India’s first comprehensive scheme costing Rs 4,500 crore aimed at improving nutrition and skills of 8.5 crore adolescent girls will come up for the Cabinet consideration on Thursday.
The scheme, called Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (SABLA), under the women and child development ministry aims to provide food, health and develop vocational skill of girls in the age group of 11-18 years, 30 per cent of whom are malnourished.
“If implemented properly it can prevent anaemia,” said Dr Vandana Roy Mittal, Professor at Delhi-based Mulana Azad Medical College.
As per National Family Health Survey-3, 56 per cent married women below 50 years of age in India are anaemic.
Anaemia sets in due to nutritional deficiencies in adolescent girls. But, there is no government intervention for teenaged girls, while there are schemes for children in the 0-6 age group and married women.
“This scheme can act as nutritional bridge between girl children and women,” Mittal, a nutrition and child expert, said.
WCD minister Krishna Tirath has proposed to provide food to young girls through 14 lakh anganwadis in the country through an annual grant of Rs 3.8 lakh. The food ministry has already agreed to provide additional food grains for girls.
Along with food, the girls would be trained on how to become good “homemakers” and will receive education on life skills and vocational skills.
Another element of the scheme is educating girls about protection laws. “Poor married women face harassment as they are not aware about their rights. NGOs would be roped in to provide counseling,” an official said.
There are also provisions for counseling on reproductive health, pre-marital problems, healthy sex life, which includes personal health. The ministry aims at introducing the scheme from next financial year once the Cabinet approves it.