More than half of all girls in India marry by the time they reach the legal marriage age of 18. In addition to the many adverse health outcomes associated with early marriage, early marriage limits girls’ education and economic opportunities. It literally defines their future and that of the next generation. That’s the intergenerational nature of poverty. And that's why we support girls and women.
Over the busy past few months, Reach Global has worked with our partner Reach India to identify new ways to support adolescent girls to make positive changes in their lives. When we began in 2007, we equipped girls with essential new knowledge and skills to address many of the daily challenges they face, such as understanding their bodies, eating nutritious food and saving for a goal.
We then expanded our support to help girls and young women meet more difficult challenges, such as negotiating when to marry and when to have their first child—fundamental decisions that have a huge bearing on a girls’ future health and well-being. These challenges are particularly difficult because “gatekeepers” in the family and community usually make these decisions for girls, based on longstanding values and beliefs. Supporting girls in these areas requires sensitive, tactful approaches attuned to local context and what girls can actually achieve.
We're now supporting girls, women and others in rural communities to hold local health care providers accountable for quality care that is sensitive to girls and women’s particular needs. For example, many rural health clinics have no female doctors or nurses. Many have no private area for girls to change. Many don’t provide girls the information and options they need to make good decisions about their reproductive health. We believe basic health care is a right, and we’re identifying ways to help girls and women recognize and pursue this right in communities across India.
This is not easy, but we’re engaging girls to help us design and evaluate Reach education, so we’re accountable to their needs and what we’re providing is as relevant as possible. We hope you’ll continue to help us in this work. As challenging as the circumstances are for girls, every day we see them make important new changes for themselves, their families and communities.