Why to invest in Adolescent and Reproductive Health of Young Girls
-By Miss Priyanka Raina, Founder, Gracia Raina Foundation
Adolescence (age 10-19 years) is a tender age in a youth’s life where there are many physical, mental and emotional changes taking place. A transitional stage for growth, learning and development, it prepares them for the next crucial phase of life: adulthood. Unfortunately, adolescents, who make up for one sixth of the world’s population and account for 6% of the global burden of disease and injury, suffer over 1.2 million deaths each year. India lacks fundamental knowledge on sexual health in both men and women. Being uneducated or having no access to healthcare can put both genders at risk, especially when it comes to sex and contraception.
Young women in particular, are more vulnerable as they hit puberty. Reports indicate that adolescent girls in India are more susceptible to anemia (40%) compared to boys (18%). Early marriages, teen pregnancies, malnutrition, gender neglect, menstrual hygiene and lack of knowledge on sexual and reproductive health are some of the life conditions of adolescent women in rural India.
21% of Indian population comprises of adolescents (about 243 million). They are the future of our country and a powerful demographic and economic force. When girls in their adolescence are provided with access to information andhealthcare facilities that take care of their emotional, physical, menstrual, sexual, reproductive and mental well-being, along with Sexual and Reproductive Rights, they can develop into healthy and responsible adults. It is therefore imperative for a nation like India to invest in adolescent health.
Today, the government is raising awareness through several schemes with support from various NGOs to promote sexual and reproductive health amongst adolescent girls. Particularly in rural areas, where there is a lack of education, where women’s rights are not always prioritized and where there is a dominance of a patriarchal set-up, it becomes even more crucial for the government to take care of their needs.
Menstrual hygiene has become a subject of national interest and activists to celebrities are openly discussing it today. The Indian government has made it a priority to focus on adolescent health by launching the Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health Strategy (ARSH) in 2005 and the National Adolescent Health Programme (Rashtriya Kishore Swaasthya Karyakram or RKSK) in 2014.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has introduced a scheme for promotion of menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls in the age group of 10-19 years in rural areas. Under this program, they aim at educating adolescent girls on menstrual hygiene. Initiated in 2011 in 17 states across India, this scheme is now extended to States/UTs under National Health Mission for decentralized procurement of sanitary napkins at subsidized rates.
Additionally, when corporates lend their support through CSR initiatives, it bridges the financial gap and reduces dependency on the government. In 2014, India became the first country to legally mandate Corporate Social Responsibility. This is a huge opportunity for corporate India to contribute to causes that matter. Most companies focus on five categories when it comes to CSR, namely: education, environment, poverty, gender equality, and hunger. Focus and investment on Adolescent and Reproductive Health of Young Girls through CSR initiatives is the need of the hour. Contributing to raising awareness on teen pregnancies, educating on adolescent and sexual health of a nation through consistent allocation of funds can change the familial and economic structure of the country.
At Gracia Raina Foundation (GRF), our goal is to empower every woman in her reproductive age with the knowledge required to make informed decisions about reproductive and maternal health. We take care of the complete lifecycle in a woman’s life: from adolescence to adulthood, pregnancy, motherhood, child birth and infancy.
Several programmes are run for mothers and adolescent girls with the aim to create well-informed and empowered women about pregnancy-related challenges, menstruation, early motherhood and other reproductive health disorders. Ourfoundation partners with local agencies, health workers and communities to mobilize and promote healthy behaviors and practices.
Committed to the aid of underprivileged women, GRF aims to provide support and effective solutions to ensure maternal and new born wellness by implementing a self-sustained model.