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At 243 million, India has the world’s highest number of adolescents (10-19 years) constituting 21.4% of the country’s population. Available data shows that millions of adolescents today do not enjoy access to quality education, basic, sexual and reproductive health care, support for mental health issues and disability, protection from violence, abuse and exploitation, and forums for active participation. The gender breakdown of adolescent population shows significant problems of adverse sex ratio with the 2011 Census reporting 882 girls per 1,000 boys in 10-19 years category compared to 927 girls in 0-6 years. This pattern is evident in educational outcomes, with India ranking 113 in educational attainment, with female to male ratio in literacy rate at 0.67, a score much below average (World Bank, 2016). 1 in 3 girls is currently married before the age of 18 (Unicef) while 30% women in the 15-19 age group have had a live birth (NFHS-3) while 60% girls in the same group were anemic.
The AEP aims to ensure rights and agency for adolescents and help them demand equity in health and education in their homes and community, for themselves and others including reducing the incidence of early marriage and gender-based violence among adolescent girls and increasing the age at first pregnancy. The program has two components: in-class curriculum and stakeholder sensitization. AEP works at the societal, institutional and individual levels and thus links empowerment with prevention and protection. Societal-level work seeks to address norms and cultural practices like child marriage that prevent girls from reaching their full potential. At the institutional level, Breakthrough works with all relevant structures including family and government to impact indicators like levels of education and access to health and nutrition. At the individual level, the organization empowers young people to participate in decisions that impact their lives and experience greater equality.