In­vest in the ar­chi­tects of an emerg­ing new In­dia

In­dia is home to 253 mil­lion ado­les­cents. it is up to us to cre­ate the right, en­abling op­por­tu­ni­ties for them

Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur) - - Comment - SU­NIL MEHRA Su­nil Mehra is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, MAMTA Health In­sti­tute for Mother and Child, and chair of the 11th World Con­gress on Ado­les­cent Health, The views ex­pressed are per­sonal

In­dia is host­ing the 11th World Con­gress on Ado­les­cent Health from Oc­to­ber 27 to 29. Given the large ado­les­cent de­mo­graphic of the world and In­dia, this meet could not have been bet­ter timed. It will bring to­gether na­tional and global ex­per­tise and young lead­ers to de­lib­er­ate on ado­les­cent health. Ado­les­cence is a crit­i­cal pe­riod in the life of an in­di­vid­ual. It marks sev­eral be­havioural and phys­i­cal changes and shape their men­tal and phys­i­cal health. A mul­ti­tude of fac­tors af­fect them dur­ing this time: Selfi­den­tity, peer in­flu­ences, nor­ma­tive stan­dards of per­for­mance in the pub­lic space, gen­der in­equal­ity, and the paucity of in­for­ma­tion and pro­tec­tive en­vi­ron­ment, apart from a rel­a­tive lack of un­der­stand­ing of their problems by adults. Ninety per cent of the world’s 1.2 bil­lion ado­les­cent pop­u­la­tion lives in de­vel­op­ing economies. In­dia is home to 253 mil­lion ado­les­cents. A large de­mo­graphic div­i­dend, there­fore, lies in front of the world, and es­pe­cially In­dia, to be lever­aged for the achieve­ment of the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals.

While In­dia has 253 mil­lion ado­les­cents, their ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion, health, equal op­por­tu­nity and eq­uity is un­der-ad­dressed. This is not the de­mo­graphic div­i­dend that In­dia as­pires for. This needs to be tack­led rather ur­gently. It be­gins with a leg­isla­tive and po­lit­i­cal com­mit­ment to ad­dress the core is­sues of child mar­riage, en­sur­ing ac­cess to qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and health ser­vices, re­duc­ing drop-outs, ad­dress­ing gen­der dis­par­i­ties and so on. Some of th­ese in­ter­ven­tions, with the right po­lit­i­cal push and pol­icy nudge have de­liv­ered ex­cel­lent re­sults in many south Asian and sub-Sa­ha­ran African coun­tries for this age group. There is an im­pend­ing need to iden­tify the gaps in the ado­les­cent health space, and im­ple­ment mech­a­nisms to ad­dress them. Cer­tain core so­lu­tions are avail­able and well-known, but re­quire strong na­tional com­mit­ment for their suc­cess­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion.

In­dia has em­barked on the Na­tional Ado­les­cent Health pro­gramme called Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram, which is be­ing scaled in a phased man­ner. It is aimed at im­prov­ing nu­tri­tion, and sex­ual and re­pro­duc­tive health, en­hanc­ing men­tal health, and pre­vent­ing in­juries, vi­o­lence and sub­stance abuse among ado­les­cents. The ini­tia­tive in­volves and en­cour­ages ado­les­cent par­tic­i­pa­tion, lead­er­ship, in­clu­sion and gen­der eq­uity. Ado­les­cents and youth are go­ing to be the ar­chi­tects of the emerg­ing new In­dia and new world. It is up to us to cre­ate the right, en­abling op­por­tu­ni­ties for our ado­les­cents. Let ev­ery ado­les­cent count. Time is a re­source and how we use it de­ter­mines the qual­ity of our life. Ev­ery sec­ond adds up and be­fore we know it it’s been years.

To not look back with re­gret at the things we could have done and words we could have said; we should be more con­scious of how and with whom we spend our time be­cause ul­ti­mately it af­fects us.

As Charles Dar­win said, “A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not dis­cov­ered

SAUMYA KHAN­DEL­WAL/HT

There is an im­pend­ing need to iden­tify the gaps in the ado­les­cent health space and im­ple­ment mech­a­nisms to ad­dress them

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