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Empowering Adolescent Girls: A Community Intervention Program In Urban Slums Of Thane City

As per India Census 2011, there are total 2,13,62,000 adolescents in the age group of 10 to 19 years in the state of Maharashtra. This constitutes to 8.4% of total adolescent population in India. The sex ratio of the adolescent age group in 2011 is 878 girls per 1000 boys. As per the National Family Health Survey (2005 – 2006), 52% of adolescent girls in Maharashtra are anemic. They also lack access to quality healthcare services.
 
Although India has one of the fastest growing youth populations in the world, its gender disparities pose significant barriers for the future of girls. UNFPA along with our implementation partner SNEHA, under the Adolescent Empowerment Program, is empowering marginalized adolescent girls living in vulnerable communities of Thane (Maharashtra) by enhancing their health, social and economic assets so that they can fulfill their aspirations and exercise their agency to make informed and responsible choices in relation to their health through multiple activities.
 
The programme is being implemented in four vulnerable communities of Thane Municipal Corporation: Mahatmaphule Nagar, Janki Nagar, Bhaskar Nagar and Waghoba Nagar. The project covers 2000 adolescent girls from these communities
 
As part of the project a series of activities to engage families and communities were undertaken to build a supportive environment to work with adolescent girls like Mobilization of adolescent girls, parents' workshops, Film screening, Kishori Melawa, Theatre workshops and Adolescent boys’ workshops.
 
Currently, the focus is to Strengthen Resource Centers: Resource Centers with provision of material on themes related to adolescents, Engaging with families and communities to build supportive environment for working with adolescent girls through through workshops expanding reach to adolescent girls through campaigns like 16 days of activism, National Youth Day and create Change Agents in the society.
 
Interestingly, the Change Agents have taken up community awareness initiatives like Safety Audit of their respective areas. From the safety audit, it was inferred that girls find spaces like toilets, cigarette stalls and alcohol shops unsafe. It was also noted that even crematoriums (shamshan) were marked as unsafe spaces, as they were dark and isolated, making it easier for men to harass girls. In the other locations, girls stated that they felt unsafe due to the presence of men who frequently loiter outside small shops and toilets in groups, whistling at the girls and often trying to touch them inappropriately.
 
Watch the video to know more about this journey till now.
 

 

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The Hunger Project Film #GirlsChangeTracks

"Every girl no matter where she is born, should have a chance to reach her potential. Every girl has the right to be a girl and not a child bride"- Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin
 
When girls from a UNFPA supported girls' empowerment intervention in Bihar traveled to Rajasthan and met their peers, they realized that they have a lot more in common than they expected! Traveling to a different land, meeting other girls, forging friendships, and sharing stories and experiences made for a memorable journey. 
 
Bihar and Rajasthan are among the states with the highest prevalence of child marriage in India.  
 
The #GirlsChangeTracks campaign.is led by The Hunger Project (THP), a UNFPA partner. As part of the collaboration with THP, UNFPA is supporting a girls' empowerment based initiative in 5 districts of Bihar. The work with girls is embedded within THP's larger approach of strengthening women's political participation and building capacities of elected women representatives to address local development concerns.
 
UNFPA partners with the Government and Civil Society Organizations to support life-skills based targeted interventions with girls that enable them to delay marriage, attain education and skills, and develop to their full potential.
 
 
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 girls from a UNFPA supported girls' empowerment intervention in Bihar traveled to Rajasthan
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Saathiya Launch : Keynote address by C.K. Mishra

"With so much expansion of media, tv, social media and overall technology, there are still many unanswered questions in the minds of young boys and girls. This is an ambitious project, aimed at behavioral change and overall thinking through these voluntary peer educators called Saathiya" - Sh CK Mishra, while addressing the gathering during the launch of Saathiya Resource Kit and Saathiya Salaah - the mobile app

The peer educators will be trained across the country in a phased manner, ensuring optimum use of the resource kit, which is a ready source of a range of communication material specially designed to help them to be recognised and respected as ‘saathiya’, a good friend for the adolescents.

The resource kit comprises activity book, Bhranti-Kranti Game, question-answer book and Peer Educator Diary.

In addition to the kit is the mobile app ‘Saathiya Salah’ which acts as a ready information source for the adolescents in case they are unable to interact with the peer educators.

While short films will be played by the peer educators at their group meetings, the activity book and games will bring about discussion and resolve adolescent queries.

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Keynote address by C.K. Mishra, Secretary, H&FW, MoHFW
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Diego Palacios, UNFPA addresses the gathering + launch of resource Kit by Sh C.K.Mishra

Diego Palacios, country representative UNFPA India addresses the gathering at the launch of Saathiya Resource Kit and mobile application. Also, Sh CK Mishra, Secretary, Home & Family Welfare (MoHFW India) unveils the resource kit to the gathering and media. The peer educators called Saathiya will be trained across the country in a phased manner, ensuring optimum use of the resource kit, which is a ready source of a range of communication material specially designed to help them to be recognised and respected as ‘saathiya’, a good friend for the adolescents.

