Consultant: Bharat Bhushan
Data theme: Entitlements, Health and Nutrition, Agency Community and Citizenship
Objectives: To improve nutrition information and service coverage under Scheme for Adolescent Girls (SAG) in select blocks of Nawada district
Key Outcomes: The project engaged girls from 11 kishori samuh (adolescent girls’ groups) in 10 villages of Nawada District. Through awareness camps, they learnt about the services available under the Scheme for Adolescent Girls (SAG) including the distribution of Weekly Iron Folic Supplements, and how to access them. From this larger group, 15 girls were selected as yuva netas (youth champions). These girls went through leadership training and also understood how to monitor and advocate for the delivery of the SAG.
A petition was delivered by 15 girls to the Medical Officer in Charge (MOIC) asking that adolescent clinics be opened once a week, so that they could avail of Weekly Iron Folic Supplements and other services like counseling. As a result the Block Development Officer has issued a letter, and now the clinic is open every Tuesday and Thursday of the week. The Block Development Officer has assigned duties to ANMs to be available. The girls now regularly access the clinics at the primary healthcare center, and take others from the community with them.
To ensure that adolescent health issues are addressed at the Village Health Sanitation and Nutrition Days (VHSND), several meetings were conducted with the VHSND Committees and Panchayati Raj Institutions. This has resulted in a verbal commitment that ANMs will take out time to hear adolescent girls’ concerns privately.
Process: This intervention used data on adolescent girls’ nutrition levels and on anemia from the UDAYA data. The primary concern was that young girls were not receiving the Weekly Iron Folic Supplements as prescribed under the RKSK programme. The intervention focused on preventing malnutrition and anemia amongst adolescent girls, as this would improve several other health outcomes.
The data were used at two stages of the project. First, it was used in the awareness sessions and training conducted with adolescent girls. This helped the girls visualize what the problems in their communities with regards to health and nutrition are and what they should look out for while monitoring the schemes later. Secondly, the data were used to start conversations with government officials who were being engaged through the project. The officials saw that the data as an opportunity to improve service delivery.
One big achievement was that the girls delivered a petition to the Medical Officer In Charge (MOIC) asking that adolescent clinics be opened once a week at the primary healthcare center.
“The girls had demanded only one day but looking at how passionate they were when they delivered their petition, the MOIC went further and allocated two days a week. It is amazing to see that these young girls, who normally didn’t even step out of home, are now empowered to seek their rights,” says Bharat Bhushan, the consultant who supported the intervention.
A related strategy of the project was to make sure that adolescent health issues are addressed at the Village Health Sanitation and Nutrition Days (VHSNDs). With the long agendas the ANMs and doctors must cover at the VHSND, adolescent health issues were left out, especially counseling. Young people were not getting the privacy they wanted while talking about their concerns and questions. For this, meetings with Village Health Sanitation and Nutrition Committees and Panchayati Raj Institutions have resulted in a verbal commitment that ANMs will take out time to hear adolescent girls’ concerns privately. At a few of the VHSNDs that happened during the project, the yuva netas assisted the ANMs and also took the opportunity to monitor the event. They monitored how many women came, and what services were given.
The adolescent girls now regularly visit the local primary healthcare center and take others from their community. This goes a long way in generating demand for services, and eventually making sure that services are made available. When services aren’t available, they’re quick to call the consultant to ask what further steps they can take, including visiting government officials. The aim of the project is to make sure that the girls feel equipped and confident to deal with these issues themselves. This will make sure that even when the project is over, the capacities that were built will stay with the community for a long time to come.