Girls First | Surat, India
+1,800 adolescent girls in over 20 slums in Surat have participated
Independent evaluations have confirmed measurable improvement in many key metrics
Mental and behavioral health, social skills, and academic indicators all positively improved
Clean water behaviors improved 96%
“What I liked so much was that I was able to solve my own problem.”
Background + Situation | Surat, India
Surat is a city of 6 million people located in the state of Gujarat, India. While boasting a lucrative diamond cutting and textile manufacturing industries, 35% to 45% of the city’s population lives in slums. Slums are overcrowded, with no running water, few if any toilets, no sanitation or drainage system, and few permanent structures. Many are located near Surat’s canals, which flood with toxic refuse during the monsoon season, at times reaching heights of 6-10 feet.
Gender discrimination and violence is common in the slums, where women often face physical, sexual, and emotional abuse . Many girls are forced into arranged marriages at the age of 14-16 years.
CorStone Response | Put Girls First!
Girls First | Surat empowers girls with training in personal resilience. The program uses a low cost facilitated peer-support model that covers topics in character strength development, social-emotional skills, problem-solving and conflict resolution, as well as topics in nutrition, reproductive and sexual health, safe water, HIV/AIDS, malaria prevention and similar.
Girls attend sessions in groups of 12 for two hours per week over six months. Working in partnership with the Slum Women Federation of Surat, local women are trained and certified through CorStone’s ‘train the trainer’ program, thus earning a living wage and building their own resilience as they lead the groups.
Girl attendees are 12-16 years old, likely to be the first generation in their family to attend school; are at high risk for child marriage; and have few, if any, positive employment prospects beyond menial odd jobs or sex work. All girls in the program are Dalits (so-called “untouchables”) or from other low castes, putting them at an even higher risk for abuse, discrimination, and school dropout.
Over 1,800 adolescent girls in over 20 slums in Surat have attended Girls First since its launch in 2011. Independent evaluations have confirmed measurable improvements across a range of mental and behavioral health, social skills, and academic indicators.