Highlights of baseline findings on adolescents’ social environment

Empowerment of adolescents: findings from a baseline survey in Bangladesh.

This brochure presents highlights of the primary findings of the baseline survey of the second phase of the Kishori Abhijan – Empowerment of Adolescents – project.

  The baseline survey looked to understand the social environment of adolescents, against which an end-of-project evaluation could gauge social rather than individual change. It involved 10,816 respondents from a randomly selected sample of the Kishori Abhijan project sites (equally representing the NGOs involved) and control sites (villages near project intervention sites that were not involved in any project activities).

The pilot project started in 2001 and aimed to improve the lives of adolescent girls in Bangladesh by transforming the social environment in which they live. Now in its second phase, the Kishori Abhijan project informs girls, boys and their parents about gender roles, discrimination, health, hygiene, nutrition and their legal rights. It also offers adolescent girls the opportunity to acquire life, livelihood and leadership skills. The primary topics concentrate on child marriage, dowry, child rights, reproductive health, HIV and STD prevention, family planning, birth and marriage registration and domestic violence awareness.

The evaluation found that:

  • among the different adolescent groups in KA sites, high levels of awareness of  legal age of marriage for girls and boys is and what defines an early marriage were observed
  • there was a clear knowledge deficit among all respondents on other laws pertaining to dowry, registration of births and marriages and child rights
  • participation in activities intended to result in the achievement of the Kishori Abhijan objectives was extremely limited. Awareness of the activities was also relatively low
  • very few respondents overall were able to articulate what reproductive health meant to them. Among the adolescents, girls knew more about reproductive health than boys. Various significant knowledge gaps were identified. Many did not know that a female can get pregnant the first time she has intercourse or that masturbation does not cause serious health damage. Boys generally knew about wet dreams but not about menstruation, with the reverse true for girls
  • a third of the girls and approximately half of the boys did not know of any birth control
  • the level of knowledge on sexually transmitted infections/diseases was very low among adolescents (including peer leaders) and mothers
  • in the areas where there was no mixing of boys and girls in peer education sessions, the social networks of girls consisted of same-sex friends, mothers, sisters and sisters-in-law. Where there are co-ed peer sessions, male friends appeared in the list of those people that girls open up to and with whom they play or relax
  • gender has the greatest influence on mobility, followed by status as peer leader. Girl
    peer leaders were still far less mobile than boys
  • he largest segment of respondents who agreed that wife beating is justified in some circumstances were female – peer leaders, adolescents and mothers – with 39-69 per cent of respondents reporting that it is acceptable for a man to hit his spouse. A large proportion of adolescents had witnessed the abuse of their mother. Even among influential community members, 25 -50 per cent said that they approved of wife beating in certain circumstances
  • television is likely to reach the largest audience with social messages; more than 90 per cent of all adolescents and 80 per cent of fathers had at least some access to television. Radio also has considerable reach, with more than 70 per cent of all respondents – excluding mothers – having some exposure to radio.

The researchers make the following programmatic recommendations to the Kishori Abhijan project:

  • focus more on child rights and the legal dimensions of child marriage, dowry, and birth and marriage registration
  • include reproductive health and emerging public health issues
  • urgently address gender and domestic violence norms
  • provide a potential for behavioural modelling by using peer leaders as potential role models to enhance life skills among enrolled adolescents
  • expand social-support systems to encourage mixed-sex networks
  • positively challenge social relations, particularly with weekly meetings at an adolescent centre, which should offer a forum for discussion and action
  • strengthen the involvement of parents and influential community members, especially of fathers
  • promote peer leaders as ‘agents of change’ and enable all adolescents to contribute to changing their social environment.

Source: eldis.org
Published by UNICEF Bangladesh, 2008

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