Adolescent girls in rural Rajasthan continue to experience early marriage, early and repeated pregnancy and discontinuation from secondary schools, all despite legislation against child marriages and government programs designed to both delay marriages and encourage girls to continue with their education, and promote reproductive health. Data shows that in nearly half of the Rajasthan districts, the proportion of girls marrying before age 18 ranges from 61 to 75 per cent, whereas in the remaining districts it ranges from 30 to 60 per cent. Further, modern contraceptive use is only 7% among 15-19 year and 20% among 20-24. The proportion of girls using modern contraceptive is even less in rural areas. Additionally, school drop-out rates are very high in Rajasthan, particularly in secondary school. According to DLHS-3 (2007-08), 41% of 14-17 year girls are out of school, compared to 14 per cent among 11-13 years.
While there are many programs focused on adolescent girls, most programs focus one issue at a time –education, health, livelihood, or life skills. The proposed program is an effort to find opportunities and an approach that can combine various platforms in ways that would provide greater options to girls through shifts in norms and beliefs about girls and young women and will help create safe spaces for women and girls.
In this project, ICRW will work with around 2,500 unmarried and married adolescent girls between the ages of 12-19, as well as their parents, in-laws, community, schools, local health systems and other key stakeholders through an integrated safe-space model program designed to improve safe spaces and the sexual and reproductive health of the adolescent girls, specifically with a focus on the right to comprehensive maternal health care. The concept of safe spaces on a continuum of home, community and schools will provide girls a sense of safety and esteem, and opportunities to remain mobile, form network and access mentors for guidance and help. These spaces will help them gain wider knowledge and skills to face challenges and feel motivated to raise voices to resist pressures against marriage at an early age; to adopt positive sexual and reproductive health related knowledge and attitudes and negotiate access and utilization of SRH services and continue in schools.
The project will specifically work to enhance community support to keep girls in schools and promote higher education, through delayed marriages, and work to create public spaces free from violence. The program will improve girls’ knowledge about sexual and reproductive health services, and improve their access to services.
The objectives of the project are as follows:
- Improved use of sexual and reproductive health services, including more girls using contraceptives;
- Increased support from the parents and community to delay marriage and help girls gain increased access to reproductive health services; and
- Increased support from parents and other community members to end violence against women and girls.