Fresh Hope for Girls
Fresh Hope for Girls – A Hygiene and livelihood Initiative
India is home to 253 million adolescents – the largest population of those between 10 to 19 years in the world. Adolescence is a transitionary phase, between childhood and adulthood, a time of learning and opportunity.
Adolescents in India lack access to basic knowledge about their health and well-being, and resources to access the information, mostly in rural settings, are sparse. Girls, especially, are more vulnerable due to the pre-existing social norms that disallow them the chance to grow up into healthy, empowered adults. For example, due to gender biases, girls in many parts of the country are denied their right to basic education by their families and communities, are married off early and bear children at a tender age – leading to a lifetime of physical and mental health issues.
A major challenge that adolescent girls face is that they do not have adequate knowledge about menstruation, causing several hygiene and health problems. ADRA India conducted a baseline study in the Tea Gardens of the northeast Indian state of Assam, the findings of which suggested 32% girls use rag clothes instead of pads during periods; 81% teachers do not discuss mensural hygiene; 26% of the garden population does not use sanitary pads; 92% of respondents mentioned that no health workers visited their house for community awareness; and 36% of respondents did not know that various diseases could be spread due to lack of hygiene
The Tea tribes make around 17 per cent of the population of Assam. The tea industry workers including women and children, specifically those working in mid and small level enterprises, are prone to exploitation due to the unstructured nature of these enterprises. Poor standards of living and lack of access to health and education are few of the major challenges.
The Fresh Hope for Girls Initiative, that was launched in 2019, aims to address some of the issues affecting the people living in the Tea Gardens of Assam, especially women and adolescent girls. The primary goal of the project is to create an empowering environment through continued health education for adolescent girls and by providing sustainable livelihood opportunities for women.
The programme focuses on four components:
- Adolescent Clubs for Communication on Health and Hygiene Education (ACCHE) programme: Adolescent girls living in he intervention villages are sensitized on the programme and encouraged form groups, known as ACCHE (good) schools. These groups are facilitated by the Project and members include school heads and teachers, local officials, etc. Adolescents participate in the programme to gain access to knowledge on hygiene and life skills. They act as agents of change in their own community by promoting new behaviours and practices.
- Handwashing Education for Restoration of Overall Sanitation (HEROS) Programme: Handwash hygiene is crucial to reduce disease and build a healthy community. National Sample Survey 76th round report states that only 25.3 per cent of rural households wash hands with soap/detergent before a meal and 66.8 per cent after defecation. The Fresh Hope for Girls Project is working to counter that by engaging children – the changemakers of the society. The project works with schools in the Tea Estates to educate children on basic handwashing practices through its ‘HEROS’ Children are the HEROS who learn the good habits and in turn percolate the message of hygiene in their communities.
- Empowering women and adolescent girls by creating sustainable hygiene related livelihood opportunities: The project has initiated a social enterprise program to produce and market innovative and low-cost sanitary hygiene products for the tea garden community. Local Self Help Group women were engaged to establish and start preparation of low cost and effective sanitary napkins for better health and hygiene among women and girls. The project helps the unit in procuring raw material for the pads. These employed women produce, market and sell the sanitary napkins. Once the unit takes off, the profit from the sales will be used to run the unit, thus making it a self-sustainable model.
- Health worker trainings for improve Interpersonal communications are undertaken through the project: The project also engages with doctors, ASHA Workers and gynaecologists to address the issues impacting adolescents.
Further, to spread awareness in the community on health and hygiene issues, the project uses Information, Education and Communication Materials. Awareness videos are played in common community areas through infotainment vans.
The project has impacted 60,000 lives in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh Districts in 2020-21 alone.