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In The Spotlight

Virtual world or real, teachers are a comforting presence for students

I very fondly and proudly remember the famous lines from one of my favourite writers and philosophers, Rabindranath Tagore’s poem, Gitanjali, “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high, where knowledge is free, where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls. Where words come out from the depth of truth, where tireless striving stretches its arms toward perfection.” It personifies the attitude, courage and confidence that a teacher upholds while following her duty tirelessly, especially in today’s times. They have shown the world that nothing can deter their commitment and passion for their work.

 

 

COVID-19 caught everyone unawares and the education sector has had to brave its way to find solutions to reach out to every child in every corner of the country to aid them in continuing the learning process. Children majorly from the rural, semi-urban and slum pockets of the city are not equipped to access alternate modes of learning involving digital mediums. There would not be physical connect with the teachers, an important aspect especially for children who have difficulties in learning and understanding, with many of them being first generation learners in their family.

 

Yet, the teachers with their unwavering faith and honesty, are determined to find and deploy unconventional means to keep spreading the knowledge and keep the beacon of learning alive in the minds of the children. They geared up and adapted to new interactive mediums, became more digitally aware, got trained in innovative teaching methods, visited homes when required. They connected with the children, listened to their fears and concerns and motivated them to keep engaged in learning and fun activities within the safe confines of their homes.

 

 

The invaluable guidance and comforting presence of a teacher, be it in the virtual or real world, has instilled hope and positivity in the minds of the children and their guardians amidst the uncertainties induced due to COVID-19. Their persistent dedication and involvement in their work will continue to keep inspiring students and help children aspire to fulfill their dreams.

 

“Though you wrote in black and white, you brought colour in my life.”

 

This is my humble tribute to all the teachers who are walking the extra mile for their students!

 

To know more about the support that is needed to prep the education system for such emergencies read our Co-Founder’s views at https://www.smilefoundationindia.org/Media/opinion-prepping-education-sector-for-contingencies.html

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In The Spotlight

Things to do for better mental well-being

There is no path to happiness: happiness is the path- Buddha.

 

A long-term experience of life satisfaction is almost certainly made up of many short-term feelings of joy and pleasure. Does that mean every day is a great day with no trials, temptations, or downturns? Certainly not. But it does mean when we look back at the many seasons of life, we can look back satisfied at how we navigated through them.

 

The long-term feeling of life satisfaction is most experienced when we embrace the emotion of joy in the here and now. And we accomplish that by taking steps each day to be happy.

 

Consider trying a few of these — or all of them! You’re guaranteed to give your day a little boost.

 

Establish Gratitude

 

 

Focusing on the small things that we have can be blinded by our desire of wanting more. But this desire, built by envy and jealousy usually leads to great levels of dissatisfaction. Instead, just taking a break from the daily hustle and appreciating the little we have, the friends and family. Our health or mental well-being or simply a cup of tea/coffee can boost one’s mindset for the better.

 

Defeat Anxiety

 

 

There is some wisdom in a Buddhist approach to emotions. A Buddhist-based mindfulness approach to overcoming anxiety is basically working with it. There’s unfortunately, no easy way to relieve one’s anxiety in a way that doesn’t involve masking it or just distracting oneself-that should be used. The second approach is to bringing mindfulness to the actual experience.

 

Sometimes, overcoming worry and nervousness is simply a matter of modifying your behaviour, thoughts, and lifestyle. Keep moving with your day-to-day routine, be open about your concerns and cut caffeinated products.

 

Listen to Amazing Music

 

 

Music we love is one of the best antidotes to mental pain or heartbreak. Trying to boost and uplift your mood while listening to music actually can help your mental well-being. 

 

Create a Sleep Schedule that Works well for you

 

sleep for better mental well-being
sleep for better mental well-being

 

Getting a consistent good night’s sleep is vital. Chronic sleep deprivation is a huge problem nowadays, especially for those who work late or are keeping a busy schedule. It’s not just a lack of 6 to 8 hours of daily sleep which can be detrimental to your psychological health and mental well-being. Start with small steps. Give yourself a sensible and realistic bedtime. Try to go to bed half an hour before your usual bedtime and stick to it. Evaluate this new habit every day by having a journal and writing down your progress.

