MYSURU: Shukti Anantha (17) from Mysuru, a passionate youth who advocates for issues of adolescent health was one of the youngest speakers from Mysuru at the recently hosted Accountability breakfast 2020 - Advancing women's, children's and adolescents' health during COVID-19.
The event, hosted by UN General Assembly and World Health Organisation, focused on securing global accountability for protecting the health and rights of women, children and adolescents.
Shukti, is an adolescent leader and youth advocate for adolescent health and student at Vidhyaashram High School in Mysuru. She strongly believes in the principles of youth-led accountability in policy processes to make them youngsters more informed.
She is affiliated with a nationwide autonomous youth network on adolescent health advocacy called PWG-STEPS (Policy Working Group - Stepping Towards Enhancing Policy Structures) through which she engages in initiatives to inform youth about India's national adolescent health programme, other relevant programs and policies. She enjoys reading and writing about different issues of social relevance, especially around mental health and well-being.
Sharing her views on how to raise a voice on importance of adolescent health during the pandemic, she said, “I think it is very important for adolescent health to be highlighted at a young age, be it through education or awareness or through parenting, as not many young people are aware of the importance of it. Young people are unaware of, for example, mental health, sexual and reproductive health, malnutrition, and so on.”
“Due to the pandemic, there are so many issues that adolescents are facing, mentally, physically and socially. It has caused a major difference in their daily routine and has changed their lives completely. They should be appointed with appropriate resources to cope accordingly," she added.
“There are only a few policies and programmes in India regarding adolescent health. The national adolescent health program or Rastriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) is one. Though it has been 6 years since its launch in 2014, awareness around the programme among adolescents themselves is quite low and its status of implementation is also not great," she explained.
Another challenge she pointed out that is that there are no formal avenues for meaningful youth engagement in adolescent health programs and policies.
“Adolescent participation is even mandated by global frameworks like WHO Global accelerated action for the health of adolescents. We as young people need to stick to the motto of ‘Nothing about us, without us’ and governments need to use a ‘Leave no one behind’ approach while looking at adolescent health," she added.
Due to the pandemic, a lot of adolescent health issues have come to limelight such as lack of access to sexual and reproductive health needs, mental health issues such as depression, suicide and also lack of mid-day meals that several young children relied upon.