Date of Graduation

Spring 5-20-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Human Rights Education (HRE)


School of Education


International and Multicultural Education (IME)

First Advisor

Dr. Monisha Bajaj


Adolescent girls’ in developing countries coming from impoverished backgrounds face the added challenge of societies that marginalize the value of education for girls. Complex economic, social and cultural barriers to access secondary education pose challenges and obstacles to their human rights to education, equality and dignity. This study provides an analysis of the relationship between education and empowerment by looking at five innovative non-governmental formal and non-formal educational programs in Guatemala, sub-Saharan Africa, and Bangladesh. The theoretical framework focuses on the empowerment process, transformative agency, intrinsic empowerment, and the conditions and competencies that support education and leadership. The purpose of the study is to compare and contrast different approaches to empowerment of adolescent girls through education and leadership programs. The literature review covers empowerment, the education-empowerment link, gender equality, and the education-development/leadership link. Program websites were reviewed and additional information was received via personal communication. The programs were shown to have helped girls actualize the empowerment process through innovative pedagogy, well-researched and creative curriculum, the development of leadership skills, provision of experiential education, and cultivation of agency.

It was found that reaching girls at an optimal time in their life will enhance the benefits of education, mentoring, and leadership development. The programs provide education with a critical consciousness and practical livelihood and leadership skills integral to the girls’ empowerment process, agency and transformation. A continuous policy commitment working toward gender equity is vital as education alone cannot create empowerment. Many developing countries have patriarchal societies that are limiting to girls’ full development. Only by having girls begin to challenge such ideologies using their voice and education to bring about change will there be hope for gender equity, more empowered girls and women, and more fulfilled and dignified lives.

A workshop intended for U.S. high school educators interested in the relationship between human rights, gender equity, and empowerment while connecting global to local issues is included in the appendix.