 

Do Spend Time Outside Every Day

 

spending time-outside for mental well-being
Spending time-outside for mental well-being

 

Go for a walk during your lunch break. Go to work and back, taking a walk from one station to another. Spend a few minutes drinking your morning coffee or tea outside. Pick up running or walking in the green outdoors. It doesn’t even have to be for a long period of time.

 

Say Nice Things to Yourself

 

 

An adjustment in your everyday vocabulary, both in your thoughts and even out loud. One should flip his dialogue to only positive outcomes. For example, instead of saying, ‘If I get that job,’ switch it to, ‘When I get that job.’ Those subtle changes in using positive language help to change your mind set to a glass half full instead of a glass half empty. You can also increase your positive thoughts by stating one thing you like about yourself when you look in the mirror each morning.    

 

Cut back on some  of your Unhealthy Habits

 

 

We know when and which things are bad for us. You can curb that by reducing them, but not giving them up entirely. Reducing something within your own means can save you the stress of immediate change. Only when you are completely ready, stay away from harmful food, smoking or things that cause procrastination.

 

Plan a Superb Vacation

 

plan a vacation for good mental well-being
Plan a vacation for good mental well-being

 

The anticipation and planning of a trip are almost as good as the trip itself. Prepping for a vacation or a journey has been shown to increase our happiness levels hence boosting our mental well-being.

 

Do Invest in a Quality Relationship

 

 

If you want to have good long-term mental well-being and physical health, you need to first see if you have meaningful, loving relationships. Picking one or more people close to you, and start planning to spend quality time together.  Loving meaningful relationships are good for our mental and physical health

 

Meet New People

 

 

Get out of your circle of friends. In order to find new companions and to expand your world, you need to go out there and meet new people. Everyone has an interesting history or story to tell. So move out of your comfort zone cast a smile and have fun when meeting others. Don’t need to over think it.

 

Accept your Flaws

 

 

Expecting perfection guarantees you’ll feel like a failure at least part of the time, and that can lead to serious anxiety. By accepting the fact that as humans, we make several mistakes, is fundamental to avoid living in judgment.

Learn the art of progress, not perfection. We are setting ourselves up for failure from the when we expect to ‘have it all’ perfectly balanced. In other words, we will always feel like we are failing.

 

 See a Therapist – They can definitely Help

 

 

If you were trying to get in physical shape and had no idea where to start, you might turn to a coach or personal trainer. Mental health works the same way. There are so, so many benefits to seeing a therapist. 

 

Write in a Journal

 

 

List some small dreams and thoughts you might have. Express your emotions in writing and read them later to yourself. Instead of allowing your brain to go to a place of anxiety and stress, arm yourself with grateful thoughts. Writing them down also helps. If you write down that which you have to be grateful for, your brain becomes better at finding even more gratitude.

 

Turn your Phone Off Please

 

 

It has been proven time and again in many studies that too much tech time can negatively impact mental health. Whenever the phone rings or we get an update, we instinctively try to reach to our devices. The temporary dopamine chain people to their phones or even computers. Every night or weekend, try and become less available via text and email so you don’t feel emotionally tethered to your phone.

 

If you want to be happy, be. – Leo Tolstoy

To know more about Smile Foundation’s initiative for promoting better mental health visit /https://www.smilefoundationindia.org/baton-baton-mein-sehat/

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In The Spotlight

Thank You Teachers for Your Dedication!

Students, parents, teachers around the world are facing the unimaginable consequences of the spread of the pandemic due to the closing down of schools and educational institutions. While everyone is trying to cope with the challenges teachers are facing problems to provide quality education to children due to lack of resources. The most affected are the children living in rural areas and urban slums.

