“Population Foundation of India welcomes the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s Independence Day Speech, which is particularly a huge victory for those of us working in the field of women’s and young people’s reproductive health and empowerment. The focus of the PM’s speech was enabling and empowering youth and women to be skilled and creative and provide innovative solutions in every sphere for building an `Atmanirbhar Bharat’.
We are encouraged once again that the Prime Minister spoke about issues that are critical for empowerment of girls and women, including access to menstrual hygiene products and preventing early marriages, which are vital in any conversation about India’s future. We share the PM’s concerns – Population Foundation of India has time and again emphasized the need for adequate investments in the empowerment of young people and women, who constitute half of our population.
The COVID-19 outbreak has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities and challenges in access to health services particularly for women and young people. Findings from PFI’s recent studies to assess the impact of COVID-19 on young people showed that they were faced with fear, anxiety and apprehension of the future. Young people, especially women, saw an increase in their domestic workload, experience of violence at home and mental anxieties. 58% of women under 18 years of age reported an unmet need for sanitary pads. The gaps we found in our Surveys are something the PM has addressed, which is a big win for us and all those who stand for strengthening and empowering the young amongst us. We are happy to support the government on all its endeavours to address the social determinants that prevent equitable access to essential health services for women and girls.
The Prime Minister’s announcement of initiating the Digital Health Mission and use of technology is long pending and welcome. We are sure that the government will embrace the challenge of creating the necessary mechanism to keep the vast medical records safe and secure. It was encouraging and reassuring for the people of India in this difficult time of COVID-19. The Prime Minister’s update on development of three vaccines in the country is heartening and we hope that its distribution is equitable and given first to the most vulnerable. He has promised creating opportunities, building skills, developing infrastructure and opening of the space sector for the Yuva Shakti (youth power) that will help India reap the benefit of the demographic dividend in the country.
Population Foundation of India has completed 50 years in service of the nation. As we go onwards, we feel energised and enthused hearing from the Prime Minister and our shared concerns as India marks its 74th Independence Day. It may well herald a new wave of freedom and emancipation of our youth, women and more vulnerable sections of society. We move onward with hope and renewed commitment.”