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Planning for the Future … Isn’t Just for Adults

Like millions of other women and girls in India, 19-year-old Amala* was a teenager when she got married. While her mother-in-law wanted a grandchild as soon as possible, Amala didn’t feel ready—she still had dreams of finishing school before starting her family.

Feeling anxious, she visited a local health clinic supported by EngenderHealth; she had heard that it offered services for young people. Rajnesh, an EngenderHealth-trained counselor for adolescent reproductive and sexual health, listened to her story and arranged for a doctor to talk to her about family planning. After receiving counseling, Amala left the clinic with a family planning method of her choice, and without the anxiety she felt before.

Seeing a chance to spread awareness about adolescent health, Rajnesh visited Amala’s home days later to speak with her family. He explained the risks of early pregnancy, the benefits of family planning, and the importance of seeking health care.

Amala’s story was only possible because of EngenderHealth’s efforts to improve the health of youth in India. Through the Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health (TARUNYA-ARSH) Project, EngenderHealth works with Jharkhand and Bihar states to improve young people’s access to and use of quality and sustainable reproductive and sexual health services. EngenderHealth also works with health facilities and communities to increase knowledge and generate demand for these services.

Before the start of the project, many health clinics here were not able to meet the unique needs of youths. Some were open at inconvenient hours, while many providers harbored cultural biases, even against young married girls like Amala who have not yet had their first child.

In Jharkhand today, 63% of adolescent girls are married before they reach 18, the legal minimum age for marriage in India. In Bihar, 69% of girls are married before age 18. And without access to reproductive health services, few girls—or their husbands and families—understand the risks of early pregnancy and anemia or even have access to family planning.

EngenderHealth is working to change this reality for adolescents in India. We train “master trainers” who can teach others to provide youth-friendly services. Trained outreach volunteers can then also share information with the community about the risks of early marriage and pregnancy, anemia, unprotected sex, and unsafe abortion.

*Pseudonym to protect identity

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