 

Teachers teaching in Smile Foundation’s Mission Education centres are facing similar problems but they are determined to help the children even if it means taking the school to their homes. Here are some testimonials which speak volumes about their hard-work. We thank you, teachers for everything that you have made possible for our little children and their education.

 

Neeta, Teacher, Mission Education Centre Delhi

 

“The first thing that we did was a survey, we visited the children from our Mission education centre to understand the problems they were facing in their studies.”

 

 

Ravi Pratap Singh, Teacher, Mission Education Centre

 

“We have created a special app called Udbhav and we are also encouraging the use of the app provided by the government, Diksha for the education of children from home. We share quiz based content and share the other curriculum content in form of PDFs with the children. we are trying our best to keep the children engaged”

 

 

Shweta, Teacher, Mission Education Centre Mumbai

 

“Hopefully in the coming year we will be out of this situation and we will be able to meet our students sitting on those benches and making fun!”- Shweta

 

 

To know more about Mission Education visit https://www.smilefoundationindia.org/education.html

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In The Spotlight

Loss in nutrition due to gap in Mid-Day meals

Nutritional interventions like the Mid-Day Meals have been hailed by the UN as the best approach to food security for children. However the current pandemic situation may reverse these gains. Fortifying the supply chain infrastructure of such schemes and mainstreaming ‘nutrition’ in the country’s political discourse might hold the answer.

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his monthly radio program – Mann ki Baat, said that the month of September will be observed as ‘Poshan Maah’ or ‘Nutrition Month.’ Taking cognisance of the importance of a nutritious diet for children, he added, “For our children and our students to display their optimum potential, show their mettle; nutrition and proper nourishment play a very big role.”

 

The statement couldn’t come at a more opportune moment. Malnutrition is the cause of death for 70 percent of the children under five years of age. Inadequate dietary intake is leading to growth issues such as stunting for as many as 38 percent of children. States with highest child population base – Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh – register maximum number of underweight cases.

 

mid-day meals for rural students
mid-day meals for rural students

 

However, in the recent years, the current government brought about significant momentum in nutritional interventions by strengthening programs such as the Mid-Day Meals (MDM) scheme for school children, and introducing the national health mission or the POSHAN Abhiyaan, among others. These efforts helped bringing down the percentage of stunted children under-five from 48 percent in 2005-06 to 38.4 percent in 2015-16.

 

The Mid-Day Meals, particularly, has been instrumental not only in increasing enrolment and attendance of children at school, but also in ensuring nutritional security for kids. In the year 2018-19, the scheme is said to have served 9.17 crore children in 11.35 lakh schools across the country. The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) hailed the MDM scheme as the best route to food and nutrition security for children.

 

But the outbreak of Covid-19 and the ensuing lockdowns may impair these gains. Distribution of MDM has been disrupted as schools have closed down and the Aanganwadi Workers (AWWs), driving these efforts of providing food supplementation under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), are diverted to attend to Covid-19 related work. This is impacting the underprivileged children whose only means of nutrition are these meals.

 

Such disruptions cause ‘dietary shocks’ which will result in possible weight-loss among children. According to data even the slightest drop in weight, as minor as 0.5 percent, can cause a substantial escalation in India’s overall underweight percentage.

 

Although the Union Minister of Human Resource Development (HRD) responded with an additional fund allocation of INR 1,700 crores to continue the MDM during the pandemic, implementation at local district level remains a challenge.

 

mid-day meals for school children
mid-day meals for school children

 

India needs to strengthen the supply-chain infrastructure that programs like MDM depend on. And create a top-down push to make nutrition a central part of the political and administrative discourse. The good news is India has built a robust network of Anganwadi Centres whose services can be ramped up to keep the lifeline of MDM alive. The AWWs can be trained on the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to streamline the distribution processes such that it can withstand future crisis. What’s more, with focus on the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), the New Education Policy (NEP) proposes to integrate breakfasts with MDM. These efforts will help making health and nutrition an important part of the deliverable of the administrative leadership.

