New USAID initiative to empower five mn adolescents

Mumbai, March 3 (IANS) The US Agency for International Development (USAID), Kiawah Trust and Dasra on Friday launched a new initiative to empower more than five million adolescent boys and girls in the country by 2021, an official said here.

Titled ’10 to 19: Dasra Adolescents Collaborative’ is targeted at girls and boys between the ages of 10-19 years and will work directly with them to help girls stay in school, delay their marriage age, nutrition, menstrual hygiene, reproductive rights, awareness about gender-based violence, improve decision-making skills and increase employment opportunities.

Speaking at the launch, DAC as part of the Dasra Philanthropy Week-2017, USAID/India Director for Health Xerxes Sidhwa said there are 250 million adolescents in the country, making it the largest youth population in the world.

Yet they face a variety of challenges daily with implications beyond their level of understanding and the DAC feels there is no greater investment than our youth.

“Only 47 per cent of girls enroll in secondary school, out of which 18 pe rcent of girls drop out even before they complete secondary school. India also ranks highest globally in adolescent pregnancies, with 12 per cent of pregnancies among girls ages 15-19,” Sidhwa said.

Besides, there are issues of early pregnancy and childbirth which has significant consequences on health, social wellbeing and economic opportunities for the young mothers and their kids, he added.

Co-Founder of Kiawah Trust Lynne Smitham said the new collaborative wants every girl to have an education, be healthy and safe, have skills, a choice about her life and ability to make those decisions.

Launched by USAID, Kiawah Trust, a Britain-based family foundation, and Piramal Foundation, India, as the Girl Alliance in 2013, the DAC expands on that initiative as a $14 million multi-year programme.

In three years, the alliance created a network of more than 200 civil society organisation and leveraged more than $20 million in funding with support from strategic funders like Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.

Dasra – meaning ‘enlightened giving’ in Sanskrit was founded in 1999 as a strategic philanthropic organisation aiming to transform India, accelerate social change by driving collaborative action with strong partnerships among various various stakeholders.