Date of Graduation

Fall 12-13-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in International and Multicultural Education (IME)


School of Education


International and Multicultural Education (IME)

First Advisor

Dr. Colette Cann

Second Advisor

Dr. Rosa Jiménez


In recent years, international development organizations have increasingly championed life skills education as a crucial tool for empowering girls in the global South. However, while life skills education continues to gain momentum and popularity within the international development landscape, the heterogeneity of life skills interventions remains significant. In this study, I aimed to uncover how key global actors differently conceptualize life skills and the promises they are understood to hold for adolescent girls in the global South at the current moment. Utilizing the methodology of critical discourse analysis, I examined key documents on girls’ life skills education published by central global actors and stakeholders within the landscape of life skills programming. My research has concluded that human capital theory is a central framework through which life skills are conceptualized and invoked by key global development actors. Namely, within this framework, life skills are understood as a vehicle by which adolescent girls can accumulate human capital. Whereas certain global actors have explicitly aligned themselves with this approach, such as the World Bank, other organizations call for the development of new frameworks for conceptualizing life skills and the significance it holds. As the key organizations within the crowded and highly complex field of life skills programming continue to call for convergence, it will be important to continue to trace how contesting conceptualizations of life skills are invoked and what significance they are understood to hold for adolescent girls in the global South.