PEPFAR Gender Special Initiative: Go Girls! Initiative

The PEPFAR Gender Special Initiative on Girls’ Vulnerability to HIV, known as the Go Girls! Initiative (GGI), was funded from October 2007 to March 2011 and implemented by Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs outside link, MACRO International (now ICF International) outside link, and various country partners, aimed to reduce adolescent girls’ risk of HIV infection in Botswana, Malawi, and Mozambique. Rather than focus on individual-level behavior change without consideration of the socioeconomic structural factors that fuel the epidemic, the GGI used a social ecological framework for interventions at multiple levels. The GGI’s multisectoral, integrated program methodology was based on community mobilization, adult–child communication, reality radio, school- and community-based life skills, training for school personnel on creating a safe school environment, and economic strengthening. A strong process evaluation monitored program implementation, and qualitative and quantitative research examined what makes girls vulnerable to HIV and was used to develop tools to measure vulnerability.

Lessons Learned:

  • The need for a multi-sectoral, girl-focused initiative is clear—community leaders, adults, parents, and youth all recognize the need.
  • GGI’s launch of the Go Families! adult-child communication program was met with resounding enthusiasm from community members, emphasizing the need for programming that gives adults the skills they need to build strong, nurturing relationships with their children and other adolescents in the community.
  • Research shows that economic disparities contribute to girls’ vulnerability to HIV, yet addressing economic strengthening for girls is difficult. GGI learned that it is difficult to directly assist girls economically, except through cash transfer programs. When cash transfer programs are not available, another option is to include adult family members of vulnerable girls in the available economic strengthening programs.
  • Conducting research and developing HIV prevention programs for pre-adolescent girls is challenging. There is a need to reach girls before they become sexually active but this approach to talk to girls about sex before sexual debut is met with resistance from parents. GGI developed the adult-child communication program component to successfully address adults’ reluctance to discuss sexuality with children.
  • Setting the norm of giving girls a voice is needed. This was accomplished by GGI through girls’ participation in community mobilization and sharing their stories through the reality radio program.

From the Go Girls! Toolkit

(Access the Full Go Girls! Toolkit at

pdf Go Girls! Community-based life skills for girls: A manual for facilitators (PDF, 7.44 MB)

pdf Go Students! School-based life skills for girls and boys: A manual for teachers (PDF, 5.48 MB)

pdf Go Families! Building adults' skills to communicate with young people: A training guide for facilitators
(PDF, 7.07 MB)

pdf Go Communities! Mobilizing communities to take action on reducing girls’ vulnerability to HIV/AIDS: A field guide
(PDF, 2.66 MB)

pdf Go Schools! Creating a safe and supportive environment for girls at school: A training manual for school personnel
(PDF, 4.46 MB)

Technical briefs:

pdf How to Implement Go Girls! (PDF, 1 MB)

pdf Go Girls! Indices (PDF, 9.46 MB)


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