Recent research by UNICEF verifies how girls in India face a rough deal when compared to boys. Here are some key findings from a recent uncef report -
"Almost 47 percent of the girls in the age group of 11 to 19 years are underweight in India, which is the highest in the world," says the report which considered three criteria -health, nutrition and education - to comment on the state of adolescents globally.“This is of concern as anemic girls being undernourished are the first to drop out of school and are married off early,” - Karin Hulsof of Unicef India.“The adolescent birth rate also stands at 45 - the number of births per thousand women between the ages of 15 and 19 years,” according to the report titled ‘State of the World's Children 2011’.
“About 57 per cent of the poorest children in India are underweight compared to 20 per cent of the richest.”
I came across some insightful information on a UNICEF blog about adolescents in India. Here are some interesting facts from that blog:
* India has the highest adolescent population in the world
* It is still the case that boys enjoy a higher quality of adolescence than girls
* The biggest health problem for Indian female adolescents is Anemia - about 50% of girls aged between 15-19 in India are anemic.
* The risk of HIV is significantly higher amongst adolescent females than adolescent males
Karin Hulshof, UNICEF India Representative concluded that -
The available data shows that maximum adolescence today, do not get to enjoy or have access to quality education, basic sexual reproductive health care, support for mental health issue and disability and protection from violence, abuse and exploitation and a forum for their participation.
Karunaprabha, leader of the project in Pune tells us about the biggest challenges that she and her team have faced when working to empower the girls -
What have been the biggest challenges for you in your work?
In the age group that we work with, girls rarely go out of the house- they aren't allowed. So it is often quite a task to try and convince parents to let them come to our activities. Another problem, even when they are allowed, is that many of the girls in the slums are addicted to watching tv serials so they often decide not to attend the sessions. This habit can catch on to other girls, as just like most adolescents this age, they are very susceptible to peer pressure.
I thought it'd be interesting to get Karunaprabha (the leader of this project in Pune) to share her thoughts about aspects of the project. She kindly answered a series of questions for me, which I'll be sharing with you in the next few weeks!
Question: What do you see as the biggest successes that you have seen in your work?
1. First of all, our efforts mean that we've been successful in creating a supportive environment where the girls can build their self-esteem and confidence.
2. Another big change has been the fact they they all eat healthy food now, and they know about the impact of food on their well-being.
3. It's lovely to see them all interact with one another and make friends - so different to the isolation that many faced before.
4. A major step has been how girls are becoming financially empowered through having done vocational training.
5. The girls really are becoming agents in their own lives, participating in decision-making over issues that affect their own lives.
A message to you, from Pranali
Name: Pranali Mahendra Khandagale.
Education: 10th STD
Age: 15 years.
Before joining life skill class I was very introverted and shy. I did not feel comfortable to go out of the house and mix with other girls.
After joining the class, I started to change as my confidence built up. My mother was very happy to see these positive changes in me. I really developed trust towards the people in my class and the Project. Every day I used to go to the class.
We girls all visited the orphanage home and felt very sad about the orphan children. We also visited the police station and bank to know how they function. We were happy to play, sing and come together in class.
I was very happy to participate in an adventure camp at Mumbai (Bombay-Karjat). For the first time in my life, I got opportunity to participate in such type of camp. I was very frightened at the time of crossing the valley but bit by bit I started to feel that I can do it - and I did it!
The Project will also be helpful for my future life, and now I feel that I can successfully come out from any obstacles and problematic situation in my life.
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