India is a young country, with every third person being in the 15-24 age-group and, hence, it is our responsibility to make sure that the young people have everything they need to transition to a responsible adult. A large part of that includes giving them access to safe spaces and information about their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Almost 2.34 million Indians live with HIV today and 83% of them are between the age of 15 and 45 years (NACO, 2019). The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted access to safe spaces, SRH, and mental health for young people. Therefore, the need is even higher to educate young people, build capacities and create safe spaces for them.
Conversations about gender, consent, access to safe SRH services and contraceptives are becoming non-negotiable for youth. We believe that young people should be aware about their sexual and reproductive rights so that they can make informed choices for themselves and people around them. There is an increasing misinformation around SRHR among youth and this is leading to harmful sexual practices and violence. We have a role to play, from parents to educators and every institution in the middle needs to create safe spaces and provide the correct information.
In alignment with the UN Agenda 2030 for sustainable development, we at MASH Project Foundation joined hands with ASSOCHAM to realize the importance of more comprehensive work on SRHR, especially for young Indians. We use this opportunity at World AIDS Day to introduce our program that aims to create awareness and build the capacities of young people to have healthy conversations around SRHR. It will focus on creating safe spaces in college campus and other communities to talk about safe sex practices, protecting themselves and others around them from Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancies.
This program will be conducted in phases – information dissemination, capacity building and campaigns and advocacy. The program will expand into creating safe campus ambassadors which will activate youth engagement, build communities around campuses and other spaces accessible to young people. We will be leveraging the digital media platforms to take the message to a much larger audience and eventually impact over 10 million youth in a short span of time.
“We are firm believers in the potential of youth of India and that’s why we have launched a program to address their Sexual and Reproductive health needs. The program’s foundations are based on the pillars of Awareness, Inclusion, Consent, Protection, and Equality. We’re committed to impacting over 10 million youth of India through partners like MASH,” explains Ravi Bhatnagar, Director, External Affairs & Partnerships SOA, Reckitt.
“ASSOCHAM has been leading efforts on family planning, life skills, and welfare activities and young people are one of the most important stakeholders for us. They are one of the most valuable assets for our country’s growth and economy, and we need to work closely with them to provide the required support at various stages of life, to create a healthy and a sustainable future,” adds Deepak Sood, Secretary General, ASSOCHAM.