The aim of this project is to provide education and support for adolescent girls as many are missing school every month or dropping out, due to menstruation and associated health problems. These topics are often seen as a social taboo in communities and there is a lack of information and little access to sanitary products.

Middle School Maner Block, Patna District of Bihar State, India.

A young peer mentor and college student facilitated the first SARTHI pilot programme and the session provided a safe, friendly space for 28 adolescent girls to discuss the topic and related challenges. Based on the success of this first session and the positive feedback, the SARTHI programme has been replicated in four schools, benefitting 144 girls.

The girls reported that their main challenges were inadequate toilet and washing facilities so that they either stayed at home or went home early from school; the cost of sanitary pads; the problem of not having a healthy diet. Other subjects discussed included sex and gender discrimination and child marriage.

In the four schools, girls’ consortiums are now running composed of eighteen girls between the ages of 12 and 15 years of age, who act as peer mentors and receive training to become school health advisors. These girls talk not only to other girls in the same school, but also to their teachers, about the importance of maintaining good personal hygiene habits and eating healthier, affordable food by including seasonal fruit and vegetables in their diets.

At policy level, the SARTHI project is working with head teachers and school representatives in local Panchayat to advocate for comprehensive programmes on ‘Health and Hygiene’ for girls and also improving toilet and washing facilities and providing free sanitary pads with corresponding budgetary allocations.