Mizoram introduced sexual reproductive health program for adolescents in November to educate youth and address their concerns. James Lalrinchhana, Director, School Education, Mizoram, spoke to Outlook about the government’s action and vision. Excerpts:
Since you have just started the program, what impact do you envisage on the overall wellbeing?
This is a new initiative for us. We expect many things. We want this program to be a guidance for the adolescent groups. I know they are going through a phase where they face confusion. Through this program, we hope that they can become well-informed and grow up to become happy adults. These are our main expectations.
What are the support measures for the implementing partners?
We initiated sharing of data of schools, teachers, and students. What we can provide more is infrastructure. For any events under the program, we make use of the examination halls, school buildings or compounds to organize trainings. Besides, we provide manpower based on requirements. All logistic and data support from the state is given to the partners for the successful implementation of the program.
How can this be scaled up?
The first step is to proceed in an organized manner throughout the schools wherever it is applicable. Regarding scaling up, we have to take the help and support of local NGOs like the Young Mizo Association (YMA). We have an ongoing MoU with YMA for education. The NGO has branches in the villages across Mizoram. They are a youth group, and can take big steps in propagating and scaling this up. In the next step, we can have good partnerships with churches as they have their youth groups. We can rope in the biggest students’ organization, Mizo Zirlai Pawl, and others like Mizoram Student Union. These will be helpful because they cater to young students in the state and other parts of the country.
What measures can be taken to make this more successful?
I think the first and foremost thing is to make this acceptable. My biggest priority is that people have to be convinced. This project has to be the project of the people, students and the target groups.
How do you visualize adolescent sexual health five years from now?
I think this is important as without a vision, it is meaningless to proceed further. My expectation is that after five years the adolescent groups, and adults, will be better informed. I am sure that we will have fewer problems in society. It will be a healthier and happier society. The prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV and others will come down. Earlier, we couldn’t ask parents and teachers about sexual problems, and looked for answers in magazines and periodicals. Today, youngsters are lucky that they have the facility of AI to answer their questions. I am sure if we proceed smoothly over five years, we will have much progress and fewer problems among the adolescent groups. They will be more informed and grow up to be better adults. An informed generation will be better equipped to guide future generations.