Final reflections on the Aarambha project

14 May 2024 by Anurodh Saha, Programme Manager, People in Need Nepal

When we started the Aarambha project in Nepal, we soon realised that supporting out-of-school adolescent girls would be challenging and was not just about reaching girls but also about engaging parents, in-laws, local government, communities, schools, local leaders and religious leaders. We wanted to ground our work in the community and we did that by selecting partners who knew and understood the communities we were going to work with.

It was not a linear journey and we had to adapt our approach along the way. We are proud of what we achieved and we are proud that among the 9,497 girls we worked with, more than 8,122 graduated from learning centres. Among graduated girls more than 4,986 girls enrolled in formal education and 2,347 completed their technical and vocational education training. After five years of implementation, 72% of girls are continuing their education and 68% of girls are running businesses.


Working with the most marginalised girls in a province – the Madhesh province – with high levels of illiteracy and deeply rooted social norms which are not supportive of girls’ education was challenging. Girls are normally at home looking after and dealing with household chores. They are married off at an early age. Most girls do not have a birth or marriage certificate. Without legal certifications they do not have access to the social services provided by the government.

One of the biggest challenges was to engage parents and in-laws and encourage them to send the girls to the Community Learning Centres. Involving religious leaders was also fundamental. We did not envision engaging them at first but working with them was key and they ended up becoming our project champions.

When we were about to complete the first phase of the project and enrol girls into schools, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. We worked with the GEC Fund Manager on adapting our delivery model and on tracking girls through the work of local facilitators. We revised our curriculum and implemented distance teaching and learning through mobile phones and small learning groups.

Identifying the girls was also quite challenging as well as ensuring they would continue their education and transition from Community Learning Centres to Community Schools. We worked with the local government, schools, communities and parents to develop a retention strategy and focused on making schools safer and more gender friendly to improve girls’ retention. We also trained teachers on multigrade teaching and created a network of community champions that would follow up with girls who dropped out of school through school and home visits. In order to improve the transition of girls from Community Learning Centres to Community Schools we introduced a 9-month course that would prepare girls and improve their competencies and make them familiar with the school environment.


We were successful at adapting our approach in order to respond to the needs of the girls. For example, we decided to prioritise technical vocational education training for 15 to 19-years-old girls for whom school enrolment was not an option. We worked with the Government of Nepal and created a TVET course based on the courses offered by the Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEV) to ease girls’ transition to the CTEV courses.

We employed teaching and learning approaches with the girls, all of whom had different circumstances and needs. Some girls had dropped out of school. Some had never been to school. Girls had different ages, learning levels and backgrounds. We decided to adopt a multigrade learning and Teach At the Right Level approach.

We worked with our implementing partners and the Government of Nepal to establish and strengthen the Girls’ and Inclusive Education Network (GIEN), working across the local, provincial and federal government of Nepal. This resulted in the adoption of the GIEN strategic plan and standards by the Government of Nepal.

As we phased out, more than 65 Community Learning Centres were handed over to local government’ who started providing financial and operational support. We built the capacity of local facilitators who are now working with the government through their work at the Community Learning Centres.

Lessons learned

One of the biggest lessons for us was that from the start it is important to focus on not just identifying the girls but also those stakeholders – parents, caregivers, religious leaders, mothers’ groups, youth groups, local influencing leaders and local government officials – that have to be involved to be able to reach those girls. We also learned that it is important to plan an exit strategy as early as possible, ideally at inception stage. At inception stage it is also important to engage communities and local and provincial government – this is to ensure sustainability.

It is key to be responsive and learn how to make changes, adapt and leave what did not work well behind. Working with the GEC Fund Manager helped us think through what did not work without, how to plan the way forward and how to set priorities for the months to come. Also, it is important to keep results from the baseline in mind as the project is being implemented and ensure those give a direction to the project.

Legacies and unexpected outcomes

The biggest legacy of the Aarambha project is the Community Learning Centre model which is accessible to the most marginalised adolescent girls. We are proud to have reached 9,497 girls – much beyond our initial target of 8,500 girls. 70% of the girls we worked with are continuing their education or have transition to work.

We worked with the government on developing child protections policies and guidelines and with the judicial committee on strengthening child protection processes and mechanisms. The government has now ownership of these processes and are handling the cases. The GIEN is also now endorsed and owned by the government, which are implementing the GIEN strategy and standards.

We introduced a gender transformative curriculum and piloted it across 50 schools. Recently, we found out that most schools used that curriculum to make 30-minute extracurricular activities related to gender issues for girls and boys to attend every Friday.

Personal learning

I learned so much from working on the Aarambha project. I enjoyed working with the GEC Fund Manager team particularly on how to respond to emerging needs and challenging and adapting our approaches and interventions. Our project was based on a holistic approach and as such facilitated the integration of various thematic areas, including disability inclusion, adolescent girls’ health and life skills, child protection, and school governance.

Our interventions targeted harmful social norms and perceptions affecting girls’ opportunities to access quality education and thrive in life. My technical capacity and competency improved significantly. I feel that this experience brought about several changes in me as well as in my team in a good way making us more confident about designing and delivering a strong girls’ education programme.