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Last week’s Girl Summit DC focused on child, early, and forced marriage (CEFM), the consequences of the practice, and solutions that will allow girls to delay marriage and reach their full potential. (In case you missed the event, you can watch the video here.) The event, held at CGD ahead of the second annual Girl Summit coming up in Zambia on November 26 and 27, generated discussion about potential solutions ranging from investing in quality education to cash transfers to safe spaces for girls. It raised a number of issues CGD will be tackling through its new Gender and Development Program over the coming years:

Getting better data

First, as was reiterated throughout the day, we still need more and better data on what works to improve the lives of girls and advance gender equality. Recent studies by ICRW, the Population Council, and others have provided evidence on programs such as conditional cash and economic transfers, providing school supplies to girls, and engaging with social norms, but every panel at Girl Summit DC nonetheless highlighted the need for more evidence on how to combat CEFM, especially since most of the data we have on the practice continues to come from specific regions (particularly South Asia). Comprehensive, cross-country data on what works and what doesn’t is especially important as we seek to scale up pilot programs targeting specific villages, towns, or regions within a single country.

In another post, we think about how to kick start comprehensive data collection on outcomes for women and girls. And stay tuned for research from CGD Europe’s Matt Collin and Theodore Talbot on the relationship between laws and child marriage, the first-ever study on the topic using every round of the nationally representative Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS).

Making the most of limited resources

Second, to achieve gender equality we need to recognize the limits of what rich governments and donor institutions can do (and are willing to do). Donor programs can do an excellent job of piloting new approaches and generating necessary data on what works and what doesn’t. (For example, the Population Council’s findings mentioned above are from a USAID-funded project.) On November 18, during CGD’s “Small Changes, Big Impact” conference, we’ll focus on how to make the most of donor programs by highlighting the most effective mechanisms donors can use to advance outcomes for women and girls.

But as representatives from the US government made clear during Girl Summit DC’s high-level panel, donors don’t have the resources to do it alone. And because foreign aid budgets are unlikely to increase in the near future, alternative tools for gender equality efforts need to be explored.

Moving beyond aid

We need new and innovative tools beyond the effective use of donor financing to reach gender equality goals. Advocates and researchers must focus their attention just as much on persuading and involving the private sector (capable of financing gender equality efforts on a much wider scale) as they do on donor institutions. At CGD, we’ll be particularly interested in exploring the non-aid solutions that can work to advance gender equality. Our research and upcoming events will seek not only to examine how best to use donor funding, but also to tap into the sizable resources of the private sector and employ other non-aid tools to advance outcomes for women and girls.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.