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Working with unmarried adolescent girls on issues related to their health, nutrition and building life skills impacts the health of their children in the future. This paper presents both the needs analysis and the outline of a project proposal resulting from the needs analysis to work with unmarried adolescent girls. Project ASHAYEIN (Advocacy for Supporting Health & Aspirations of Youth by Engaging their Influential Networks) - the acronym means "hopes and wishes" in Hindi- seeks to create a web of support to reduce the vulnerability of adolescent girls in an urban slum community in the Howrah area of West Bengal India and, in turn, help navigate their lives as the next generation of women in the community. the project is designed with a two-pronged approach, working both with unmarried adolescent girls and with groups of individuals which constitute their social networks. A needs analysis to inform the design of the project was conducted through individual interviews and group discussions using the principles of 'social network analysis" with 27 unmarried adolescent girls between the ages of 10-19 years.
The findings from the needs analysis has led to the development of a three-year pilot project which will be implemented by Calcutta Kids Trust - a non-profit organization in India. The project has larger goals to (a) delay the age of marriage and first pregnancy, (b) reduce the rates of anemia, (c) improve health and nutrition knowledge and practices and develop life skills among unmarried adolescent girls, and (d) build a support structure in the community to break the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition.