The Problem: Violence against women and girls in India.

Girls in India are born into a socio-cultural context steeped in discrimination and inequity that pushes them to the fringes of society with little control over their lives and an inability to reach their full potential. Twenty three percent of women aged 20-24 years old are married before the legal age of 18 years (NFHS-5) and only one in four Indian women are able to join the workforce (World Bank). Gender discrimination is also believed to have a direct effect on birthrates, with only 919 girls being born per 1000 boys (Census 2011).

Unfortunately, despite the evident and dire health, economic and social consequences of violence against women and girls, the issue has received relatively little global attention and funding.

The solution: Empowerment programs for adolescents.

High-quality studies have identified several specific interventions that are effective at preventing violence. In particular, community-based social empowerment programs that shift gender norms and attitudes have been demonstrated to be very effective from many randomized controlled trials — including Abramsky et al (2014), Dunkle et al (2020), Leight et al (2020), Wagman et al (2015), Ogum Alangea et al (2020), Le Roux et al (2020), and Chatterji et al (2020). These programs can lead to 30-50% reductions in violence in communities, with effects that can persist for many years.

These community mobilization programs involve training community volunteers to become activists who can work with individuals, families, communities and local governments to drive change in gender norms and attitudes. The programs are supported by evidence-based toolkits, frameworks, and technical assistance. They are also community driven and adapted to each local context.

Breakthrough Trust India is implementing the community-based approach into school curriculum and community-based programs targeting adolescents which have a similar level of effectiveness.

How Breakthrough Trust works

Breakthrough Trust implements community-based programs that target adolescents inside and outside the school system. Through their work, Breakthrough Trust has reached nearly 1.5 million adolescents in 13 districts and 4 states (Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Delhi/NCR) in India.

Breakthrough Trust uses the socio-ecological model where they work with different stakeholders, including local administration at the village and district level, frontline health workers and other community stakeholders like families and other community members who impact a girl’s life. Breakthrough also works with young adults aged 19-25 years old in the community and creates youth leaders or Team Change Leaders (TCLs). These TCLs act as a bridge between the organization and the community and are extensively trained by Breakthrough to act as a support system for adolescents in the community.

In conjunction, through its systems change work on gender transformative school systems, Breakthrough Trust collaborates with state governments  and state education departments to embed a gender lens into the middle school subject curricula. It is currently working with the governments of Punjab and Odisha to scale its programs at government schools and is involved in training teachers and school leaders to build gender sensitivity, work with middle management for effective implementation of the program and enhance parental engagement to increase value for girls’ education and aspirations.