Published: 27th November 2018
Three-fourths of the teenage girls in digital India do not know how to surf the net, says study
Only one in every five girls said that they can go to a police station and file a complaint, and one in three can withdraw money from an ATM, bank or post office
At a time when we are always talking about a smart and digital future of India it is shocking that less than one-fourth of Indian teenage girls own a mobile phone and only 29.8 per cent of them know how to search for information on the internet, according to a recent Teenage Girls (TAG) Report released by Naandi, an organisation that works with adolescent girls. The report terms these skills ‘New Age Skills’ or NAS. The set of skills that ensure a life of basic dignity and efficiency today is very different from the set of skills that would have been needed twenty years ago.
Mobility: Access to mobile phone, bicycle and motorised two-wheeler/four-wheeler in girls 13-19 years, by age group (%) (Source: TAG Report)
The set of skills that they suggest we should consider necessary in today's world comprise the ability to make and receive calls on a mobile phone, fill forms in English or local language, search for information on the internet, send and receive emails, use social media, write a document in English on a computer, withdraw money from an ATM/bank/post office, ask a male stranger for directions/help, travel alone on a journey longer than four hours, live alone and go to a police station to file a complaint.
Girls who have access to a mobile phone and some mode of transport (bicycle or motorised two-wheeler or four-wheeler) which they can use whenever they need, have more edge in life than those who do not. "We found 23 per cent teenage girls to have access to a mobile phone, 37 per cent to have access to a bicycle and 10.8 per cent have access to a motorised vehicle. Amongst 13-15 year olds, 15.3 per cent have access to a mobile phone, and 30.3 per cent of 16-19-year-olds have access to a mobile phone. 37.9 per cent of 13-15-year-olds have access to a bicycle while 36.2 per cent of 16-19-year-olds have access to a bicycle," read the report.
Poor Skills: New Age Skills amongst girls 13-19 years, by age group (%) (Source: TAG Report)
Amongst 13-15-year-olds, 9.8 per cent have access to a motorised vehicle, and the corresponding figure for 16-19-year-olds is 11.7 per cent. In rural areas 19 per cent of teenage girls have access to a mobile phone. In urban areas this figure is 32.4 per cent. 38.4 per cent girls in rural areas have access to a bicycle, while 33.6 per cent urban girls have access to a bicycle. Percentage of girls with access to a motorised vehicle is 8.4 in rural areas and 16.5 in urban areas. Of teenage girls from low wealth quintile households, 6 per cent have access to a mobile phone, while in high wealth quintile households the figure is 33.4 per cent. Access to a bicycle is 32.6 per cent amongst girls from low wealth quintile households and 43.7 per cent for girls from high wealth quintile households. percentage of girls having access to motorised vehicles is 5.4 per cent in low wealth quintile households and 18.8 per cent in high wealth quintile households.
Digital Future: New Age Skills amongst girls 13-19 years (%) (Source: TAG Report)
Only one in every five girls said that they can go to a police station and file a complaint, and one in three can withdraw money from an ATM, bank or post office. However, more than three-fourths of them could fill forms, make calls on a mobile phone and send or receive emails.
No blood in their veins
More than half the girls between the age of 13 and 19 years have mild to severe anaemia and abnormal Body Mass Index (BMI), according to the TAG Report. According to the report, every second teenage girl in the country is anaemic. While 42.1 per cent , 9.6 per cent and 1.3 per cent had mild, moderate and severe anaemia respectively, 48.2 percent of girls had no anaemia nationally.
The health of a teenage girl holds significance not only for her own life but also for the health and well-being of the children she may have later. A variety of problems cause anaemia among teenage girls, said Dr JK Reddy, a senior consulting pediatrician with Apollo Hospitals. “Adolescent children grow rapidly and parents need to meet their nutritional needs in an appropriate manner. For example, parents mix dates with milk to provide children with iron and calcium. But these two minerals do not work in combination,” he said.
Despite Swachh Bharat campaigns, one in every three teenage girls did not have a toilet facility, the survey stated. Open defecation is tightly inter-knit with the health and nutritional status of the population said economist K Nagaraj, who has worked on the rural economy with the planning commission of several states.
A total of 19 states have better sanitation facilities for girls according to the report. The survey on open defecation matches with these figures. Nearly 30 per cent of teenage girls still defecates in the open. “Open defecation causes a decline in the living standards leading to repeated illness. This generally reflects on the nutritional and health status of the population,” said Nagaraj.
Nearly two-thirds of all surveyed girls preferred to get married from 21-25, 23.3 per cent preferred 26-30 and nearly 16 per cent wanted marriage only after turning 31. No girl wanted to get married before she was 18 and only 2.5 per cent said that they aspired to get married between 18-20, the survey showed.
(With inputs from Sushmitha Ramakrishnan)