Jaipur, November, 2020.
Population Foundation of India began a campaign called #ZeroTeenagePregnancy (ZTP) earlier this year. The campaign was launched by Rajasthan Health Minister Raghu Sharma on National Youth Day, January 12, 2020 and was a means of creating dialogue about teenage pregnancy in Rajasthan by engaging with key stakeholders including elected representatives, government officials, and young people.
What made the campaign effective and successful was that it was able to generate a unified voice of elected, political representatives from across party lines to speak up. In a symbolic, digital outreach gesture, they all held placards to support the elimination of teenage pregnancy in Rajasthan
Across Rajasthan, MLAs like Prashant Bairwa, Krishna Poonia, Harish Chandra Meena, Shobha Rani Kushwaha, RamilaKhadiya, Mahendra Bishnoi, Rooparam, Nirmal Kumawat, Girraj Singh Malinga and Joginder Singh Awana added their might to the campaign. Equally enthusiastic and significant was the participation of MLAs like Kushner Singh, Hakam Ali, Heera Ram Meghwal, Khiladi Ram Bairwa, Nirmala Shariya, Rajkumar Raot, Ved Prakash Solanki, Ramniwas Gawariya and Santosh Anoopgarh. Their inspiring tweets are attached along with images from their respective digital campaigns.
More than 200 people including prominent policy makers, bureaucrats, senior government officials, media persons, celebrities, civil society representatives and youth supported the campaign. The wide-reaching impact of these individuals with their social media followers, amplified the message about teenage pregnancies. It became clear also that digital initiatives like this can play a very important role in breaking the silence around difficult subjects, normalizing taboo topics and creating an enabling environment for young people to access sexual and reproductive health information and services. This work is even more crucial considering how debilitating the impact of early pregnancies can be on the overall well-being of underserved communities. The digital campaign #ZeroTeenagePregnancy gains critical importance in the light of the NFHS-4 data which shows that 35 percent of girls in Rajasthan were married before the age of 18. And more than 6 percent of these girls either had children or were pregnant at the time of the survey.
As Nikita Srivastav, Senior State Program Manager at Population Foundation India explained, “such a campaign is extremely important in a state like ours considering almost one-fifth of the population of Rajasthan is adolescent. Support and commitment from policy makers via this campaign makes the message more impactful as they represent different geographies, cultures and communities. People from their constituencies idealize them and follow their footsteps. These initiatives especially when they cut across party lines, help a lot. They facilitate to provide the correct messaging and information to the young. A healthy adolescent population will have a significant impact on the social and economic profile of Rajasthan, and we will continue to work towards the goal of Zero Teen Pregnancy in Rajasthan."