Population Foundation of India pledges support to adolescent sexual, reproductive health in Rajasthan
Session on ‘Engendering Millennials’ at the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival
Jaipur, 27 January, 2019: National non-profit organisation Population Foundation of India (PFI) called for concerted efforts by policymakers and society to normalize the discourse around adolescent sexual and reproductive health as a precursor to social transformation.PFI’s session on ‘Engendering Millennials’ was organized on 27 January at the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF). The panellists included theatre person and filmmaker Puneeta Roy, adolescent health expert and therapist Shelja Sen, author Arushi Raina and PFI’s Executive Director Poonam Muttreja.
According to the Census 2011, every fifth person in India is an adolescent (10-19 years). According to the National Family Health Survey 4 (2015-16), more than half (52%) of currently married women in the age group of 15-19 have already in the age of childbearing. However, just 10% of currently married women of 15-19 years’ age use a modern contraceptive method. In Rajasthan, adolescents (10-19 years) account for 23% of the state’s population (Census 2011). As per NFHS-4, over 35% women between 20 - 24 years in Rajasthan were married before they turned 18.
In the panel discussion at JLF, Poonam Muttreja underlined the urgent need to provide accurate and age-appropriate information to young people. She pointed to the use of edutainment (Entertainment Education) as an effective strategy to overcome the social stigma and traditional norms that shun discussions on sexuality and reproductive health. PFI’s television drama Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon (I, A Woman, Can Achieve Anything) has inspired adolescent girls to challenge social norms and create opportunities to continue their studies, stop child marriage and ensure access to health services.
Dr. Shelja Sen who is the co-founder of ‘Children First’, an organization working on issues of child and adolescent mental health and author of ‘All You Need is Love Imagine’ emphasised the need for sex education and creating safe learning spaces for adolescent on subjects like puberty, sexuality and reproduction. She pointed out that all early adolescents (11- 14 years) usually grapple with questions revolving around sexual identity, gender, disability, race, economic background, and so on. Dr. Sen emphasised on creation of an enabling environment and stated emphatically that millennials must feel OK!
Yuva Ekta Foundation, a NGO working on issues and concerns of adolescents and youth in different parts of the country was represented by its founder Puneeta Roy. She talked about the outreach workshop co-organised by PFI and Yuva Ekta Foundation on 18 January that included participation of school going and non-school going boys and girls in age group of 14 to 18 years. She expressed that the workshop that included children from both urban and rural schools encouraged them to speak in a safe environment on personal experiences related to bodily changes, sexuality, rights and the constraints that they face with family, peers and society from the perspective of adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
Poonam Muttreja also expressed her concerns regarding the misinformation around sexual and reproductive health that is spread through the digital media in the form of adult sexual content.Arushi Raina, whose debut novel “When Morning Comes” has been shortlisted for Crosswords Award, agreed and stated that accessing digital information and content by young people is much faster and that the rule of authority does not apply to delivery of sexual education.
About PFI’s work in Rajasthan
In Rajasthan PFI is working to create an enabling environment to prioritise adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). PFI is also providing adolescents the agency to seek information and access to SRHR services through campaigns in three pilot districts of the state.