CorStone India Foundation today presented the outcomes of a Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) of its flagship ‘Girls First’ resilience program, which aimed to cultivate resilience among marginalized adolescent girls in India.
Conducted in 2013-14, the ‘Girls First’ RCT involved 3500 girls and 74 facilitators across 76 schools in rural Bihar, demonstrating significant positive impact on mental and physical health, education, social skills and relationships. The program has resulted in improvements in girls’ emotional and physical wellbeing, safe water practices, and self-advocacy for gender and educational rights.
Elaborating on the results of the Girls First RCT, Steve Leventhal, Executive Director, CorStone, said, “The Girls First resilience program has had tremendous impact on adolescent girls and their communities. Our analysis reveal that girls are stopping early marriage, advocating for their education, and standing up to harassment using a combination of many skills learned in Girls First, including assertive communication, managing negative emotions, drawing on strengths, sharing feelings and problems with group members, collaborative problem-solving, and so on.”
“We believe this study is one of the first to show that tackling issues of identity, strengths, and mindset through a rigorous resilience-building program can indeed amplify impact across many life domains for girls in developing countries, improving their psychosocial health, physical health, and education.”
CorStone recognized that prioritizing education and well-being is particularly important in Bihar where girls are at a high risk for arranged marriages starting at around age 14, at which point they, are often forced to stop attending school. As a result, 95 percent of women in Bihar have less than 12 years of education, and nearly 70 percent are pregnant by age 18, which sharply increases health risks.
Rajiv Ranjan Prasad, State Program Officer, Elementary and Formal Education, Bihar Education Project Council, Patna, Bihar said, “ It is encouraging to see the positive changes that the Girls First program has brought to these young girls, which is also appreciated by the school authorities and teachers. The program has complemented the BEPC’s activities and helped to improve our own indicators as well during the project period.”
“We look forward to continuing our collaboration with CorStone on the roll-out of the resilience program in Government schools across rural as well as urban Bihar."
Key outcomes of the RCT include 33 percent increase in emotional resilience in girls and 99 percent increase in health knowledge in girls who received training in the combined program as compared to 78 percent increase in knowledge among girls receiving only the adolescent health program.
Based on the successes of Girls First, scale-up programs involving over 30,000 boy and girl students in standards 6th-8th in over 250 schools in Bihar are underway in partnership with the Bihar Education Project Council (BEPC). The next phase is being called ‘Youth First’ as it aims to impact the health and education – and positive life trajectory – of both boys and girls. “It is vital to cultivate resilience among marginalized youth in India–-girls as well as boys–-for them to thrive emotionally, physically, and economically; to make conscious, positive choices; and to deal with adversity of any kind in a resilient and peaceful manner,” added Steve Leventhal.