Empowerment of 200000 Adolescent Girls in India

by Ashish Gram Rachna Trust: Institute of Health Management, Pachod
Empowerment of 200000 Adolescent Girls in India
Empowerment of 200000 Adolescent Girls in India
Empowerment of 200000 Adolescent Girls in India
Empowerment of 200000 Adolescent Girls in India
Empowerment of 200000 Adolescent Girls in India
Empowerment of 200000 Adolescent Girls in India
Empowerment of 200000 Adolescent Girls in India
Empowerment of 200000 Adolescent Girls in India
Empowerment of 200000 Adolescent Girls in India
Empowerment of 200000 Adolescent Girls in India
Empowerment of 200000 Adolescent Girls in India
Empowerment of 200000 Adolescent Girls in India
Empowerment of 200000 Adolescent Girls in India
Empowerment of 200000 Adolescent Girls in India

Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, large scale migration is taking place in the slums where Institute of Health Management Pachod (IHMP) is working. The result is that the slums continue to have new sets of families every month.

One such family migrated to Ramnagar, one of our project slums. During routine household visits to identify the health needs of married adolescent girls and young married women, the community health worker visited a family that had migrated to the slum recently.

The family members kept denying the presence of an adolescent girl in their house. After several visits, when there was no other member in the house, Komal (name changed), an adolescent girl, came running to the community health worker saying that she needs immediate help.

On inquiring, it turned out that the girl was not allowed to step out of the house, not to speak to anyone, and the family also denied her presence to the community health worker. Komal is only 18 years old, is married and has a baby. Within 2 months of the first delivery, Komal conceived again and is currently pregnant with her second child. She said that she is very weak, scared that she is not receiving any support from her family and is also not taken to a hospital for care during her second pregnancy.

Komal and her family members were counselled by the community health worker, and she was visited by IHMP’s front line worker. The health worker identified symptoms of severe anaemia.

Komal had continuous nausea and vomiting, swelling of the body and weakness. The community health worker referred her to IHMP’s pathology laboratory. Her haemoglobin level was found to be 4.0 g/dl which is dangerously low. The report was explained to her husband and mother-in-law by IHMP’s front line worker including the consequences which Komal and her child might face if proper care is not taken at this stage.

Komal was then immediately admitted to a hospital for treatment. Her haemoglobin level rose to 9.1 g/dL, and she feels better with no more weakness. She is also taking an iron rich diet as guided by IHMP’s front line worker.

Early identification of such health issues combined with interpersonal communication and counselling, and laboratory services in the community, are overcoming risks and complications that may affect these young mothers and their children.

IHMP is monitoring haemoglobin levels for all adolescent girls in the community and providing them with iron supplements and nutrition education to prevent anaemia and its consequences.

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My name is Pallavi. I live in Wadigodri village. I attended Life Skills Education conducted by Institute of Health Management Pachod in 2019, in my village.

 During our Life Skills Education we had a discussion on what “Empowerment” means to each girl participating in the course. I too wrote down what ‘Empowerment” means to me and would like to share my perceptions through this letter.

I believe empowerment is related to knowledge, imagination, critical thinking, status, money, etc.My understanding of empowerment means one’s ability to do things.

Participation in the Life Skills Education completely changed my thinking about gender. I don’t think about girls being at a disadvantage as a result of discrimination any more.

Since I am a girl, I want to talk about girl’s power. I think a girl is a special creation of God that makes her different from others. A girl’s power is that she can handle every situation, she knows when to talk and when to remain calm and silent.

As a girl I use my power to keep my mind focused on my goal. My journey from a village to a nearby big city for higher education could happen because of my self confidence that if I decide, I can definitely do it. I could use the communication skills learnt during Life Skills Education to convince my parents to send me for further education. My parents have full confidence in me that I will be able to manage on myown in a big city.

As a girl today, I have a desire to learn and the ability to apply my knowledge and skills to the challenges in my life. I developed this power of positive thinking after attending Life Skills Education. My thinking is that a girl can do anything if she is able to identify her strengths and abilities.

I also feel the girls in my village felt greatly empowered when a Girl’s Collective was established in our village by the Institute of Health Management Pachod. We were able to do so many things as a collective, which we could not have imagined doing alone.