 

To know more about Smile Foundation’s initiative on nutrition visit https://www.smilefoundationindia.org/plate-half-full/

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In The Spotlight

Virtual support system for slum women during pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic hit us hard and the development sector was not saved from it either. I am part of the core team of Smile Foundation’s girl child and women empowerment programme Swabhiman. Our interventions involved support in terms of intensive on-ground activities and in person interactions. But to prevent the spread of COVID-19 such activities halted at the initiation of the lock-down. Women and adolescent girls were majorly impacted during this time as the physical and psychological pressure on them increased with accessibility to education, livelihood, hygiene, nutrition, and community services being adversely affected. The Swabhiman team focused on providing a support system to the women and girls by connecting through phone calls, text messages and virtual platforms, helping them navigate the challenges brought by the pandemic.

 

Counseling for pregnant women and new mothers

 

support for family planning
Support for family planning

 

The biggest challenge was faced by pregnant women and lactating mothers who were at a vulnerable stage and were stressed out as to how to handle themselves and the new born during this time and get the required services. The mobilisers in the various project locations connected through phone calls with this target group and with the community health services like Aanganwadis, Primary Health Centres (PHCs), and government hospitals and made sure that all kinds of support; the required information regarding check-ups, immunization, emergency numbers and other relevant care was available on time. This aided many successful institutional deliveries with appropriate post-delivery care to the women and the newborns.

 

Access to Sanitary Napkins and Contraceptives

 

Another challenge was availability of sanitary napkins and contraceptives. With constant counseling over years, many adolescent girls, women have started buying sanitary napkins on their own but with the lockdown the market availability of sanitary napkins declined and in many areas it was nil. To help them maintain the hygiene, sanitary napkins were distributed in various locations. Similarly, the availability of contraceptives also declined in the market and the Swabhiman Team distributed condoms as contraceptives to couples to help them maintain their family planning method.

 

Awareness on Livelihood and Income Generation

 

Awareness and support for income generation
Awareness and support for income generation

 

Losing out on jobs was a common challenge that was faced by the unorganized working sector and the majority of the urban slum population belongs to this sector. To help and support the families, awareness and information on various government financial aid schemes are being provided to the communities with proper support to get the benefit. Information about money management and ideas on income generating sources are also being provided to the people like mask making, marketing of products through social media.

 

Sessions for Mental Well-Being of Adolescent Girls

 

support for mental well being
support for mental well being

 

Online sessions on life skills, nutrition, career counseling, yoga, hygiene, Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health (ARSH) are being regularly organized for adolescent girls to keep them engaged and not let the lockdown and isolation period affect their mental well-being.

 

Now, as the “Unlock” has started in a phased manner, Swabhiman has resumed its on-ground activities taking into proper consideration the social distancing norms and sanitization practices. However, connecting over digital platforms has become a routine that has opened many new doors for community women and girls and will be a useful tool for us in the future as well.

 

Hoping for good times ahead!

 

To support Smile Foundation’s women empowerment programme visit https://www.smilefoundationindia.org/she-can-fly/

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In The Spotlight

Can National Digital Health Mission transform India to a healthcare powerhouse?

With a centralised platform acting as an ecosystem of health services, the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) can revolutionise how India delivers healthcare at scale.

 

Taking a quantum leap towards the goal of Universal Healthcare for all, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the launch of National Digital Health Mission (NDHM). The project proposes to make healthcare accessible and affordable for every Indian through an integrated digital platform functioning as an ecosystem of various health services.

 

A health ID for every Indian citizen will be created in the form of a mobile app and will be linked to this platform. This way, the platform will act as a repository of an individual’s health records about past consultation, medications, doctors consulted and the health facilities visited. However, enrolling on the healthcare platform and sharing data is voluntary and up to the discretion of the citizens. Even after they are onboard, no data will be shared unless the individual authorises it. It comprises a Digi Doctor feature that allows specialists to enrol in to the platform and offer digital prescriptions enabled by electronic signatures. A digital national health registry has also been provisioned to work as an integrated foundation of national health data.  

