Integrating adolescent livelihood activities within a reproductive health programme for urban slum dwellers in India

Integrating adolescent livelihood activities within a reproductive health programme for urban slum dwellers in India

Success at Indian pilot project integrating livelihood activities within a reproductive health programme for adolescent girls

This paper describes a pilot livelihood activities and reproductive health intervention and its impact aimed at adolescent girls aged 14-19 living in urban slums in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India. The project was initiated based on the recognition of the relative disadvantage of adolescent girls and in an effort to build the evidence base for adolescent livelihoods programmes. The project was integrated into an existing adolescent reproductive health programme run by CARE-India. Participants were provided with counselling on livelihoods, training in a range of vocational skills, assistance with savings formation, and supportive follow-up counselling and assistance.

Some significant effects were observed on adolescent girls in the project area, and key findings from the study include:

  • girls in the experimental areas were significantly more likely to know about safe locations for unmarried girls to congregate, be a member of a group, score higher on the social skills index, be informed about reproductive health, and spend time on leisure activities than the matched control respondents
  • participants showed a significant increase in reproductive health knowledge relative to control respondents
  • more than 80 per cent of participants in the experimental area continued to use their vocational skills after the programme ended, and more than half were able to open savings accounts in their name at the local post office. However, only 10 per cent managed to earn any income from their newly acquired skills.

The paper emphasises that a livelihoods programme for adolescent girls was not only acceptable to parents in this very traditional slum community but also feasible to implement. It argues that whilst a short-term intervention cannot alter the structure of opportunities available to adolescent girls, it can raise awareness, social skills, knowledge of safe spaces and group identification.

It recommends that in order to reduce deeply entrenched gender disparities that exist and enhance girls’ ability to have a greater voice in influencing their lives, it would be desirable if future programmes had considerably more contact hours than the experimental intervention described here. Moreover, increased efforts are required to develop group cohesion, and improve the communication, negotiation and decision-making skills of adolescent girls.

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