Adolescent Girls’ Safety In and Out of School: Evidence on Physical and Sexual Violence from across Sub-Saharan Africa

This study characterizes rates of physical and sexual violence against adolescent girls and compares rates of violence against girls who are enrolled versus unenrolled in school, to contribute to an understanding of the relative risks associated with school attendance. We look at rates of violence across countries that together represent 80 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s girls aged 15-19. The analysis shows high rates of violence overall: 28.8 percent report having experienced physical or sexual violence. However, in none of the twenty countries do adolescent girls enrolled in school report a statistically significantly higher likelihood of having been sexually assaulted than girls not enrolled in schools. Another source of data sees significantly higher rates in just one country. This pattern of results is robust to the inclusion of a range of control variables, and to analysis using different sub-groups. The evidence on physical violence is more mixed. Girls face significant rates of physical and sexual violence whether they are enrolled in school or not. These findings underline the importance of confronting violence against girls both in school and in the community, with tailored programs appropriate to each setting.

This paper was first published in December 2021. It was updated in November 2022. The original version is available here.

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