 

The National Health Analytics (NHA), the body which spearheaded implementation of Ayushman Bharat, has built the NDHM platform. The genesis of this idea goes back to 2018 when NITI Aayog tendered the thought of creating an automated and centralised process to recognise the unique identities of the users of National Health Stack (NHS) – a shared digital healthcare infrastructure hosting centralised health record for all citizens.

 

national digital health mission, Smile health services

 

The current scheme will not only make healthcare more accessible but can also turn India into a powerhouse of healthcare knowledge. By leveraging machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) techniques, the National Digital Health Mission seeks to analyse its data repository to draw insights on disease patterns, predict onset of ailments or seasonal outbreaks. This will significantly add to the effectiveness of healthcare by making it more proactive. It will also enable livelihood opportunities through the possibilities of bringing in entrepreneurs who might want to build solutions aligned to the proposed infrastructure.

 

The government is also taking steps to ensure security of data by mandating a framework and a set of minimum standards for data privacy protection. All the core activities and verifications like generation of Health ID or approval of a doctor/facility will remain with the government. Yet experts remain wary about NDHM’s implications on data protection. Many suggest that the mission should define stringent policies against commercial exploitation of Sensitive Personal Information (SPI) by private entities like insurers, pharmaceutical companies, and device manufacturers. Most of the diagnostic centres and pathology labs are dominated by the private sector. Question is how will the government bring them all into the fold of National Digital Health Mission ensuring that they all adhere to confidentiality of the information?

 

To know more about Smile Foundation’s digital health initiative visit https://www.smilefoundationindia.org/baton-baton-mein-sehat/

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In The Spotlight

New Education Policy 2020: realities of digital divide & an under-skilled teaching staff

While the New Education Policy 2020 has the potential to build an intelligent society and a globally competitive workforce, the realities of digital divide and an under-skilled teaching staff can be formidable blockers on the way.

 

With the advent of intuitive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the world was undergoing a steady shift. In the past six months this shift was expedited with the outbreak of COVID-19. The need for contact-less operation of day to day lives has forced the world to go virtual overnight. In the post COVID world where costs will be measured in terms of sustainability and digitalisation, survival will depend on how well we adapt to this new normal. In this backdrop, India’s launch of the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is not only timely but also has the potential to provide a safety-net that can insulate talent from any such future socio-economic jolts. Its focus on innovation, digital leverage and entrepreneurship is a great promise towards building a skill-based learning model where the outcome will be job security and better livelihood.

 

De-streaming education prepares one for the complex and multidisciplinary modern world

 

The New Education Policy 2020 blurs the boundaries between rigid streams of education – arts and sciences, sports, vocational and academic streams. This multi-disciplining will serve two purposes. One, it will prepare the students for a more complex business world of today which requires skills that are not soiled by technical-only or humanities-only approach. The inter-disciplining of education will also help inculcate attributes such as emotional intelligence, critical thinking and problem-solving – skills necessary for surviving in a rapidly machine driven intuitive tech world.

 

Multiple exit option will help skilling and employment to go hand in hand: The New Education Policy allows multiple entry and exit points to students during under-graduation. On completion of each year of education/a given program they are recognised with a certification, diploma or a degree. This enables students to temporarily break away from formal education to gain practical on-the-job training and then get back to higher education utilising the Academic Bank of Credit – a digitally storing academic credits system that students can use at any point of time to earn their degree. This is a classic way of integrating education with employment that will make students job ready and even eligible for higher wages as soon as they graduate.

 

Interjecting new age tech education to make talent thrive in an AI economy

 

Inclusion of coding from 6th standard will go a long way in making talent ready for the ‘21st-century skill,’besides closing the current skill gap in coding literacy. The emphasis on application of ideas and concepts for solving real world problems will make learning experiential. Introduction of contemporary subjects such as AI, Big Data Analysis, and Machine Learning will prepare India to thrive in an AI economy.

