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Sabla: The road to
empowerment and self esteem for adolescent girls
Through various schemes
including Sabla, the government is investing in the health, nutrition and development
needs of adolescent girls to advance their rights to education, health and protection.
This will help them to build a future of gender equality and justice
Adolescence is a phase during which major physical and psychological
changes take place in children, along with changes in their social perceptions
and expectations. Adolescence is also the stage when young people extend their
relationships beyond parents and family and are intensely influenced by their
peers and the outside world. This is the time that they need the maximum
understanding and caring.
There are nearly 1.2 billion adolescents in the world, that is,
those aged between 10 to 19 years.
Studies show that millions of adolescents today do not enjoy
access to quality education, basic sexual and reproductive health care, support
for mental health issues and disability, protection from violence, abuse and exploitation
and forums for active participation.
Women constitute nearly half of the population of the country,
but gender disparities in socio-cultural spheres have adversely affected a balanced
equitable development. These disparities get reflected in important social
development indicators such as health, nutrition, literacy, educational
attainments, skill levels, occupational status and so on. The same is also
reflected in the situation of the adolescent girl.
Adolescent girls in the 10–19 age group constitute almost 47 per
cent of the total population of adolescents in the country. But their
development is fraught with varied problems. Almost 50 per cent of women marry before
the legal age of 18 verses 10 per cent of young men. Overall, one in six women
in the age group of 15-19 have begun childbearing. Early childbearing is most
common in rural areas and among women with no education. Around 41 per cent of all
maternal deaths take place among those aged 15-24 years. 56 per cent adolescent
girls are anemic (verses 30 per cent adolescent boys). Anemic adolescent
mothers are at a higher risk of miscarriages, maternal mortality and
still-births and low-weight babies. The drop-out rates among the girls are quite
high. 21 per cent adolescent girls and 8 per cent adolescent boys have no education.
Dropout rates among girls are high largely due to distance from schools, male
teachers, sanitation facilities at school, early marriage and early assumption
of domestic responsibilities, etc.
Adolescent girls are a core resource for national growth.
Investment in their health and development is investment in the greater
well-being of the country. Considering that several of these girls are out of
school, get married early, face discrimination in accessing health, education
and other services, work in vulnerable situations, and are influenced by peer
pressure, they need special attention. The public health challenges for
adolescents, which include pregnancy, risk of maternal and infant mortality,
sexually transmitted diseases, reproductive tract infections, rapidly rising
incidence of HIV, etc., require to be brought to the attention of adolescent
girls(AGs). They need to be looked at in terms of their needs both as a group
as well as individuals as they are the productive members of the society in
future. Recognizing the unmet needs of AGs, Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment
of Adolescent Girls – Sabla has been launched as a comprehensive intervention
for Adolescent girls in the age-group of 11-18 years, with a focus on out of
school girls. The scheme is now operational in 205 districts across the country
on a pilot basis.
The Sabla project has picked up in the last two years with a
marked increase in community participation. This has been achieved by
mobilizing the public and making them aware of the rights and needs of
Using the ICDS platform, this scheme is reaching out to nearly 1crore
adolescent girls between 11 – 18 years of age with an integrated package of services.
Sabla aims at all-round development of adolescent girls of 11-18
years (with a focus on all out-of-school AGs) by making them ‘self reliant’. At
the Anganwadi Centre, supplementary nutrition providing 600 Kcal and 18-20 g of
protein and micronutrients is provided every day either as hot cooked meal or as
take home rations to out of school adolescent girls in 11-14 years age group
and all girls between 14-18 years for 300 days in a year.
In addition, out of school adolescent girls are being provided non-
nutrition services which include life skills education, supervised weekly iron
and folic acid (IFA) tablets, supplementation and nutrition counselling, sexual
and reproductive health education and counselling, skills in leadership,
problem solving, decision making and accessing public services.
NGOs also provide counselling services under ARSH (adolescent
reproductive sexual health counselling).
In addition, older adolescent girls (16 - 18 year olds) are
given vocational training to make them self reliant. The Scheme also emphasizes
convergence of services under various programmes such as Health, Education,
Youth affairs and Sports, and Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) to achieve the programme
With the support of community based frontline workers (anganwadi
workers) and civil society groups, adolescent girls have been organized in
groups called Kishori Samoohs. Each Samooh is led by a peer leader(Kishori
Sakhi) who meet at least 5-6 hours a week to receive programme services and
function as a peer support group.
There is an effective co-ordination between the Anganwadi
worker, (AWW) and the kishori samoohs,. One AWW can have one or two samoohs
under her care.
Every girl enrolled in Sabla is given a Kishori
Card, an entitlement tool to monitor girls’ access to and uptake of the
services under Sabla. The non-nutrition services under the Sabla
programme interventions also reach out to the non-school going adolescent
girls through adolescent groups i.e., Kishori Samooh meetings. Each adolescent
group comprises of 15 – 25 adolescent girls led by peer leaders i.e., Kishori
Sakhi and their two associates i.e., Sahelis. The Sakhis and Sahelis
are imparted training and serve as a peer monitor/ educator for adolescent
girls. They serve the group for one year and each girl will have a term of four
months as a Sakhi on rotation basis. The AGs also participate in day to day activities
of AWC like Pre School, Education, growth monitoring and SNP and facilitate the
AWW in other activities. They also accompany the AWW for home visits (2-3 girls
at a time) which will serve as a training ground for future.
Tamil Nadu is doing very well in Sabla but Delhi has shown poor performance,
evidence suggests. In Delhi, they don’t have enough Sabla kits and Sabla
registers have not been maintained. Publicity material has also not been
printed. In some states, the funds are available but they are not being
properly absorbed. Whatever little is there, is not being used.
Constant monitoring of the scheme is carried out by ASCI
(Administrative Staff Training College Institute), Hyderabad. Every three
months, a report is also sent by the state governments. Evaluation is also carried
out by the National monitoring and Co-ordination Committee.
There is a need to educate the community and the girls.
Pamphlets are distributed so that they know their rights and entitlements. Advertisements
are also put out in the media and state governments.
A module has also been developed to prevent child trafficking by
enlightening the girls through exposure by NGOs and AWWs.
Sabla endeavours to have adolescent girls with enhanced self esteem
and improved nutrition and health status. It aims to provide them with enhanced
skills and the capacity to make informed choices. Through various schemes
including Sabla, the government is investing in the health, nutrition
and development needs of adolescent girls to advance their rights to education,
health and protection. This will help them to build a future of gender equality
By : Manisha Jain The author is a
journalist specialising in social sector issues. She has also written books on