Campaign creates buzz about perils of early marriage and pregnancies in Rajasthan

IANS Photo
IANS Photo

Jaipur, September 26 (IANS) : The Zero Teenage Pregnancy (ZTP) campaign, launched at the start of this year, aiming at highlighting the issue in Rajasthan, has created a buzz around the sensitive and important issue of early marriages and pregnancies.

In all these months, the campaign has garnered the attention of policy makers, office bearers, academicians and the community. Greater awareness around the issues encouraged important stakeholders to make a strong commitment towards ending child marriage and teenage pregnancy in Rajasthan, said Nikita Srivastav, Senior State Program Manager, Population Foundation of India, Rajasthan.

Speaking to IANS, Srivastav said, "The objective of the campaign was to increase awareness around not just delaying the age of marriage but also that of the first pregnancy in teenagers. For the first time, the problems associated with a teenage pregnancy have been highlighted on such a large scale across Rajasthan. However, issues such as child marriage and subsequent pregnancy have deeply entrenched social norms. Addressing them requires strategic long-term engagement and consistent effort from all stakeholders," she added.

It needs to be mentioned here that in the 2015-16 National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4 data, a total of 35 per cent girls in Rajasthan were married before the age of 18. Moreover, 6 percent of these girls either had children or were pregnant at the time of survey.

According to NFHS-4, adolescent pregnancies are more likely to be associated with low birth weight, stillbirth, and infant mortality. Apart from the health risks, adolescent childbearing and the conditions associated with it are fundamental factors determining the quality of life of a woman and her children. Therefore, it was imperative that we address age of marriage and the importance of making the right decision with regards to child bearing, Srivastav said.

The ZTP has helped spread awareness on how early pregnancies can have a detrimental effect on the health of both the mother and the child.

Speaking on why the ZTP was launched, she said, "The ZTP campaign was meant to create awareness and encourage key stakeholders to commit and support action towards eliminating teenage pregnancy.

Mass awareness campaigns like the ZTP are critical for building an enabling environment, increasing knowledge and awareness on social issues. To address the health concerns of our adolescents which constitute 23% of the total state population, there is a need to scale up such campaigns with endorsement and support from the government.

Moreover, collective action is required to empower adolescents to have access to health information and services in a non-judgmental enabling environment. Correct information about health and improved health seeking behaviour, will empower adolescents in making informed choices around their health and well-being.

Encouraged by the support received, the Population Foundation of India is putting a lot of thought and action into addressing this issue.