 

Holistic learning to build a cadre of globally responsible talent: Community engagement will constitute an important part of the new education system. It will help intertwining of subjects such as climate, culture, values and environment awareness.This approach will be foundational to building a talent cadre equipped to respond to the contemporary global challenges.

 

The essence of the NEP 2020 lies in the process in which students acquire skills. Through a learning model founded on digital, multilingualism and multidiscipline, the New Education Policy if implemented well, will be a true catalyst in building an intelligent society and a globally-competitive workforce.The challenge, however, will be in making this tech driven education vision inclusive. Digital divide remains a reality in India. What can the NEP 2020 do to bring the students – on the wrong side of the technology divide – into the fold of the new learning scheme? The other challenge is building a robust pool of teaching staff not only skilled in imparting education in a digital environment but also enabled to constantly upgrade knowledge to keep up with the constantly transforming market and technology.

 

To know more about research on digital divide by Smile Foundation visit https://www.smilefoundationindia.org/Media/56-children-have-no-access-to-smartphones-for-e-learning-study.html

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In The Spotlight

Tele-medicine can be the game-changer for India’s rural healthcare

With tele-medicine the goal of Universal Health Coverage can find its finest success story in India, provided we come up with solutions that align to the country’s ground realities. Language, digital infrastructure and awareness will be the game changers.

 

The time to expedite the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) goal has never been more critical than now. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought healthcare to the centre stage of public discourse today. Government and health authorities are rejigging policies overnight to fast track delivery of medical care. A case in point is the announcement by NITI Aayog about India’s decision to recognise tele-medicine as a viable mode of remote health consultation. If implemented well, tele-medicine can revolutionise India’s access to healthcare.

 

At its current state, most of the medical specialists and advanced hospitals are concentrated in urban areas. This leaves approximately 926 million Indians who live in villages, small cities, and towns struggling for adequate care. Against the WHO recommended doctor to patient ratio of 1:1000, in India it is 1:2000. And the doctors who are working in remote areas are not equipped enough to offer any specialised consultation to the patients due to lack of adequate investment in rural healthcare infrastructure.

 

Tele-medicine can address these gaps to a great extent. Through community based tele-health kiosks in small towns and villages, patients can connect with specialist doctors at the nearest urban hospital to carry out diagnostics. The good news is India continues to have one of the fastest growing bases of internet users where the rural internet users are said to be increasing by 58 per cent annually. By 2034, 80 per cent of India will have digital connectivity. Similar projections are made for access to smartphones. These developments augur well for enhancing healthcare accessibility through digitisation.

 

Tele-healthcare can also improve efficiency in terms of coverage of patients per day. The number of examinations can double as compared to OPD consultations thanks to the streamlining of processes through technology. This can also fill the void of doctor patient ratio. 

 

tele-medicine and tele-healthcare for people in rural India

 

Rural health kiosks can also help enabling livelihood across the village communities. Each of these kiosks will require manpower which can be stationed at these centres. Through skilling, the village youth can become the first-line responders of preventive and essential healthcare. They can be trained to perform services such as checking blood pressure, running tests for intestinal sickness, blood glucose levels, and haemoglobin, and administering over-the-counter medicines for fever and aches.



However, to get there India will have to scale infrastructural and behavioural hurdles. For one, while a number of Indian startups have launched healthcare apps that facilitate remote consultation, very few support local languages. Second is the payment option. Most of the tele-health offerings support digital wallets like Paytm or Google Pay – this model of transaction may not be very popular in remote areas. A bigger challenge is the need for behavioural change. Population in smaller towns and villages have a bias towards brick and mortar health set up. Awareness about tele-medicine is low and therefore the buy-in about its effectiveness.

 

If these challenges are tackled then India can become the finest success story of the UHC goal. Not just that, tele-medicine can also become a thriving investment and entrepreneurship opportunity. The game-changer, however, will be launching solutions which are customised to the ground realities of the country.

