The 11th World Congress on Adolescent Health was organised by the International Association for Adolescent Health at New Delhi from 27th-29th October. The Congress was hosted by MAMTA Health Institute for Mother and Child (MAMTA) and consortium partners (Pathfinder International, Population Foundation of India, The YP Foundation and Population Services International). PFI conducted a paper presentation of the Saathiya Resource kit at the Gallery Walk organised, and interacted with development sector workers and health officials on the background, features and importance of the Saathiya kit. The presentation was made in the Equity and Positive Youth Development category.
The Saathiya kit, which was launched as a part of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK)/ National Adolescent Health Programme is an innovative approach to address adolescent sexual and reproductive health. India has the largest number of adolescents in the world, and it is important to address their growing need for information and clarity on issues of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) to enable them to make the right decisions in regard to their bodies, and lives.
A key intervention under the programme is the introduction of Saathiyas/Peer Educatotrs who build a safe and friendly environment for adolescents to ask questions and discuss health issues; their presence also generating demand for adolescent health services, and underlining the need to impart age-appropriate knowledge in their peer group. Saathiya is now a nationwide programme under which 1.6 lakh boys and girls are working as peer educators for adolescents, and respond to their queries on key health issues including mental and physical changes, nutrition, violence and addiction and substance abuse.
The Resource kit used by Saathiyas includes an activity book, a game using information cards, a question and answer book and a peer educator diary. In addition to this, the Saathiya Salah (Peer Educator Advice) app has been created, and is available for free on Google play-store, which acts as a ready information source for adolescents in case they are unable to interact with the Saathiya. Another important information platform for adolescents is the toll-free Saathiya Helpline which acts as an e-counselor. The kit includes QR code stickers that can be pasted in prominent areas in the neighborhood for easy access of the adolescents, so that the app can be scanned and downloaded on phones. A flash drive and USB stick are also included as part of the resource kit, which include short videos. While the short films will be played by the Saathiya at group meetings, the activity book and games will bring about discussion and resolve adolescent queries. The mobile technology- helpline and app, is especially useful for shy adolescents or those unable to interact with the Peer Educators due to family pressure, as they can easily access information by these means.
PFI's behaviour change communication initiative Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon (MKBKSH) or I, A Woman, Can Achieve Anything has also been incorporated in the kit. The last 26 episodes of MKBKSH Season Two were adapted to focus on the key themes of RKSK and to introduce the name ‘Saathiya’ to audiences. Eight films from MKBKSH were further modified and added to the kit as part of the videos used to start discussion in the group meetings. These deal with priority RKSK issues of nutrition, substance misuse, sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and mental health among others.
There was positive response to the poster, with both national and international delegates asking for more details and information to check feasibility of introducing a similar kit in their own areas.