India is a young country with a strong demographic dividend and home to more than 243 million adolescents, accounting for a quarter of the country’s population. According to UNFPA 2016 report, 150 million of these are adolescent girls. A UNICEF-India 2014-15 report explains that girls from the marginalized sectors of the country, in particular, face profound challenges in access and affordability to basic necessities of life like food, shelter, health, the opportunity for education, and for making their own choices; challenges that disempower them. Adolescent girls, in particular, face numerous daily obstacles in reaching their full potential, some of these include: gender discrimination, school drop-out, early marriage, early and imposed motherhood, malnutrition, oppression and suppression, sexual harassment at home and at work. Further, for the adolescent girls, the subject of health or ‘ill-health’ arrives in a serious and consistent manner with the onset of menstruation. There is a strong and deep-rooted culture of silence around this issue in India that transcends region, caste, class, religion, and ethnicity. In PUKAR’s study conducted in 2014, almost 65% of adolescent girls were not aware of the occurrence of a menstrual cycle until they started their own cycle. Girls’ attitudes and expectations about menstruation have found to contribute to self-objectification, body shame and lack of agency in sexual decision-making. Studies also reveal that at the onset of menstruation, girls’ lives change abruptly and is often the case- their freedom of movement may be restricted; less socializing, school attendance, religious practice, participation in sports, mobility, etc. Hence through its Journey Towards Dignity Program, PUKAR aims to equip adolescent girls with knowledge about themselves, their body physiology, their body image, self-esteem, confidence, and their gendered identity.
The social problems on the other hand include pre-emergency social problems (e.g. poverty; economic disparities, being a member of a group that is discriminated against or marginalised; political subjugation); emergency-induced social and economic problems (e.g. drastic decline of income generation, economic crisis, family separation; disruption of social networks; destruction of community fabric, resources and trust; increased violence against women and girls); and humanitarian aid-induced social problems (e.g. undermining of community structures or community’s existing support mechanisms). While emergencies are likely to affect masses, certain groups of individuals such as women, children, elderly, poor, migrants, frontline workers, marginalised and those with pre-existing vulnerabilities etc., are likely to be disproportionately affected by the emergencies
Surviving a catastrophe requires resilience of the spirit, not just the body. Studies on the effect of the coronavirus wave on the Covid-19 generation children conceived, carried or born in the world around these times portend an alarming future for the new bunch. The template for the emotional and social wellbeing of these children is already being formed as alienation, parental job losses, deaths of family members, educational disruptions, domestic violence, forced home confinement, sexual violence, trafficking, child marriage, excessive digital exposure and warped human interactions have plunged the children of India, and humanity as a whole into an almost insurmountable crisis.
A UNICEF report in March 2020 projects that when audited, India will have the highest number of Covid-19 related deaths among children under five, and the highest number of maternal deaths in South Asia in 2020; 29,0000 such mortalities have already occurred in the region. “The number of children who are hungry, isolated, abused, anxious, living in poverty and forced into marriage has increased. At the same time, their access to education, socialisation and essential services, including health, nutrition and protection, has decreased. The signs that children will bear the scars of the pandemic for years to come are unmistakable,” says a worried Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.
Founded in 2002 on the principles of democratizing knowledge, PUKAR works with marginalized youth across urbanized spaces as well as in rural sectors and trains them in action research as an instrument of self and community transformation. PUKAR aims to empower youth with knowledge building capacities through community-based participatory research and knowledge dissemination to help youth become change-makers in their communities. Dr. Anita Patil-Deshmukh- the current executive director is a Harvard trained Public Health expert who was, a faculty neonatologist in Chicago for 25 years, Anita gathered 18 years of rural development experience on a voluntary basis during her Chicago tenure and returned to India to do developmental work. Dr. Anita has also received the Innovator of the Year Award from Harvard School of Public Health in 2012 for her contribution to research action on slum health. Over the last decade, PUKAR has developed strong collaboration with Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai through their schools and empowerer 1500+ adolescent girls coming from some of the most marginalized communities with knowledge and agency related to SRHR. PUKAR is a very youth-driven organization with 80% members being below 35 years of age and many of them are from the communities that PUKAR works in. PUKAR’s young staff members have also been to various international universities like Harvard, Columbia, S. Africa, and many other places in India (Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Bangladesh) to represent PUKAR’s work.
EMpower’s 1st grant to PUKAR will support 250 adolescent girls in the age group of 10-19 from 6 resource-poor marginalized communities in Mumbai’s informal settlements to build their knowledge about themselves, their physical growth and development, their aspirations and self-esteem so that these young adolescents can face risks and vulnerabilities with confidence and negotiate the new experiences of adulthood with informed choices. This grant will enable PUKAR to develop and pilot modules and training material that can be used to work with out of school adolescent girls. This curriculum will also have a component on parental engagement which will be crucial in addressing issues of gender-based violence and early child marriage with school drop-out groups.
EMpower’s small grant to PUKAR will contribute to the fulfilment of SDG 2 -zero hunger, SDG3- good health and wellbeing, SDG 4, SDG-5 – gender equity and SGD 17 -partnerships for the goals.
Through this grant PUKAR will continue their work with 300 adolescent girls and young women and 100 adolescent boys and their parents. The grant will enable PUKAR to fulfill three main objectives.
A) Enrich PUKAR’s work with the adolescent and young people by strengthening mental health component in their program
B) Foster mental health related partnerships to learn from one another to leverage off, of each other’s expertise – especially to learn and support each other through the current community COVID crisis
C) Provide COVID relief and support for the adolescents and their families
Primary Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra
Funded Since: 2019
Stay up-to-date on the latest EMpower news, highlights from our grantee partners, upcoming events, and more.