 

tele-medicine and tele-healthcare for the rural poor in India

 

Smile on Wheels, a mobile hospital programme of Smile Foundation takes healthcare to the doorsteps of vulnerable communities in the hardest to reach places. It has benefited more than 1 million people so far.

 

Through it’s programme Health Online within the Smile on wheels programme, tele-medicine or e-clinics overcome the scarcity of doctors in remote rural locations. For every 10 on ground clinics with paramedics there is 1 digital clinic with a doctor covering many communities.

 

To know more about Smile Foundation’s healthcare initiative for the rural poor visit https://www.smilefoundationindia.org/health-cannot-wait/

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In The Spotlight

Unemployment and mental health top concerns for youth mitigating Covid-19

The youth may be far less susceptible health-wise to the Covid-19 virus, but they are not immune to the manifold and far-reaching adverse impact of the pandemic. According to a global survey of 15 to 24-year-olds by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), unemployment and managing mental well-being are the biggest concerns of the youth mitigating this difficult situation. And their concern is not without cause.

 

The economic crisis spurred by the pandemic is said to be worse than the great recession that rocked the world a decade ago. According to a Microsoft report, global unemployment in 2020 may reach a quarter of a billion people. The figures back home are no more encouraging. The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown measures led to an unprecedented rise in India’s unemployment rates, particularly during the months of April and May. The scenario is worst for youth, who make for the largest age-group wise segment in India’s workforce, as they face mass unemployment. According to data from the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) about 41% of people aged 15-29 were out of work in May; 27 million people aged 20-30 had lost their jobs in April. Even before the pandemic started, India’s economic growth was sluggish, and youth unemployment rates were record high.

 

Despite reports of the economy opening up and the overall unemployment rate dropping to pre-covid-19 levels, thousands of youth are still looking for a job in a market that may no longer have a space for them. The job market is undergoing a major transformation in the Covid era and so is the availability of jobs for the youth. Recently, while addressing the Digital Skills Conclave on the World Youth Skills Day, the PM emphasized on the need to “Skill, Reskill and Upskill” for surviving in the rapidly changing environment. Industry 4.0 had already brought a paradigm shift even before the pandemic with digital technology driving the job market. Covid-19 has only accelerated this process.

 

Skill Training to reduce unemployment

 

Skilling and education are central for enhancing the employability of the rising workforce, but they would become even more important following the pandemic. Employers are struggling to deploy people with the required skill set, whereas a huge number of displaced workers with limited skills are striving to regain livelihood. We, therefore, need to strengthen our skilling ecosystem today so as to enable workers to regain income and meet their career aspirations by securing quality jobs on the one hand and addressing the needs of employers and firms by providing them with the requisite talent for them to stay competitive on the other. While it is definitely important to provide a platform to the workers who have lost jobs to regain employment, it is equally important to address the persisting and ever-widening skill gaps in the job market.

 

One of the key steps for a successful and speedy economic recovery will be greater and inclusive access to the digital skills needed to fill newly available jobs. But technology is only a means to an end. In addition to digital skills, people-oriented soft skills remain as essential as ever – perhaps even more so given their durability at a time when technology continues to evolve at breakneck speed. The pandemic has highlighted the widening skills gap around the world which needs to be closed with even greater urgency to accelerate economic recovery. This calls for redoubled investment in skilling, ensuring that training reaches a wide population of youth with the greatest needs, making them gainfully employed.

 

Smile Foundation’s STeP programme is aligned to this objective and is working towards building a digitally skilled workforce from less privileged youth that is prepared to face the new world thrown open by the pandemic. More than 10,000 young women and men are currently undergoing training at over 70 STeP centres across India.

