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Mahindra sponsors the first and largest ever girls survey of India to create the Nanhikali Girls of India Survey Report.

05 / 03 / 2017

The Nanhi Kali Girls Survey, which aims to understand what it means to be a teenage girl in India today, is currently under way in 15 states of India. By the end of March 2017, we would have reached all 30 states of the country, rural areas as well as urban centres. Being conducted by Naandi Foundation, the surveyors are visiting homes of teenage girls and interviewing them on various aspects of their lives – schooling and skilling, food habits, aspirations about career and marriage and perception of safety. The surveyors, all women, are also capturing data which will give us information on BMI of girls and prevalence of anaemia. The first ever survey of this kind in this country uses no pen and paper and all surveyors are equipped with electronic tablets. Before this year is over, Naandi will present priceless data, representative of all teenage girls in the country, and inform policy makers as well as citizens the status of teenage girls.

Stories of surveyors’ daily adventures – from the lush green hills of Manipur to the dry and dusty hamlets in Rajasthan, from steep snowy slopes in the Kashmir valley to coconut-tree shaded villages in Kerala – form the staple of Naandi’s internal communication nowadays. Watch this space for Girls Survey Stories.

Teenage girls – the phrase conjures up images of laughing giggling girls in colourful clothes and fancy nail polish and star spangled jewellery. There are 200 million of them in India today. Not all, however, are living lives of dignity, safety and fulfilment. In fact a good majority of them dont even get to experience ‘adolescence’ in its true sense of enjoyment and learning new things without responsibility. They somehow struggle through school, only half of them managing to pass their Class 10 board exams before they get thrust into earning for the family or getting married and leaving the family so that the family’s economic burden is reduced. And, in close to 40% cases, they have borne a child before their 18th birthday.

When Team Naandi looked around for real data on lives of teenage girls in India today, we found to our dismay that it does not exist. On the one hand there were general observations, mostly anecdotes we came across and on the other hand there was constant media coverage on rape, assault and molestation. But stable, reliable, scientifically collected data? None.

As an organisation that has worked with 6 to 14 year old ‘Nanhi Kalis’ from underprivileged families across the country, Naandi found this huge data gap difficult to accept. Through Project Nanhi Kali, we had helped close to 200,000 girls successfully complete 10 years of formal schooling. It was from conversations with all these girls that we were gradually realising that support for completing basic schooling (in the form of tuitions, free schoolbags and study materials and counselling parents to send their girls to school regularly) was perhaps not enough to set a girl’s life on an irreversible track of self-actualisation. At age 15, even if she had passed her school-leaving Board examinations, she was at her most vulnerable. She ran the risk of either getting married off, to clear the way for younger siblings to grow up, or she got sucked into vortex of un-ending household chores, some of them physically exhausting or was sent off to work, most often in conditions that were exploitative in every way. Team Naandi was ready to conceptualise a ‘Version 2’ of Project Nanhi Kali. But we needed hard data for that. To understand what it meant to be a teenage girl in India today. To design our interventions around the reality of these girls.

As mentioned before, such data did not exist. The teenage girl, as a constituency, was not of interest to any one. She existed on the margins in all the large scale national surveys conducted by government, as a subset of the category “women aged 15 to 39 years”. She was un-recognized even though it was becoming increasingly clear that the scourge of malnutrition (every second child in India malnourished) could be wiped out only if mothers (mostly adolescent girls) were healthy. She was un-recognised even though it was proven that well-looked-after adolescent girls were the one consistent determinant of progress for practically every development outcome, from mortality declines to economic growth, democracy and equity. It is only as recently as 2015 that the Prime Minister of India launched the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Programme.

The idea of a g​irls s​urvey by Naandi Foundation was born in this context. This girls s​urvey aims to fill a critical gap in evidence about the needs and aspirations of teenage girls in the country so that it can form the basis of informed and sensitive policies and programmes responsive to the practical realities of the adolescent girl’s life. Findings from the survey would also serve as a springboard for consultation with diverse stakeholders to enable the formulation of concrete action plans that consider teenage girls as valuable human resource with infinite capacity to contribute to the nation’s progress.

This survey will reach out to a scientifically representative sample of girls 13-19 years old in every state of India, in urban and rural locations. An interview, lasting not more than 30 minutes, will be administered by women surveyors on an electronic tablet. The interview will have questions regarding schooling, safety and basic life skills and also aspirations around work, career, marriage and childbearing. The surveyor will also measure height and weight of the respondents, so that thier health status can be determined. And last but not the least, every respondent’s haemoglobin levels will be measured, in order to capture the prevalence of anaemia in teenage girls in India.

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