• News
  • Columns
  • Interviews
  • BW Communities
  • Events
  • BW TV
  • Subscribe to Print
  • Editorial Calendar 19-20
BW Businessworld

This Women’s Day, Pledge For 3 Things For Every Girl To Help Her Transition To Adulthood

To reverse this vicious cycle, 3 vital inputs during adolescence can save a girl’s life – both literally and figuratively.

Photo Credit :

One girl amongst ten in India is an adolescent. Globally, we account for a fifth (20%) of the world’s teenage girls. This age, starting just before puberty upto the age of 18, is a time of unprecedented change for a girl. At home, this is the time when influencers in her life- – parents, relatives, neighbours – are socializing her into the accepted mores of behaviours and attitudes. At school, factors such as distance from home and toilets are becoming critical to whether or not she is able to go to school regularly and absorb learning. 

For many girls in India, this transitional age comes at a great cost to both health and overall well-being. Among 11-17-year-old girls, as many as 34% stop going to secondary school. Simultaneously, girls get pulled into housework: in India, teenage girls work 120-150% more than boys. More than a fourth of them – 26.8% to be exact – are married before reaching the legal age of marriage. (About 7.9% of girls aged 15-19 are already mothers, a fact that stands out since the total number of adolescent girls is a whopping 120 million).

The overall impact of such institutionalized forms of neglect at such a critical age comes at great cost to the girl herself, her family, the community and the nation. Uneducated mothers who are living with the enduring legacies of early/non-consensual marriage and motherhood are less likely to support the next generation’s rights to education and health. A young mother who hasn’t completed school may simply not know how to access her own entitlements and those of her children. In India, as in many parts of the world, this is what leads to the inter-generational nature of poverty – with poor people unable to exercise their agency to access the entitlements the Government provides for them.

To reverse this vicious cycle, 3 vital inputs during adolescence can save a girl’s life – both literally and figuratively.

Ensure school completion
There is an oft-quoted 100-country World Bank study that links increased access to girls’ secondary education to an annual income increase of 0.3% per capita, per additional year of schooling. Schools as a safe space are vital also because they can be used to provide information and exposure to girls growing up in restricted environment on things like digital tools, and financial management. One UN report states that each year of secondary schooling reportedly increases girls’ future wages by up to 20 per cent, and when women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 per cent of it into their families – two or three times as much as men do.

Skill girls
The secondary school-going age is crucial for another reason – as preparation for future careers. Life skills such as problem solving and critical thinking, which the World Health Organization (WHO) lists as globally relevant life skills, become doubly relevant for girls who are fighting entrenched challenges such as discrimination and exploitation.

Ensure access to health information and rights:
When girls approach adolescence, they enter a stage of heightened vulnerability—to leaving school, child marriage, early pregnancy, HIV, sexual exploitation, coercion and violence. It’s critical that they get expanded access to information and services that address the specific reproductive and sexual health issues of young people, especially the poorest and most vulnerable girls. Such information  impacts her ability to enter motherhood safely and choose when to have children, and how many.

Somewhat obviously, working with the ecosystem is as important in this area. Parents, teachers, siblings, influencers – the support system can make or break a girl’s ability to exercise her rights. 
Recognizing the above, , the Government of India has recognized that “the health situation of this age group (15-19) is a key determinant of India’s overall health, mortality, morbidity and population growth scenario”. Of the several schemes currently operational, of special mention are the Rashtriya Kishore Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) that seeks to enable all adolescents and youth to realize their full potential, the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhoa scheme, the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) and many other schemes at state level like the Mukhya Mantri Kanya Uthan Yojana in Bihar, Kanyashree in West Bengal, the Ladli Laxmi Yojana in Madhya Pradesh and the Bhagyalaxmi in Karnataka. To exact the fullest benefits from such provisions, non-governmental players need to be consciously hard-nosed about creating convergence, taking care to align their efforts, with a special focus on filling gaps.

Realising girl’s empowerment requires concerted efforts that prioritise their needs and preferences, and recognise their diversity. It is also important to adopt a holistic lens, and recognise that no one intervention can address all of the core building blocks, like access to education, skills development and training, access to quality, decent paid work, solutions to unpaid work and care burdens, access to property, assets and financial services,  adequate social protection, and equitable social norms. Further, contextually relevant strategies – particularly for poorer and marginalised girls are essential to ensure equitable outcomes

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tags assigned to this article:
women's international day 2020 WID 2020

Aparajita Gogoi

The author is the Executive Director of the New Delhi-based think tank and action advocacy body, Centre for Catalyzing Change (C3)

More From The Author >>