Hundreds of girls in our villages have undergone life skills education. I am sure they too share my perception that “Positive thinking combined with positive action results in success”

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Aarti lives in a small village in our project area. She is one of 4 siblings. Both her parents work as agriculture labourers since they have an exceedingly small piece of land.

 

She completed the Life Skills Education (LSE) course conducted in her village by Institute of Health management Pachod (IHMP), in 2018. At that time, she was 14 years old, studying in the - 8th standard in the school that is located in her village. Girls can receive only 8 years of schooling in this village school following which they are invariably married off.

 

Before coming for Life Skills Education (LSE), Aarti was shy and never spoke to anyone. Very often she used to remain absent in school.

 

Initially, she was not attending the LSE course regularly. IHMP’s LSE teacher complained about her lack of attendance. IHMP’s field staff visited her house to counsel her about the importance of life skills education, how it provides girls with the opportunity to learn about so many things that they do not learn in school. She was also told that if she does not continue with her school education, she will probably be married off by her parents.

 

That got Aarti thinking!

 

She started attending LSE sessions regularly and soon realised that she was receiving remarkably interesting information and acquiring useful skills from the LSE classes. She started participating in rallies and street plays. She said – “Suddenly I felt much more confident, I learnt how to communicate with others and persuade them about my point of view, now I am very sure how to claim my rights and entitlements”.

 

Aarti says – “Ever since I attended Life Skills Education, I am able to take decisions and state my opinions in front of others. This would not have been possible otherwise”.

 

Aarti’s grandmother brought a marriage proposal for her when she was studying in the eighth class. She told her parents – “You are supporting the education of my brother, similarly you should support me to continue with higher education. I want to study and be self-reliant, only after that will I get married. If you force me to get married, I will call ChildLine No. 1098 to stop my marriage.

 

Childline 1098 is India’s first 24-hour, emergency phone service for children in need of aid and assistance. During Life Skills Education adolescent girls are taught about child line 1098 in case they are in any sort of need.

 

Today Aarti is in the 10th standard in a residential school, which is at a distance of about 40 miles from her village. Very proudly she announces that she was able to negotiate with her parents and convince them to let her continue with higher education.

 

During Life Skills education Aarti also participated in the sessions on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. In the hostel where she now lives, she shared information she had acquired during LSE on menstruation and the importance of personal hygiene during menstruation, with other adolescent girls. Aarti also told girls how to dispose used sanitary napkins.

 

During one of her vacations, she visited IHMP and requested the coordinator for a copy of the Sexual and Reproductive Health manual. She said – “I want to share information about – physical changes during adolescence, female reproductive system, and menstrual hygiene management, with other adolescent girls in my school. If I have a copy of the manual, I will be able to share more detailed information and show my friends the pictures in the manual”.

 

Of course, Aarti was given a copy of the manual on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, so that she could share it with adolescent girls in her school.

In the hostel where she stays, she realised that her friends were using cloth as sanitary napkins during their menstrual periods. So, she wrote an application requesting for sanitary pads to be provided, took signatures of all the girls, and gave it to the school principal and their hostel warden. After a short delay, the school authorities arranged to supply sanitary pads, which they sourced from another organisation.

 

Close to 100,000 girls have gone through the Life Skills education conducted by IHMP over the last two decades. They use the cognitive and practical skills they have acquired for claiming and reclaiming their rights in myriad ways. It is our dream that they will ensure that their generation and the one after them are enlightened and empowered enough to transform the quality-of-life of adolescent girls in this country.

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Monali (name changed), a 17-year-old newlywed, lives in Wahegaon. She got married when she had just turned 17 years. Her husband is a marginal farmer, and their financial condition is not good. They live in joint family with Monali’s in-laws.

During her routine household visit, Alka the community health worker (ASHA), identified Monali as a newlywed adolescent girl who had recently come to her village. During Alka’s visit, Monali looked scared and reluctant to talk. Her in-laws home, the neighbours, the village where her in-laws live, everything was alien to her. She did not have any friends from whom she could get information.

When Institute of Health Management Pachod (IHMP’s) frontline workers visited her home along with the ASHA, they asked her if she had thought about pregnancy and childbirth. She told the workers that her husband and in-laws wanted her to have a baby as soon as possible. The workers discussed with Monali, the risks of pregnancy for an adolescent girl. She said her in-laws may not agree to delay childbirth. Monali said she would discuss contraceptive use with her husband and get back to Alka the ASHA in her village.

