.

Project UMANG focuses on tackling the key drivers of child marriage, including parental support for the practice, unequal gender roles and norms, women and girls’ lack of empowerment and low levels of economic development. Project UMANG will reach 65,000 girls with education, sports and leadership building activities as well as provide safe spaces for girls in and out of school to learn and receive support and mentorship.

In parallel, PCI is mobilizing women in the community to take a stand against the practice. PCI has partnered with the Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society to deliver education that addresses the social acceptance of child marriage to approximately 2,000 women’s collectives. Collectives are a powerful platform for women to access peer support, assert their agency, hone their leadership skills and shift harmful social norms in their communities.

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Empowering Girls through Life Skills

In Bihar, India, PCI is working to improve the well-being and self-reliance of vulnerable adolescent girls. The project—Transformative Action for Rural Adolescent Girls (TARA Girls)—is funded by the Centre for Catalyzing Change and Gap Foundation and prepares girls for the workforce while supporting their health and well-being as they transition into adulthood.

TARA Girls reaches unmarried, adolescent girls aged 14-18 through a gender-responsive life skills training and mentoring program called Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement (P.A.C.E.). The pilot program equips girls with skills to express their opinions with confidence, communicate their rights, identify and work towards their life goals, enter the workforce, lead a healthy life by gaining knowledge about reproductive health and nutrition, and negotiate effectively with their families in order to navigate life’s challenges.

Empowering Girls To Dream

Adolescent girls and young women are still disproportionally affected by HIV. In sub-Saharan Africa, four in five new HIV infections among 10-19-year-olds are among girls.

Accordingly, PCI is helping girls develop into Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe (DREAMS) women in Botswana and previously in Malawi. The DREAMS Initiative seeks to substantially reduce new HIV infections among vulnerable adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) by promoting positive sexual health behaviors, increasing access to sexual and reproductive health services and creating an enabling environment where AGYW can make positive life choices.

Through DREAMS, a global initiative of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), PCI works with caregivers and government providers to create safe spaces for AGYW in schools and communities.

In Botswana, PCI weaves economic empowerment activities, such as savings groups and basic business skills training programs, into our HIV prevention and case management activities to improve young women’s work readiness. We also work with caregivers by offering training that promotes effective parent-child communication about sexuality and sexual risk reduction to support AGYW’s well-being.

In Malawi, PCI implemented Go Girls Clubs for girls both in and out of school. Through the clubs, PCI worked with health providers and trained mentors to provide AGYW with critical health and social services such as gender-based violence response services; family planning and sexual and reproductive health information and services; life skills training, such as career development and goal setting; and linkages to economic strengthening programs. The goal of these girls’ empowerment activities was to encourage the adoption of healthy behaviors among AGYW, reduce HIV rates and instill long-term, positive behavior change.

Across both DREAMS programs, PCI collaborated closely with local stakeholders and government agencies to improve youth-friendly HIV prevention services and increase the coverage and sustainability of services for adolescent girls and young women.

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