The Adolescent Girls (AG) Health & Nutrition Program is currently operational in the following five villages of Vikasnagar Block namely, Sabahwala, Shekowala, Majri, Mednipur and Badripur. The focus of the AG program is to create awareness about the concepts of nutrition, health and issues like anaemia and its treatment among adolescent girls and to create positive change in the lives of these girls through the promotion of kitchen gardens and the provision of life skills training and capacity building.
Brief Introduction to the operational field villages.
1. Demographic information
As previously stated, the five operational villages of Sabhawala, Shekowala, Majri, Mednipur and Badripur are located in the Vikasnagar block of Dehradun district. The size of population in these villages ranges from the lowest at 1606 people in Majri to the highest 3741 people in Sabhawala as per the 2001 census data.
2. Livelihood patterns adopted by the families
The majority of the people in these villages are small and marginal farmers practicing subsistence farming, while supporting themselves through wage labour. Of the 100 girls surveyed, 46 of the girls’ families were small and marginal farmers who listed wage labour as their supplementary income source. Additionally, the women and girls in these villages are engaged as agricultural labourers. During informal group discussions, it came to light that employment opportunities for them are limited outside of these agricultural activities especially for women over the age of 25 years as illiteracy among these is widespread and the norm. The following diagram indicates the share of livelihood options followed by families of adolescent girls as per the respondents of the adolescent girl survey.
With regards to migration, the relatively close proximity of these villages to larger towns and cities such as Dehradun, Selaqui, Herbertpur and Vikasnagar; coupled with good road connectivity and access to timely public transport translates to minimal levels of migration.
Status of the adolescent girls
Girls between the ages of 10-20 were surveyed and the average age of the respondent’s was found to be 15.83 years.
1. Educational levels
Of the 100 adolescent girls surveyed, 96 had attended some level of schooling, with 4 respondents being completely uneducated. The average level of schooling was approximately standard 9th. Of the 100 girls surveyed, only 22 have completed high school, i.e., passed standard 10th and six have passed standard 12th. Only a marginal fraction (5%) had attended college. Thus, the majority of the respondents were school dropouts however; most had completed their primary education.
2. Health Status
With regards to medical complaints, the most common complaints were those of headaches and stomach aches, with 25 and 23 respondents complaining of each respectively. Other ailments reported by the adolescent girls were backaches, flu, fever, skin allergies etc. The following diagram charts the various ailments reported by the girls.
3.Care Seeking Behaviour
The following diagram points out the various sources of treatment for these ailments as indicated by the adolescent girls. The most popular course of treatment proved to be visiting a village level private doctor.
4. Awareness about Anaemia
An attempt was made through the survey to ascertain the knowledge and awareness levels of the girls regarding anaemia. Awareness about anaemia was minimal with only 6 girls being aware of anaemia and only one out of 100 respondents was aware of its possible treatment options such as iron capsules.
With regards to health, focus and awareness lies more on common ailments such as headaches and the like, whereas there is a complete lack of awareness about ailments such as anaemia. Treatment too is largely sought from private doctors within the village itself. However, a high proportion (roughly 29%) seeks either no treatment or self medicates, both of which could exacerbate symptoms or worsen the health condition.
5.Dietary practices of adolescent girls.
To identify the dietary practices followed by the adolescent girls, each girl was asked about the meals consumed by her in the previous two days. The responses show that there exists a great degree of homogeneity with regards to the food consumed by the adolescents across all five villages, suggesting that the dietary practices followed in the region are largely similar. Primary food consumed comprises of lentils, rice, and the flat Indian bread roti. Lunch largely consists of rice eaten with lentils. Additionally marginal quantities of vegetables are consumed either at breakfast or during dinner. Among vegetables, potatoes were reported to be eaten the most with sixty-nine of the 100 respondents having consumed them in previous two days meals. Bottle gourd was reported as the next most widely eaten vegetable. To a relatively more marginal degree other vegetables that formed a part of the girls’ diets were brinjal/okra, cauliflower, bitter gourd, sweet Asian pumpkin, ladyfingers and capsicum.
Bananas were the most popular fruit consumed with sixty-three respondent’s admitting to eating them in the last two days. Other fruits eaten include grapes, apples, oranges, papaya and mangoes and to a lesser extent litchis, guavas, pomegranates and watermelon. Forty-nine respondents admitted to being non – vegetarian. However, despite the consumption of these vegetables, fruits and meat by respondents, in the lower income homes (such as those solely dependent on wage labour for income) diet comprised only of lentils and rice or roti. This situation indicates that among this group malnutrition could be witnessed to a larger extent on account of the lack of vitamins and micro-nutrients being consumed. Another area of concern is that 1/3rd of the respondents admitted to skipping at least one meal over the previous two days. The girls were involved in the harvesting of wheat at the time of the surveys of being conducted; long hours involved in undertaking this activity could be a factor for skipping meals. However, the regularity of this phenomenon with respect to seasonal trends must be further looked in to.
In a majority of cases the adolescent girl herself was responsible for the preparation of the food, followed next by her mother and then other women folk in the household such as a sister or the sister-in-law. Kitchens are located independent of the main home structure, and food is cooked on a chulha (traditional Indian stove made of mud). Iodized salt was being used in the homes of seventy-six girls of the total 100, indicating that households do exist in these villages where the use of iodized salt needs to be further encouraged and promoted.