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SABLA for Adolescence Girl


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 adolescent girls.

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 objectives. 

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 and justice. 

By : Manisha Jain The author is a journalist specialising in social sector issues. She has also written books on health issues


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