India's teen girls undernourished : UN reports
Teens are extremely obsessed with their looks and weight these days. Thin, is in, and the slightest amount of child-like chubbiness is made fun of. No wonder then, that they are falling ill to diseases such as anorexia, malnutrition and eating disorders.
According to a latest report by the UN, India’s adolescent girls are caught in a mire of undernourishment and malnutrition. The study that was conducted on 1.2 billion teenage girls across the world has unveiled the plight of Indian girls aged between 10 and 19. It dealt with a number of issues such as nutrition, health, knowledge about HIV/AIDS, access to education and so on.
Once again the results demonstrate that young Indian girls are enmeshed in a vicious cycle of underweight adolescence, child marriage and deaths during childbirth. Reports have revealed that more than half of them (56%) suffer from anemia and 43% are married off before the age of 18. These figures are indeed appalling for a country such as India, & it goes without saying that the scenario needs immediate correction in order to facilitate us on our way to progress. The gender disparity is also quite alarming as 30% of the boys between the age of 15 and 19 years are anemic, while 56% of the girls belonging to the same age group are suffering from anemia. It increases their risk of hemorrhage during maternity and septic infection during childbirth apart from other complications.
Karin Hulshof of Unicef India has shown concern towards this issue as she rightly points out that these anemic and undernourished girls are the first ones to drop out of school and are married off early. Economic inequality with their counterparts across the globe has further put Indian girls at a worse situation. The risk of HIV is higher amongst girls and they are also not equipped with adequate knowledge about it.
The number of child brides has also been rising in India. That disallows them from completing their formal education, their health deteriorates, and they are put to higher risk of domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, early widowhood etc.
However, certain stray cases amidst the generally dismal statistics keep the hope alive. One such story is that of Reshma Sheikh, a 17-year old girl from Himatnagar village in Maharashtra, who resisted marriage and went back to school after she was compelled to drop out. Hailing from a Muslim family, she had to discontinue her schooling though her brother was encouraged to pursue education. But she refused to comply with her father’s wish and be married off like her three elder sisters. As she has been reported saying, she became more confident in her stand after she joined Deepshikha, a Unicef-approved youth movement. Thereafter, she has helped other girls with similar problems get justice, with active involvement in the whole process. At Deepshikha, she has also been learning about HIV, malnutrition, risks of early child birth and pregnancy. Deepshikha is confined to Maharashtra, but the Union women and child development ministry has started a nationwide programme for adolescents, ‘Sabla’. It hopes to bring a change to the current circumstances and offer the young girls with brighter prospective.
We must do all we can to eliminate the ills that pester the lives of our young girls. When this happens, they will have to be more emphatic, self-assertive and confident, and India will surely be at her supportive best. A country that has the highest number of adolescents in the world should tap the potential of these young guns and not allow them to be sunk in oblivion.