I have been privileged to work with CorStone since 2013 when I became involved in the design of the Girls First Randomized Controlled Trial.
I am a public health researcher by training and my mission is to shape research initiatives that will provide findings to better inform and strengthen our intervention and programs on the ground.
It was gratifying to see that CorStone was able to successfully implement such a large-scale study and that the results spoke so resoundingly to the impact the Girls First program is having on girls’ lives and well-being.
Measurable impact on an underserved community in need
CorStone was able to provide some of the first evidence globally on the benefits of focusing on emotional resilience and showed that girls who received our program had higher levels of resilience, self-efficacy, and social and psychological well-being than girls who did not receive our program
I also work beyond research on the programmatic side, leading the design of the health curriculum. Through this curriculum, girls and boys learn to apply basic skills to improve their health, including:
- practicing good personal hygiene
- understanding what constitutes a healthy diet
- learning how to avoid common accidents
- and more
The health curriculum also explores more taboo areas, such as exploring the changes during adolescence, identify reproductive organs, learning about different types of relationships, including love relationships and physical intimacy and how to protect themselves and handle cases of sexual abuse.How I witnessed the immediate and individual impact of changing lives | CorStone #GirlsFirst #Resileince #Training Click To Tweet
Witnessing results first-hand
Personally, one of the most impactful moments for me was a field visit to a school in Bihar state in January 2018 when I had the opportunity to see the health curriculum in action. I was able to sit with a group of girls who were doing one of the most important sessions of the curriculum, “Changes during adolescence”.
In the session, they started to learn about the changes their bodies were undergoing, what menstruation is, and what are good menstrual hygiene practices.“I could sense the girl’s relief at finding out that much of what they were going through was indeed normal and to be expected.”
Lisa DeMaria | CorStone Research Director
The session was full of giggles and surreptitious peeks at the handbooks, which had pictures of naked female and male bodies with all body parts identified.
More telling was the curious energy that I felt from the girls. They were so excited to be able to speak about traditionally taboo topics in a clear and open manner. I could also sense their relief at finding out that much of what they were going through was indeed normal and to be expected.
How enablers of positive change overcome tradition
This session would not have been possible without the girls’ schoolteacher who facilitated the session in an open and accepting manner. We sometimes forget that we are asking teachers to talk about topics they were raised to treat as shameful, taboo—something never to be discussed.
To see that the CorStone training gave the teacher the skills to be able to put her bias aside and speak openly about these topics, circulating a sanitary pad around to the girls in a way that showed it was completely normal and not at all shameful was gratifying.
Working as a researcher, I don’t always get to see the impact of our work in at such an immediate and individual level. This time I did and it gave me energy and a renewed commitment to our work.