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In The Spotlight

Importance of prenatal and postnatal care

For most women, becoming a mother and holding the newborn baby is among the happiest moment of their lives. It is right and happiness that every woman wishing to be a mother is entitled to. However, for many pregnant women this does not come true and at times even results in worst of the scenarios. Every day as many as 800 women die due to complications arising out of pregnancy (as per UNICEF) and uncountable many lose their baby.  In India, a woman dies every 20 minutes due to pregnancy or during childbirth, as per the World Health Organization. The major cause of this is insufficient and poor prenatal and postnatal care and the lack of awareness around the needs of women during pregnancy.

 

The high number of maternal and infant mortality is largely due to preventable and treatable causes made up of – severe bleeding (mostly bleeding after childbirth), infections (usually after childbirth), high blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia), complications from delivery and unsafe abortions (as per World Health Organization). These fourfold complications arising during and after pregnancy arise out of the lack of prenatal and postnatal care that women require to maintain their health and that of their babies.

 

Pregnancy during Adolescence

 

The journey to safe and healthy a mother and child begins with educating adolescent girls about their bodies and encouraging them to make decisions about their bodies and health. Pregnancy and childbirth require a physically and mentally prepared woman, capable of handling the changes brought on in the process and proper prenatal and postnatal care. Globally, mortality is high among girls between the age of 15-19 years whose bodies are still growing and changing and who are put through the trauma and complications of pregnancy. As per a UNICEF report, as many as 100 in 1000 adolescent girls between 15-19 years go through pregnancy in India, as of 2018. The physical and psychological burden of pregnancy and childbirth can significantly weaken a girl’s young body leaving her vulnerable to risk in future pregnancies.

 

Maternal Healthcare

 

Every pregnant woman needs access to prenatal and postnatal care to ensure her and her baby’s health and welfare. As per WHO, every woman who is pregnant must have at least four prenatal attendance and have access to iron and folic acid supplements for at least 100 days alongside two tetanus shots and vitamins and calcium to maintain her physical health and prepare her body for childbirth. Prenatal visits provide the opportunity to detect and possibly prevent adverse birth events. However, only 21% utilize or get access to all four ANC visits and barely 30% take IFA for the minimum stated period. Low iron can lead to anemia which can be possibly life-threatening to both mother and child.

 

After childbirth, a woman’s body suffers from low levels of iron and calcium. For a speedy recovery, postnatal care includes access to iron, calcium, vitamin-enriched diets as well as supplements. These are necessary not just for the mother but also for the child who derives its nourishment entirely from the mother.

 

Most women in the country, especially in rural regions, find themselves at a disadvantage when it comes to receiving both ANC and PNC attention. Lack of primary healthcare centers and awareness among family members about the need of a pregnant woman with the rigorous lifestyle most women lead on an everyday basis puts them at high risk of not just miscarriages but also death.

 

prenatal and postnatal care during pregnancy

 

Access to Safe Delivery and Emergency Care

 

To ensure a safe delivery, it is advised to have a skilled provider such as doctor, nurse, or midwife around to reduce maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality. India has achieved a significant feat where more than 81% of the deliveries take place in the presence of a skilled provider, thereby actively bringing down the mortality rate of mother and baby.

 

There, however, still remains a lack of emergency care such as cesarean section, or C-section which can be lifesaving interventions in case of a breech birth or some other serious complication, specifically in rural regions where hospitals and healthcare centers are not easily reachable.

 

Beginning for healthier and safer childbirth starts with awareness among girls and their families. In lieu of the same, Smile foundation under its women empowerment vertical, Swabhiman and healthcare program a Smile on Wheels, spreads awareness on reproductive and maternal health among underprivileged communities in urban slums and rural villages.

 

In addition to encouraging healthcare-seeking behavior among young girls of reproductive age, pregnant women and new mothers, Smile On Wheels keep a record of pregnant women and new mothers through Anganwadi workers to bring essential services for ANC and PNC for these women.

 

Without being healthy herself, a mother cannot completely provide her child with the adequate nourishment that an infant needs, and only with active attention, awareness, and invention can the world home come closer to reaching zero material and newborn mortality late.

 

To support the healthcare of women click https://www.smilefoundationindia.org/health-cannot-wait/