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Empowerment, Health & Sexuality of Adolescents

Empowering adolescents using a gender-transformative approach through experiential education, community mobilization and health services

Mumbai (Dharavi, Kandivali, Kalwa)

The Problem

Adolescence is often characterised by physical, mental and emotional uncertainty, and poses unique challenges for young adults residing in urban informal settlements.

of adolescents in India reported being depressed for 2 weeks or more in a row

of the disease burden among adults in India attributed to unhealthy habits during adolescence

Youth in these areas often have limited access to resources on topics relating to health, gender and sexuality. Stigmas relating to sexual behaviour and gender stereotypes are abound, making it difficult to find a safe and encouraging environment to openly discuss these crucial topics. In many cases, public institutions also don’t have the capacity to address adolescents’ needs.

Source: Mental Health Status of Adolescents in South-East Asia: Evidence for Action, a WHO report from April 2017

How can we equip adolescents, families, public systems and other support structures to overcome challenges relating to health, sexuality and individual agency?

Our Work

We engage directly with adolescents to influence their physical health, social attitudes and promote gender equity.

Our programs in Dharavi, Kandivali and Kalwa aim to ensure better physical, mental and sexual health outcomes for young people between the ages of 10 and 19 years. We equip adolescents with skills to lead an empowered life through the following strategies.

Community mobilization

We hold community meetings, campaigns, home visits, street plays, and workshops on topics such as child sexual abuse and child marriage.

Collective learning

Our interactive modules for adolescents cover topics including gender, sex and sexuality, reproductive health, child sexual abuse, citizenship, human rights, careers, health and nutrition.

Screening and linkages to mental health services

We offer screening for mental health illnesses and link adolescents to institutional counselling, therapeutic and psychiatric interventions.

Strengthening health systems’ response to adolescents’ needs

We work in partnership with health posts and public hospitals like Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital to offer anaemia screening and annual health check-ups.

Creating a cadre of change agents

We train young people to emerge as peer leaders through a combination of personality development workshops and leadership bootcamps. These change agents are active in identifying cases of gender based violence and sexual abuse in their communities.

Creating resources for adolescent education

Our online resource library covers issues such as menstruation and sex education.

Engaging with youth on the ground

Our community-based resource centres offer a non-judgemental and safe space for adolescents to come and share their questions and concerns. The centres house a resource library with books and other media on sexuality, gender, health and human rights. In addition to its engagement with adolescents, these centres engage with parents as well as community gate-keepers through meetings and counselling sessions.

Reach and Impact


youth reached through life-skills and health education programs (2012-2016)


reduction in anaemia among beneficiary adolescents (2015-2016)


adolescents sensitized to family planning practices and facilities (2015-2016)


parents involved in community mobilization and sensitization programmes (2012-2015)

Notes from the field:
An aspiring performer
and voice against violence

When we first began our Prevention of violence against women and children programme, we realized the importance of sensitizing men and women to gender issues at a younger age. We offer adolescents a chance to engage with these topics through activities in theatre, art and technology.

Arshad*, 19, first came to EHSAS with his mother, a community aide in the Prevention of Violence against Women and Children programme. He soon became a part of a play on mental health and developed a contagious passion for theatre.

Theatre exposed him to new perspectives, including insight into the violence and harassment faced by women.

Arshad became a spokesperson amongst his peers, disparaging violence and emphasizing the importance of treating all people with respect and dignity.

“I tell them not to tease women; sometimes it makes them angry, but I tell them anyway,” he says.

For Arshad, EHSAS has become a part of his family. He has brought many of his friends to participate in the programme and hopes that they too, like him, will find confidence and a creative outlet.

*Name changed

Building digital skills

Our programme encourages adolescents to use and explore different forms of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). We seek to enable self-expression and facilitate strong peer learning networks, while building digital skills of adolescents in urban informal settlements. Some activities we facilitate among adolescents include using mobile phones to make videos, creating storyboards using web-based tools and producing podcasts on topics like love and attraction.


Credit Suisse

ACG Cares Foundation

Ford Foundation


Global Fund for Women


Patni Foundation