Dasra Philanthropy Week emphasizes ‘collaboration with government’ is key to empower India’s 250 million adolescents

Adolescents | March 13, 2019

Flagship report ‘Action Reaction: Understanding and overcoming backlash against girls’ exercise of agency’ launched

New Delhi, 13 March 2019: India’s leading annual philanthropy convening ‘Dasra Philanthropy Week 2019’, hosted by Dasra, a strategic philanthropy foundation, and opened in New Delhi. It brought the empowerment of India’s 250 million adolescents at the forefront of the discussion between government officials, non-profits, sector experts, foundations and philanthropists. Through the lens on ‘collaborative action’ with the government, the convening spotlighted on government schemes like Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakaram (RKSK), a report understanding the backlash faced by adolescents girls exercising agency and stakeholders working to empower them, voices of adolescent champions, panel discussions, and knowledge sharing sessions.


Effective policy-making for adolescent empowerment


Dr. Ajay Khera, Deputy Commissioner, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, recognized the 250 million adolescents of India as a key cohort and emphasized on the importance of collaboration with the government to enhance their growth potential.


“One of the missing links in the whole adolescent programming is a limited number of datasets. If we try to put all datasets together and generate more evidence, that will help not only in adolescent programs but also in policy advocacy,” Dr Ajay Khera said.


Sunika Kumari, student parliament leader, Quest Alliance, Anandshala community spoke about the crucial role of community-driven interventions to empower adolescents in India.  Sunika Kumari said, “In my school in Bihar, we were lacking access even to basic facilities such as toilets. It was a huge inconvenience to student especially girls. We decided to take collective action as students and coordinated with authorities to ensure that the toilet is constructed. As a member of student parliament, we have continued this tradition of collective action to resolve challenges related to garbage disposal and increasing participation of young students in school activities.”


Creating strong partnerships with the government for impact at scale


In the panel, 'Government initiatives for adolescent empowerment', Dr. Zoya Rizvi, Assistant Commissioner, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare cited examples of effective collaborations with civil society to help the government in formulating and implementing schemes like Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) at district, state, and national level.


Dr. Zoya Rizvi, said, "NGOs, researchers, and academics need to collaborate with the government to equip the frontline health workers who work in the communities with better tools to collect and record reporting data which can be leveraged for creating effective policies and interventions. Such collaborations will support the Adolescent Health Counsellors, Auxiliary Nurse-Midwives (ANMs) and medical officers who are working in government institutions and conducting outreach activities.”


Dasra launched its flagship report 'Action Reaction:  'Action Reaction: Understanding and overcoming backlash against girls' exercise of agency in India' that further explained ground realities of implementing policies and schemes around adolescent empowerment, and shed light on better understanding the adverse consequences, or backlash, faced by girls who express agency and stakeholders working to empower adolescents. 


Shireen Jeejeebhoy, demographer and social scientist, Aksha Centre for Equity and Wellbeing and senior advisor to Dasra’s adolescent programme said, “There is a need to invest in rigorous research, especially community-based studies of girls and parents, to shed light on the risk and protective factors surrounding the backlash against girls. Surveys and qualitative studies that address the situation and evaluations of programs serving the young should include modules that explore the unintended adverse consequences of expressions of agency. More research attention will further enable effective delivery of programs, policies and on outcomes for growth of young girls.”



'Collaborative Action' to empower adolescents


Ramona El Hamzaoui, Deputy Mission Director, USAID said, "USAID believes that an enhanced focus on adolescents and youth is vital to our ability to achieve global development goals. We believe that there is no greater investment than the investment we make in our young people.”


Dasra's learning that large-scale social change can be achieved when non-profit organizations, academics, technical experts, funders, and government officials align on a common agenda to improve specific outcomes, was shared through a report ‘Collaborative Action: Empowering 10to19’ It informed participants about the startup phase of the '10to19 Adolescents Collaborative'. Based on the experience in building the 10to19 Adolescents Collaborative, the report identifies the following steps for working in a collaborative framework:


  1. Move from strategy to action
  2. Select implementing partners
  3. Introduce practices for effective collaboration


Shailja Mehta, Associate Director, Dasra, said, “Systemic, large-scale social change can only occur when we view problems holistically, and bring together multiple stakeholders to a common vision. Through 'Collaborative Action: Empowering 10to19' report, we want to build a case for non-profits, governments, funders, media, researchers and technical experts to pool resources and act together for creating impact at scale. We hope that Dasra’s experience from the 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative can provide a model for building other multi-stakeholder collaborative platforms in diverse fields.”

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About Dasra

Dasra, meaning ‘enlightened giving’ in Sanskrit, is a pioneering strategic philanthropy organization that aims to transform India where a billion thrive with dignity and equity. Since its inception in 1999, Dasra has accelerated social change by driving collaborative action through powerful partnerships among a trust-based network of stakeholders (corporates, foundations, families, non-profits, social businesses, government and media). Over the years, Dasra has deepened social impact in focused fields that include Adolescents, Urban Sanitation and Democracy and Governance, and has built social capital by leading a strategic philanthropy movement in the country. For more information, visit

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