CorStone | eNews November 2013


CorStone staff with Girls First participants, Bihar.

Girls First – Bihar update: 2,000+ adolescent girls attending peer-support program in rural India

Launched in Bihar in July, over 2,000 adolescent girls in 68 schools in rural Bihar are attending our weekly Girls First program. Bihar is one of India’s poorest states, with many girls of low caste forced to drop out of school and marry by the age of 14.

Girls First empowers girls to advocate for their educational and health rights, improve their mental and physical health, and prevent early marriage and early pregnancy. The program provides training in topics such as character strengths, interpersonal communication, problem-solving, nutrition, reproductive health, and gender-based violence — all taught in peer support groups led by 65 local community women that have been trained and certified by CorStone.

In September we met for the first time with Bihar state government officials in the Health, Education, and Woman and Child development departments and were excited to receive strong interest in further expansion of the program. We were also thrilled to travel to several schools in rural Bihar, where we were met with exuberant crowds of girls and parents.

Our blog posts below recount some of our more poignant and memorable moments:

A 14 year old girl stands up to early marriage in India
We were visiting a school in a rural village of Bihar, India, sitting with some 50 girls and several mothers on the classroom floor, talking and doing some filming. A girl stood up and began telling us how much our Girls First program had changed her life, giving her self-confidence to face her problems and challenges. When her mother came over she suddenly burst into tears and told us that her parents were planning to arrange a marriage for her in the next few months. She’s 14 years old….more

The Circle
Kate and I visited a school in rural Patna today. Oppressive poverty mixed with lush green rice paddies, stifling heat, a little boy riding a water buffalo, goats painted pink and yellow, and stunning colorful saris. We sat in a circle with 15 girls attending our Girls First program. One of the girls sang us a beautiful song. Then they asked me to sing….more


CorStone staff with members of the Federation of Slum Women, Surat, India.

Girls First returns to Surat, India!
In December, 800 adolescent girls living in urban slums of Surat, Gujarat, will begin attending CorStone’s Girls First program. The program particularly targets at-risk teenage Dalit (“untouchable” caste) girls forced to drop out of school for child marriage, child labor, or household chores. Weekly groups will be facilitated by trained members of the Federation of Slum Women, a local grassroots cooperative of women from Surat’s slums working to improve the health, education, and livelihood of their daughters.

In keeping with our commitment to rigorous impact evaluation, the program includes a research partnership with academics from UCSF and Swarthmore College, and uses a randomized controlled experimental design. This evaluation will break new ground in resilience research as one of the first efforts to assess the impact of resilience training on mental and physical health in urban slums in developing countries.

Girls First – Surat has been made possible through a generous grant from the Abbott Fund. To learn more about Girls First please click here!

Family Resilience Program Results are in!
CorStone’s Family Resilience Program (FRP) has just wrapped up its fifth year with 56 low-income Latino immigrant parents of children ages 0-5 attending the program this spring and fall in San Rafael, CA.  The sessions combined parenting skill-building through the ‘Abriendo Puertas’ (Opening Doors) curriculum from Families in Schools, with Attitudinal Healing peer support groups. Highlights from this spring’s results include:

  • Parenting knowledge scores improved. For example, 55% more parents were aware that their own diet and exercise choices could have an effect on their children’s diet and exercise choices.
  • Parenting stress levels dropped. For instance, upon completing the program, 24% more parents than at baseline indicated that having a child gave them a more positive outlook on the future.
  • Pessimism levels decreased. The number of parents who believed that if something bad could happen in their lives, it would, decreased by 69%.
  • Social support levels increased. The number of parents indicating that they could talk about their problems with their friends more than doubled.

As one participant noted after the program:
“My relationship with my children has really improved. Now I give my kids more of my time, enjoying the moments I have with them to chat and to help them with things. I’ve learned to be more patient with them from this program, because this will help to motivate them positively.”

The Family Resilience Program has been made possible through support from the Bella Vista Foundation. For a more detailed look at the results, as recently presented to the World Congress on Positive Psychology, please click here.

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Conference attendees at 10 Downing Street, London, UK.

CorStone attends UK Positive Education Summit
Last month, Steve Leventhal, Executive Director, attended the inaugural Positive Education Summit in London, a three-day roundtable with 30 of the world’s leading thinkers in education and psychology. Positive education is a new field that integrates a focus on academics with building psychological well-being in youth (for an overview of positive education check out this site).

CorStone’s Girls First – India program is one of the first research-based efforts to provide positive education to high-poverty adolescents in developing countries. CorStone’s participation represented a unique perspective, standing at the intersection of positive psychology and education, as well as adolescent health and global development. Hosted by Wellington College, UK, the roundtable was organized by Dr. Martin Seligman, founder of the fields of Positive Psychology and Positive Education, David Halpern, Director of the Behavioural insights team at 10 Downing Street, and James O’Shaughnessy, Managing Director of Floreat Education.
Many thanks to the organizers and all the attendees for a very enjoyable and fruitful summit!

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