NEW DELHI – The government is mulling over forming a Youth Council to address issues related to adolescents in India, Ajay Khera, incharge for adolescent health in the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare said at a forum in New Delhi of Wednesday (26 Jun).
Khera said this at the launch of a ‘Teen Coalition’ programme organised by a not-for-profit organisation – Society of Community Health Oriented Operational Links (SCHOOL). India CSR was the dissemination partner for the event.
The country is moving “very slowly” to address issues related to the children in the age group of 10 to 19 years and unless the issues were dealt with urgency, the children will continue to struggle, Khera warned.
Teen Coalition is a platform to bring governments at the state and centre, corporate, non-governmental organisations (NGO), academia, experts and the civil society to work for adolescents in India, chief executive officer (CEO) Benazir Patil said during the event.
The platform will help to create opportunities for adolescents and build an integrated network of various stakeholders working in “silos” on different aspects of the adolescent issues, Patil said.
Patil has been working in the social sector for over 22 years.
Low self esteem, identity crisis, lack of clarity on future goals, peer pressure, technology overuse, drug/alcohol abuse and depression are some of the problems being faced by the adolescents in the country.
The discussion threw some startling statistics. It was pointed out that one in every four teenager in the age group of 13-15 years suffers from depression; 40% girls between 14 and 18 years do not go to school; 84 percent adolescents are suffering from technology addiction and India’s dismal ranking on adolescent pregnancies among its global peers.
Lack of education, poor learning and school dropouts; lack of comprehensive health programmes to address nutritional issues; lack of sex education; mental problems and poor social practices like – child marriage, adolescent pregnancies, gender discrimination are other alarming indicators pointed out during the panel discussion.
India’s adolescent population is around 20% at 270 million children between the age of 10 and 19 years.
While lauding the Teen Coalition initiative Khera suggested SCHOOL to come up with advocacy tools for different stake holders. “One of the weakest links is that we have not be able to do adequate advocacy in this area (adolescent issues). We prepare the plans for the states but states are reluctant to implement those plans,” Khera lamented.
Information gap is another important area which requires urgent attention, Khera said adding that it was impossible to run advocacy programmes without credible data.
“We have lot of information about mothers and about children, in general, but specific information for the children in the age group 10-19 is lacking,” he added.
Khera also said that the department was working towards developing an information pool – Adolescent Health Address’ – to capture authentic data on the children within this age group. The department is collating all available data and has even approached ministries like the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Khera said.
In CSR we see things on annual basis which is Apr-Mar window but this issue would need more efforts, Pramod Nigudkar, secretary at the Larsen & Toubro Charitable trust said during the event.
There are not enough programmes on the ground to address the adolescent age group, Nigudkar said.
Mathew Joseph, country director of the American India Foundation (AIF), who was also present during the event said that the foundation was working in education, public health and skilling in 24 states with 300 partner organisations. AIF’s various initiatives are “perfectly aligned” with the adolescent programmes.
Mathew said that it was difficult to find an NGO which works simultaneously in multiple areas for a holistic development of adolescent children.
The event also saw participation from World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and several NGO’s including Pathfinder International, Sashakt Foundation and Protsahan India.