ICT-Enabled Life Skill and Sexuality Education for Adolescent Girls, India

Keywords: GENDER, EQUITY, LIFE SKILLS, SEXUALITY, CAPACITY BUILDING, INTERNET, INDIA

Geographic coverage: India

Objective
The objective of this project use information and communications technology (ICT) tools to provide comprehensive sexuality and life skills education that empower adolescent women in Chennai, India.

Research context
In India, there are approximately 10 million pregnant adolescents and adolescent mothers at any given time. Unfortunately, education, health and family welfare programmes are not adequately addressing the special needs of these women. This project uses ICTs to provide comprehensive sexuality education and life skills training for young women to develop relevant skills needed to plan their career and life. The project employs computers, Internet and digital cameras to educate organize and empower these adolescent women. The project targets adolescent women in urban and rural areas in Chennai, India

Target beneficiaries
The project targets adolescent women, including Dalits from Othiyur village of Eddaikazhinadu town, Panchayath, Kancheepuram District, and from the slums of Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai. Adolescent women attending school and working are beneficiaries.

Outputs
With the beneficiary’s participation, the project proposed to create profiles of families in village and slum areas for use in education and planning. It proposed to develop interactive learning materials and design an interactive ICT-based information dissemination system for use among rural and urban adolescent women.

Research results and outcomes
The project began by holding focus group meetings with adolescent women to assess general knowledge and beliefs about sexuality and sexual health, as well as to understand the socio-cultural context that contributes to these beliefs. Based on the results, the project developed modules for sexuality education curriculum. They include: Growing up (including puberty), Sex and Sexuality, Sexual Violence, Abuse and Decision-Making (including counseling and legal resources), Sexually Transmitted Diseases, and Knowledge Assessment and Feedback.

The results of the focus group revealed that many of the adolescent women had never been spoken to about these subjects before. In response to this, the project sought to devise culturally-sensitive ways of approaching the topic of sexuality education, and general women’s health issues, without alienating or distressing the young women in the process. The strategy employed was to gradually build rapport with the young women through training in computer technology skills.

In the slums of South Chennai the project networked and disseminated information about the centre and the computer lessons that they offer. This resulted in approximately 100 adolescent women attending the lessons at the centre. The project reports that the young women have been taught basic computer skills, program applications and use of the Internet and in general have gained confidence in using the computers. After some issues with electricity and phone connections, the project was able to set up a computer in Othiyur village and began computer lessons for the girls in a manner similar to those in the Thiruvanmiyur centre.

At the interim point in the project, it surveyed 98 out of 109 girls using the centre. Of the respondents, 71 percent were introduced to computers at the centre and began using them there for the first time. 78 percent of the girls reported coming to the centre several times a week to use the computers, 65 percent reported they came every day. 98 percent reported feeling comfortable using the computer at the time of the survey, however, much less - about 31 percent of the girls - reported an interest in learning about personal health from the computer, with a greater number of girls wanting to learn vocation-related skills, such as typing. The project observed that the girls seemed to identify more with learning tangible skills that can be gained from computer use. Thus the project saw the need to focus on ways to convey ICTs potential for accessing educational information, primarily through training sessions with young women that come to the centre.

At the six-month point, the project reported that the following had been completed: a growing database of family and community profiles, a portion of the sexuality curriculum, data on adolescent women’s proficiency and comfort with computer use, and the formation of women’s club, or “Snehidhi”, with a corresponding newsletter and website (http://www.snehidhi.org).

The project is of the view that its main strength lies in its commitment to truly understand the communities it is working with and develop curricula and relationships that will have lasting, sustained effects in these communities. The project anticipated that the coming six months would produce more quantifiable outcomes although they stress the importance of building trust and confidence at the initiating stage in this type of community-based work.

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