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Today, approximately 1 billion adolescents live in low and middle income countries. Confronted by systemic poverty, marginalization, and discrimination, many emerge from adolescence without the life skills, attitudes and supports they need to bounce back from challenges and adversity, unleash their potential and thrive. The Girls First program attendees are 12-16 year old girls living in rural poverty in the state of Bihar, one of India's poorest states. The girls live at government-run residential schools ("KGBVs") that specially serve at-risk girls from ‘low’ castes, minorities, tribal communities, and/or from families below the poverty line. The typical attendee is the first generation in her family to attend school; is at high risk for child marriage and/or trafficking at 12-14 years of age; faces religious, ethnic and/or ‘caste’ discrimination and violence; and will have few, if any, positive employment prospects beyond menial or household labor.
Over the past decade, CorStone has developed, researched, and delivered personal resilience programs that cultivate skills, attitudes, and supports that catalyze youth to overcome difficulties, unleash their potential and live flourishing lives. Our approach has provided some of the first evidence that fostering resilience is key to improving mental and physical health, gender equality, and education. Girls in the Girls First program attend facilitated peer support groups, led by trained schoolteachers, one hour per week. The 6-month program provides in-depth training in topics such as character strength development, social-emotional and communication skills, goal-setting, problem-solving, conflict resolution, reproductive and sexual health and gender rights. In 2019, at the request of the Bihar Education Ministry, CorStone initiated a multi-year scale-up of Girls First in 268 KGBVs serving 50,000 at-risk girls across the state. In 2022 we plan to expand to additional states. You may view additional details of our work here.