The resource kit comprises activity book, Bhranti-Kranti Game, question-answer book and Peer Educator Diary.

In addition to the kit is the mobile app ‘Saathiya Salah’ which acts as a ready information source for the adolescents in case they are unable to interact with the peer educators.

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Diego Palacios, country representative UNFPA India addresses the gathering at the launch of Saathiya Resource Kit and mobile application.
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Saathiya Launch : Welcome address by Ms Vandana Gurnani

Union Health Secretary C K Mishra launched the ‘Saathiya’ resource kit, including ‘Saathiya Salah’ mobile application, for adolescents as part of the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK). He said that one of the best ways to reach out to the adolescents was to reach out to the community and therefore a system was designed which was called peer educators.

Diega Polacios, Country Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said the resource kit has been designed to present the peer educators with key information on adolescent health, which would then enable them to communicate the same and help the adolescents at the grassroots or village level.

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Saathiya Launch : Welcome address by Ms Vandana Gurnani
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No Country for Young Girls

Translated in Odiya, the film developed by UNFPA highlights on the issue of sex selection and gender discrimination. The film was screened at an event observing International Women's Day by the Department of Women and Child Development, Government of Odisha, to sensitize their functionaries on issues concerning women. The event was attended by over 300 participants.

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Too Young to Wed : Rajasthan

Keshanta, 16, wants to be a teacher. Rajyanti, 17, hopes to become a doctor. Laali, 15, isn't sure just yet what she wants to be when she grows up. But she, like her classmates in a rural part of Jaipur in the Indian state of Rajasthan, is certain she doesn't want to be a child bride. "My life would be ruined," said Rajyanti, who at 16 resisted her parents' efforts to marry her off. "I refused the marriage because I want to study and be something." Keshanta and Laali were 13 when their families pushed them to get married. Like Rajyanti, they refused, and, with the help of their teachers, persuaded their parents to let them continue their education.

In India, where 47 percent of girls are married before the age of 18—56 percent in rural communities like the one these girls live in—stories like these are few and far between. But programs aimed at educating and empowering girls are beginning to bear fruit, giving these girls the confidence to say "no" to early marriage, which, for many, would once have been a foregone conclusion.

Those advocating for an end to child marriage say it's hardly a trend at this point, as India still has one of the world's highest child marriage rates. In fact, an estimated 26 million Indian women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before their 18th birthdays, and another 28 million will face the same fate over the next two decades if current trends continue, according to data gathered by UNFPA, the UN Population Fund. And the dire health, economic and social consequences of child marriage extend far beyond the girls themselves, resulting in more infant and maternal deaths, physical and sexual violence and an unending cycle of poverty in many regions of the world, not just in India. Without intervention, the UNFPA estimates another 142 million girls around the globe will become child brides over the next decade.



"Child marriage is an appalling violation of human rights and robs girls of their education, health and long-term prospects," said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, the UNFPA's executive director. "A girl who is married as a child is one whose potential will not be fulfilled. Since many parents and communities also want the very best for their daughters, we must work together and end child marriage." In India, there's reason for optimism. In Haryana state, north of Rajasthan, a government program called Apni Beti Apna Dhan—Our Daughter, Our Wealth in English—offers parents a savings bond when a daughter is born that pays out only if she remains unmarried until after her 18th birthday. The International Center for Research on Women is evaluating the program to determine its impact on child marriage rates, a study that should be completed later this year. But anecdotal evidence suggests it's helping delay marriage for some girls.



ICRW researchers recently examined 23 successful initiatives aimed at curbing child marriage around the globe. In addition to providing economic support to the girls and their families, strategies that worked best focused on educating parents and community members about the dangers of child marriage and providing girls with quality education and support networks. Keshanta, Rajyanti and Laali have benefited from the actions of the Pehchan Project, run by the Centre for Unfolding Learning Potentials (CULP). The nongovernmental organization targets young girls—and even a few boys—who have dropped out of school or who have never attended, and brings them up to speed so they can attend mainstream schools. The group also has ongoing conversations with parents about the importance of keeping their children in school. More than 5,000 children in Rajasthan have benefited from the organization's efforts over the last decade, according to Dr. O. P. Kulhari, the CULP secretary.

Because girls with no education are more than three times as likely to marry as children than girls who attend secondary school, CULP and other programs like it are instrumental in ending child marriage. For Laali and her classmates, that means a future full of possibilities, all of their choosing. "What do I want to do in the future in my life? I will study and be what God makes of me," she said. "We study and we can be anything."

Executive Producer: Stephanie Sinclair. Director: Jessica Dimmock. Photographer: Stephanie Sinclair. Cinematographer: Jessica Dimmock. Editing by Joshua Banville. Text by Edie Gross.

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