Effect of Non-formal Experiential Education on Personal Agency of Adolescent Girls in Tajikistan: Findings from a Randomized Experimental Study

  • Leyla KarimliEmail author
  • Daniel D. Shephard
  • Mary McKernan McKay
  • Tara Batista
  • Skye Allmang



Despite the claim of non-formal experiential education enhancing agency among youth, few studies offer robust evidence. Drawing from the capability approach, social cognitive theory, and experiential learning theory, we present the first experimental study in Central Asia testing the effect of experiential educational program on adolescent girls’ personal agency, including self-efficacy, future orientation, and locus of control.


We ran multilevel random-intercept mixed-effects models using the repeated measures data collected from 1221 school-going adolescent girls within the cluster-randomized experimental study conducted in 60 public schools in Tajikistan.


We found significant positive effect of intervention on girls’ future planning (OR = 2.82; 95% CI = from 1.85 to 4.3; p < 0.001) and locus of control (B = − 2.55, 95% CI = from − 3.9 to − 1.2, p < 0.001), but no effect on their self-efficacy. We also found significant intervention effect on adolescents’ attitudes towards saving, financial behavior, and some indicators of health knowledge.


Our study contributes to the global youth development agenda by suggesting that, while non-formal experiential educational programs may have some effect on adolescents’ psychosocial outcomes, integrated interventions involving all components of young person’s ecosystem (i.e., family, school, community) might be more effective in affecting youth agency.


Youth programs Tajikistan Randomized controlled trial Personal agency Adolescent girls Self-efficacy 



This study would not be possible without the tireless work of the Mercy Corps’ team, including Jon Kurtz, Ramesh Singh, Sanginmurod Komilzoda, Malika Inoyatova, Gulnora Kamolova, Saadi Izzatov, and Dilshoda Gaybullaeva. The authors are grateful to the Mercy Corps Tajikistan team and Aflatoun International team for their enthusiasm and dedication in implementing the Aflateen+ program; testing and ensuring accurate translation of the survey instrument; hiring, training, supervising and coordinating interviewers and data entry staff at both baseline and endline stage. We are also thankful to Aukje te Kaat, Research Manager at Aflatoun International, for her comments. We are grateful to Yashin Lin, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, who produced a Baseline Report and shared technical materials to help in data analysis. We are also thankful to Rachel Jean Baptiste, Oxford Epidemiology Services LLC, who, in collaboration with Yashin Lin, developed the study design and conducted the power calculation and sampling. We are very thankful to Dr. Christine Wells at the University of California Los Angles Statistical Consulting Group for her invaluable advice and guidance on statistical analyses. Finally, we are immensely grateful to all the adolescent girls who agreed to participate in Aflateen+ study in Tajikistan.

Funding and Approval

The study was funded and implemented by Aflatoun International and Mercy Corps. The study was approved by the Ministry of Health and District Education Department in Tajikistan. The lead author received permission to analyze de-identified secondary data. The New York University Committee on Activities Involving Human Subjects has determined the IRB protocol (15-10878) for analyzing de-identified secondary data to be exempt from the federal policy as defined at 45 CFR 46101(b) paragraph 4.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.”

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare potential conflict of interest. Specifically, the lead author received paid consultancy (from Aflatoun International and Mercy Corps) to conduct analyses of data. Resulting from this consultancy, the Impact Evaluation Endline Report was produced and submitted to Mercy Corps and Aflatoun International in April 2016. The report was distributed internally.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Luskin School of Public Affairs, Social Welfare DepartmentUniversity of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)Los AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Teachers CollegeColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Brown School of Social WorkUniversity of WashingtonSaint LouisUSA
  4. 4.School of Social WorkColumbia UniversityNew York CityUSA
  5. 5.Luskin School of Public AffairsUniversity of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)Los AngelesUSA

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