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New Delhi, February 20, 2010
Union Health & Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad today said the Government was in the process of developing an even stronger thrust on feminine health and hygiene.
He said his Ministry was also finalising an intervention to take care of adolescent girls' sexual and reproductive health needs through a community-led programme for behaviour change by promoting the use of sanitary napkins.
Speaking after releasing a report, "Youth in India: Situation and Needs Study", he said India had to learn to look after its girls better if it had to pursue its inclusive agenda of social development. He said there was a need to provide dignity and care to girls in the process of growing up.
The study was conducted by International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai, and Population Council, New Delhi. Well-known economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen was also present at the function.
Prof Sen said the study pointed out that the life of young women remained deeply precarious. He said deprivation and violence towards women call for comprehensive re-examination of values that permeates Indian society.
He expressed despair about the fact that skepticism about the importance of schooling was still very common. He reiterated that education equipped the individuals with capabilities that are essential for realizing their fullest potential.
Prof Sen, in particular, expressed unhappiness that, as per the study, more than 25 per cent women had not gone to school at all. He emphasized that the connection between basic education of women and power of women’s agencies were quite central to understanding the contribution of school education to human security in general.
The removal of survival disadvantage of women (and of young girls in particular), the reduction of child mortality (irrespective of gender), and moderating influence on fertility rates are all among the basic issues involved in removing the "downside risks" that threaten life and dignity, he said.
Mr Azad said young people in India faced multiple risks associated with sexual and reproductive health. These include pregnancy related morbidity and mortality; delayed abortion seeking; STI/HIV; unmet contraceptive need; lack of knowledge and power to make informed decisions.
He pointed to the following findings of the study to support his observations:
• 54 to 62 percent youth have acknowledged the influence of media on their behaviour, style of dressing and extent to which they exhibit aggression;
• only 37 percent of young men and 45 percent of young women knew that a woman can get pregnant at first sex;
• consumption of tobacco and alcohol was reported among one-third and one-sixth youth respectively;
• as many as half of the girls were married before they were 18.
The Minister said efforts would be made to set up exclusive fora of adolescent girls in villages and urban slums to ensure that their multi-dimensional development needs were adequately addressed.
"The challenges are many and our government is committed to ensuring a better quality of life for our young people," he added.