IHMP’s workers told Monali that they would return when her husband came back from their farm. On their next visit they counselled him about the risks of early motherhood. After much discussion Monali’s husband agreed to convince his parents.

When asked about family planning, IHMP’s staff found that neither Monali nor her husband knew anything about family planning or contraceptive use. Recognizing their need, the staff counselled Monali and her husband about the most suitable contraceptive for the couple.

Monali’s husband agreed but her in-laws were insistent that they wanted a grandchild as soon as possible. The ASHA along with the front-line workers made another visit, this time to meet Monali’s in-laws. The ASHA met with Monali’s in-laws and counselled them about the dangers to the mother and her unborn child, if Monali were to become pregnant at such an early age.

Monali her husband and her in-laws all agreed to postpone childbirth till she reaches 20 years of age. Monali’s husband is using condoms to avoid pregnancy. The ASHA ensures a steady supply of condoms.

Changing the social norm that forces girls to prove their fertility, soon after they get married, is not easy to change. It requires several visits and counselling of key decision makers in the family.

IHMP has established an effective reporting system for marriages. As soon as a marriage takes place in the village the ASHA enrols the couple. Thereafter, counselling begins for the girl, her husband, and her in-laws.

There are over a million ASHAs in India. They can delay first birth and save the lives of thousands of married adolescent girls and their new-born babies.

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Amrapali responsible for most household chores
Amrapali responsible for most household chores

The unstoppable Amrapali 

Amrapali (name changed) lives with her parents in a small village, Dongaon. She is the youngest of four daughters in her family.Her father has merely 6 years of schooling and her mother is illiterate. They have one acre of agricultural land. Both parents work on their agriculture field. Her three older sisters are already married. Amrapali has to do most of the household work.

Her parents arranged the marriage of her two sistersas soon as they reached 13 years of age,since her village had a school only till 7th grade. Her third sister was married off at the age of 15 years soon after she had completed 10thgrade of school. All three were child marriages.

Amrapali completed Life Skills Education conducted by Institute of Health management Pachod (IHMP),when she was 13 years old, studying in the 7thgrade,in her school. She learnt about the adverse consequences of early marriage. Her Life Skills Education teacher motivated her to continue with her education so that she can be self-reliant in future.

Amarapali says “after attending the Life Skills Education course, my communication skills have improved. Now I am able to present my point of view in front of others, negotiate and convince them. I am not intimidated by any one or anything”.

She attended the Sexual and Reproductive Health modules, which are a part of the Life Skills Education course. Recently she was sent by her school to participate in an inter-school competition on reproductive health. Girls from 7th to 10thgrade participated in the competition. Amrapali answered all the questionsrelated to the female reproductive system and menstruation, with confidenceand without a trace of embarrassment. Now, Amrapali goes from house to house educating parents about the adverse consequences of early marriage.

During the Life Skills Education classes conducted by IHMP, she shared with the other girls in her group, the problems faced by her three sisters because of early marriage and pregnancy. She convinced thegirls in her batch not to agree to get married before the age of 18 years.

Currently, Amrapali is studying in the 10thgrade,in a school located in a village that is at a distance of 9 miles from her village. Even though there is a school up to the 10th grade in her own village, Dongaon, she convinced her parents and took admission in the school in the neighbouring village as she can continue studying up to her graduation in this school.

She needs Rs. 500 per month to commute daily to the school. Since her parents cannot afford to pay for her transportation, she raises this amount by working in the fields during holidays.

She tells other adolescent girls in her village, “now girls should pursue their dreams as they are doing better than boys in each sphere”. She has convinced her parents, that she will get married only after she has completed her education. Unstoppable, Amrapali wants to be a doctor.

Amrapali with her friend orienting parents
Amrapali with her friend orienting parents
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Organization Information

Ashish Gram Rachna Trust: Institute of Health Management, Pachod

Location: Aurangabad, Maharashtra - India
Website:
Project Leader:
Ashok Dyalchand
Aurangabad, Maharashtra India
$155,927 raised of $250,000 goal
 
1,021 donations
$94,073 to go
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