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$Adolescent Empowerment $ today is the key to a more $equitable tomorrow$.

How can you hope to win a fight when you don’t start on an even playing field?

For generations, Indian girls have been losing the battle for autonomy to our deep-rooted system of patriarchy.  Add economic exclusion and extreme gender and caste discrimination to the mix, and ask yourself – how can they then hope to reach their potential? How can they dream when we don’t give them the option to? How do we empower them to create an equitable community for themselves and future generations? 

From sex-selective abortions to a high rate of female infant mortality, the odds are against them from the start. Often unwanted, girls face neglect and discrimination in their very own families, resulting in poorer health, higher instances of anaemia, and lower chances of completion of education. They are deprived of choices and of freedom to imagine a life they can live on their own terms, free of violence and discrimination. 

Programmes.

Our work on the ground.

Our Adolescent Empowerment Programme is built on a life-cycle approach, through which we speak to young people, kids and adolescents in schools, Anganwadi centres and communities to drive the messages in a consistent and sustained manner. 

  1. Young Adolescents

We reach out to boys and girls from the ages of 11 to 14 through a two-year school-based programme, designed to help them tackle harmful social and gender norms that contribute to girls dropping out of school early. We create awareness of their rights, promote agency, develop negotiation skills and encourage inter-gender and inter-generational dialogues on the issues that most affect them, encouraging them to be more confident and help build self-worth. 

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) recently evaluated our school programme in Haryana where we worked with 300 schools and 14, 000 children over two years, and found that our interventions brought about significant positive shifts in gender attitudes and behaviours of both and girls. The fact that the behaviour change was greater for boys than girls, gives us hope for bringing about large scale change in gender norms. 

  1. Older Adolescent Girls

We work with girls in the crucial age group of 15-18 years to help them have better control of their lives and bodies. These are our peer educators and we engage them in Anganwadi centres to help build agency, develop aspirations through career counselling and conduct sessions on sexual and reproductive health. 

To break the myth and shame around menstruation and ensure hygienic practice, Breakthrough Facilitators conduct interactive sessions using a Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) Kit which includes reusable cloth pads, napkins and menstrual cups, enabling them to better manage their periods with information about and access to the different options available to them. 

In Haryana, where we work with the government to implement the Baalika Manch focussed on SRHR and MHM, girls from various schools came together and pooled in money to build Sanitary napkin banks so that girls don’t have to miss school during menstruation. 

 

  1. Peer Leaders

We identify and train young youth leaders (Aged 19+) to become our advocates, our voice in their communities. They mobilize their communities, work with adolescent groups and ensure a more gender-equitable ecosystem is built in their immediate environment. In Uttar Pradesh, the Peer leaders are also a part of the government’s RKSK programme, doing their bit for the success of critical programmes like Village Health Nutrition Days (VHNDs) and Adolescent Health Days (AHDs), where they ensure active participation and that adolescents have access to health and education.

  1. Frontline Health Workers – Training and Sensitization

Health workers play a crucial role in the community ecosystem, and our interventions are geared to ensuring there is no provider bias – that their own views on caste, gender, sexuality do not interject the important services, products and counselling required by any adolescent. So we work ANMs, ASHAs and AWWs to provide trainings on gender, rights and sexuality. The programme encourages an open channel of communication between the health workers and the young boys and girls, so they are less hesitant to reach out to them in case of any health needs, doubts or questions like contraception and menstrual health. 

  1. Community Mobilization 

We work with different elements of the community to ensure a comprehensive impact of our interventions and programmes. Shifting norms and deep-rooted practised requires us to work with parents, teachers, frontline health workers and PRI members. Through media outreach and community mobilization activities, we aim to make them partners in creating safe spaces of young girls and boys and strengthening their understanding and responses to the specific needs of adolescents. Our unique approach uses popular culture and the arts, and mediums like video vans, theatre, music and dance to encourage conversations and debates about the critical issues impacting girls and women in the community. 

  1. 6. Media and Technology 

Media and technology are at the core of the Breakthrough approach to creating conversations around gender-based discrimination. Building on the message “Change starts with you”, we create thought-provoking mass media films, digital interventions, hyper-local campaigns and more to seed accountability among our many different and disparate audience segments. Some of our most prominent, and award-winning campaigns have helped start a dialogue on domestic violence sexual harassment. Our campaign Bell Bajao was adopted by more than seven countries and advocated by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

  1. Government Engagement

We engage with the government at the district, state and national level to advocate for and ensure access to rights for adolescents. In Haryana, we are a part of the national and district level Task Force for the national Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao programme – and many of the prominent mass media campaigns use communication developed by breakthrough. In Uttar Pradesh, we are also a part of the government’s technical support for RKSK. For the government of Bihar, we developed a state-action plan to tackle the issue of early marriage, designed a 360-degree action plan for the same, and have also trained 13 line departments on the subjects of early marriage and dowry.

Blogs.

A glimpse at our projects in action.

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