- Adolescent wellness in India is compromised by the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Budgetary allocations in health and education can harness the potential of this overlooked demographic group.
Adolescence is a formative phase, wherein key physical, mental, and sociological development and growth occur. They also face numerous challenges. Circumstances in India, especially in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, have been detrimental to adolescents’ well-being. The concerns need to be addressed with adequate investment and concrete policy interventions.
At 253 million, adolescents (10–19 years) constitute 20 percent of India’s population. By 2024, 127 million adolescents will be of legal age, becoming potential nation-builders. However, adolescent life is plagued by poor physical, mental, and sexual health. Their lives are conditioned by regressive social norms and discrimination, nutritional deficiences, structural poverty, lack of access to information and resources, lack of educational and employment opportunities, poor hygiene, etc.
The restricted educational and technological access, lack of mobility and socialization, and financial crunches imposed by the pandemic worsened the situation. A 2020 study registered unprecedented spikes in child marriages, teen pregnancies, and child trafficking. Another study claimed pandemic-school closures impacted access to mid-day meals and sexual hygiene in adolescent children.
Given the circumstances—adolescents are posed to form an underdeveloped youth populace, waiting to spell disaster. To actualise India’s much-talked-about demographic dividend, sufficient budgetary allocations in the coming years (pertaining to health, education, employment) should be made. Investments should be made in schemes like Mission Poshan 2.0, Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK), Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, etc. Menstrual hygiene products, sexual health services, and contraceptives (such as Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives) should be made easily accessible.
Social and behavior change communication strategies, psychoeducation, health education, and gender education should be effectively formulated to promote gender equality and combat gender-based violence. Programmes tackling mental health and family welfare issues should be implemented to better adolescents’ self-awareness about their distinct needs and desires.
Lastly, the government agencies should maintain an exhaustive database to aid research, programme implementation, and policy decisions in adolescent welfare. Adolescent-participation should also be invited in such matters.