This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Kushal Kumar. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

For India’s Teenage Mothers, Pregnancy Is Nothing Short Of Imprisonment

Every day, 20,000 girls under the age of 18 give birth in low-and-middle-income countries, including India. That’s according to a new report from the United Nations’ Population Fund. It found that impoverished, poorly educated, and rural girls are more likely to become pregnant during their adolescence than wealthier and educated girls. For thousands of girls each year, teenage pregnancy results in death. Al Jazeera has covered cases from New Delhi on how attitudes to teenage pregnancy are changing. It cites the case of Neha Krishna, who is just 15, and gave birth to a baby boy. Being a mother is a blissful experience but for teenagers like Neha, it is life imprisonment. Neha expresses her regret saying, “I never had my childhood, and now I have a baby to feed and look after, all on my own.” The extent of mental stress cannot be imagined when a teenage girl in such a situation finds no option but to survive anyhow. What causes this issue to prevail?


Amidst the chaotic life of such teenagers, Anjana Matta, a social educator at Mamta Health Institute, New Delhi, has observed the issue closely. After the training and education programs led by Anjana, the cases of adolescent pregnancies have fallen from 60% to 15% in a slum of New Delhi. She says, “It is still a challenge to make parents understand why they need to avoid child marriages as it leads to adolescent pregnancies. It hampers the education of the girl that leads to higher dowries to have a literate husband. Instead, the parents think if they educate their girls, they have to find a more educated husband and would be bound to give even higher dowries.” Somewhere, the issue is deep-rooted and needs a focused attention towards social malpractice like dowry. Anders Thomasen, the Deputy Representative at UNFPA asserts, “If India manages to eradicate the issue of adolescent pregnancy, it would boost the economy of India by 12%“. This is how expensive this issue is. Yet, awareness and use of contraceptive methods as well as sexual rights remain limited in rural India.

Validity of Data

Few ground realities are usually overlooked by NHFS surveys while assessing the respondent’s age. Rural areas are the most difficult when it comes to figuring out the age of a person. Most parents do not even know the date of birth of their children. They often mention a higher number than the actual age of girls or they don’t remember the age at all. If you ask the parents of a married girl her age, they very well know that below 18 it is illegal to get a girl married so they purposely misinform her age as 20 or 21. Around 12.8% of the girls, aged 15 years to 18 years in rural Bihar were already mothers or were pregnant at the time of the National Family Health Survey (NHFS), which is a huge population. Mahima Taneja, a senior research associate at Outline India, mentions a case of a teenage mother, who, when was asked why she got pregnant so soon, replied, “Baanjh bolenge sab log (everyone would call me infertile)!”

Political Will Under Duress

Swagata Yadavar, a principal correspondent at IndiaSpend expresses a valid concern over the political will to address the adolescents’ issues. To address the pandemic of HIV/AIDS, the Indian government in association with United Nations agencies introduced an adolescence-education programme (AEP) in 2005. Adolescent health featured for the first time as a national programme in 2006 under the National Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health Strategy (NARSHS), which included health clinics that offered preventive, promotive, curative and referral services for adolescents (10-19 years) and youth (19-24 years). However, within two years of inception, the AEP programme was banned in 12 states including Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh. The reason is that the graphics are not as per the Indian cultural values! A 2016 report by Population Council, an advocacy, shows the aftermath of under-estimating the issue and covering it behind cultural myths. The report says, more than 10,400 adolescents of age 15 to 19 who were surveyed, 14.1 % of the unmarried adolescent boys and 6.3% of unmarried adolescent girls have had pre-marital sex and among them, 22% boys and 28.5% girls had premarital sex before 15 years.

The Bottom Line

The major lack is in age-old mentality, not only in the rural areas but also in the educated seniors and education institutions who adamantly prefer cultural show-off against the needs and lives of vulnerable adolescents. The causes are varied — child marriage, lack of education, being forced to work, dowry, lack of political will, cultural myths, mindsets and mental health issues. That can only be dealt with vigorous mobilization, education, advocacy and sensitization. Lost in the transition from childhood to adulthood, a staggering 100 million in this delicate adolescent age of 15 to 18 have to suffer.



Johnson, Emmanuel. (2011). Adolescent Pregnancy in India: An issue of life and death. Journal of School Social Work. VIII. 28 – 32.

Mahima Taneja (Oct 22, 2017). Why India Ranks As One Of The Highest In The Number Of Reported Adolescent Pregnancies. Huffinfton Post. Retrieved from

The Business Line. (July 27, 2018). They are girls and boys — not women and men — and they’re getting exploited. The Hindu. Retrieved from

Nidhi Bhatt. (2013). Shifting Attitude of teen Pregnancy in India. Al Jazeera. YouTube. Retrieved from


You must be to comment.

More from Kushal Kumar

Similar Posts

By Kulwinder Kaur

By SAANS leaders

By Herrah

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below