Children's Resiliency Program
Girls First—India is a resilience-based training initiative from the CorStone Center for Personal Resilience. It is designed to empower marginalized adolescent girls and young women in India with the knowledge, skills and support they need to improve their emotional resilience, physical health, and academic achievement. Attendees are adolescent girls and young women living in poverty. The typical attendee has never attended school or is the first generation in her family to attend school; lives in a high-poverty area that has no running water or sanitation and high levels of violent crime; is at high risk for child marriage or is already married; and will have few, if any, positive employment prospects beyond menial labor. Girls First integrates a comprehensive weekly school-based emotional resilience curriculum with trainings in adolescent health and academic tutoring. The program is delivered over the course of a year. Girls meet two hours per week in peer support groups of 12-15 girls each, facilitated by local women who are trained as Program Facilitators.The program seeks to build ‘internal assets’ such as self-esteem, persistence, health knowledge and positive attitudes. ‘External assets’ such as strong peer and family relationships and adult mentorship are also developed. CorStone uses an innovative grassroots network model to deliver the program in partnership with local community-based organizations with a successful track record of working with girls in high-poverty areas in India. Together, CorStone and its partners recruit, train and certify women in the local community for employment as Master Trainers, who in turn train and oversee Program Facilitators to implement the curriculum with the girls. The model successfully devolves financial responsibility for the program among US and India funders while maintaining a rigorous certification program to ensure strict standards of quality in content and training.
Plans are underway to deliver Girls First in 2013 to nearly 5,000 marginalized girls (ages 12-16) in 160 schools in tribal and rural communities in four states in India—Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Rajasthan. Independent evaluations will assess Girls First’s effect on current and future resilience. Improvements in ‘quality of life’ such as physical and psychological health, social relationships, and school attendance, behavior and achievement will also be tested. Girls First will provide some of the first evidence that personal resilience programs significantly impact health and academic knowledge, attitudes and behavior among marginalized adolescent girl populations in developing countries. The project has the potential to contribute to effective health and educational interventions for high-risk adolescent girls in rural India. It will also lay the groundwork for policy changes at a state and national level in India as well as for vulnerable populations worldwide.