Since 2007, the longitudinal and qualitative ‘Real Choices, Real Lives’ (RCRL) study has been tracking the lives of girls and their families in nine countries around the world. In 2021, 118 girls and their families were participating in the study which has followed the girls since their births in 2006.
The study will continue to collect data until December 2024 when the girls reach the age of 18. It aims to document the social, economic, cultural and institutional factors that influence girls’ lives and their life chances, through the perspectives of girls and their families. The study has a distinct commitment to understanding the root causes of gender inequality by asking questions about beliefs, values and expectations which aim to uncover how gendered social norms and behaviours are created and sustained or shift over time.
Data on the study has now been gathered for 14 years, giving a unique insight into the life cycle of girls and the choices, decisions and realities that shape their lives. The girls in the study are now entering late adolescence. For girls across the world, adolescence is a particularly vulnerable time where gendered expectations become more pronounced. Like many other girls, the girls in the cohort study were expected by caregivers to change behaviours once they experience menarche. This expectation suggests that caregivers are not fully recognising the years of the years of adolescence as a unique and vulnerable period, especially in relation to girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).