The Young Visionaries contest grant will certainly add wings to my vision. Sometime back, I came across a report of The Girl Effect, which said that “When we use our resources to improve girls’ lives, benefits accelerate for everyone, now and in the future. That’s the girl effect—a high return investment.” I have been intrigued by this idea, and hence my project will focus especially on girls.
With the grant that I will receive from the International Women’s Health Coalition, I will design a program that will provide adolescent girls with access to information, education, and resources that will empower them to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health including contraceptive use, safe abortion, birth spacing, pre and post-natal care, and management of pregnancy and childbirth-related complications.
This is pertinent given the background that women in Nepal are under pressure to marry young and produce sons before they can properly support or even understand childbirth. This is the reason that Nepal has a high rate of adolescent pregnancies, and roughly 20% of adolescent girls are pregnant or are mothers with at least one child. About half of them do not receive adequate obstetric care, resulting in 19% of maternal deaths from this age group.
The program will be conducted in community schools in and around the Kathmandu Valley. Community Schools are run and managed by communities, with little funding support from the government. This is the prime reason that the program will be conducted in community schools because this way, rather than informing just the girls, the message will also be conveyed to the members of the community who manage and operate the schools.
Informing young girls about their bodies and about their rights will be a great step since in Nepal such issues are not openly discussed, and are hardly included in the curriculum. I remember my school days when my teachers were apprehensive to discuss sexual and reproductive health in depth, and completed the entire chapter on a stretch, without much relevant information. Parents are often skeptical to talk about the issue with their daughters. So, given these facts, the program will be a nice intervention to inform girls who have just hit their adolescence and guide them in their moment of transition. The program is intended to empower them to make their own decisions concerning marriage, pregnancy, and children.
The girls will be trained in a way that they can carry the lessons and pass on to the next batch, in the coming years. This way the program, rather than being a one-time affair, will continue and have a ripple effect.
The program will be conducted in partnership with a youth club I am member of, and an organization that works on the issues of reproductive and sexual health.