A 22-year-old girl, Anita Prasad, living in south Delhi's Munirka neighborhood suddenly realized that she nor any of her young friends and neighbors had any clue about contraceptives or sexual reproductive health, when her teenaged friend got pregnant in 2013 and approached her for help. This rude awakening compelled Ms. Prasad to get herself enrolled in free classes on reproductive health and family planning organized by the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) at a nearby center in R.K. Puram.
An arts student at the Delhi university, Prasad was already learning cutting and tailoring skills at the Yuva Chetna Kendra run by IPPF. She got to know that the same center also held classes on sexual health and family planning and decided to take the plunge despite the issue being a taboo. The Reproductive Health and Family Planning Center in R.K. Puram, in its 40 years of existence, has reached out to around 315,000 people in Delhi, the majority of them slum-dwellers and villagers from south Delhi. Prasad said, "I knew I had to learn about it and also educate my young friends and cousins about the risks and precautions related to sexual issues."
Prasad's first class was at the age of 20 years and she is today a volunteer of the IPPF, an NGO on sexual and reproductive health and rights active in 170 countries. Prasad said, "Now, I am in a position to help others. Woman in my locality from all ages approach me for guidance. Over the years, more and more youngsters have become aware about their bodies and sexuality in our locality."
IPPF till a couple of years ago, had five projects in the national capital that were set up either independently or with financial assistance from the Indian government to spread awareness about sexual health and family planning among the poor and backward. According to Anjali Sen, IPPF's Regional Director for the South Asia Region, the centers were set up after thoroughly analyzing the particular localities, their demographics and the issues faced by the residents. However, a major cash crunch brought the curtains down on four centers, leaving only the one in R.K. Puram operational.
Sen said, "These projects were a lifeline for many and we definitely want to restart them. At present, we are trying hard to find a way out. The IPPF has 28 projects across the country and the one on 'Addressing Adolescent Fertility' with UNFPA-India funding, which was initiated in Barwani district of Madhya Pradesh in 2010 to address the contraceptive needs of young couples, has been a major success. This project imparts reproductive education amongst the youth and is an example of the reach of IPPF's member associations working at the grassroots to provide voluntary family planning services to the most vulnerable. Access to sexual and reproductive health remains a distant dream for many young people. That's why we have set a target of increasing family planning services to enable 120 million more women and girls to use contraceptives by 2020."
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