Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Prioritizing Adolescent Girls’ Nutrition: Unlocking India’s Full Potential


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Nutrition schemes

Mains level: Nutrition of girls, Programs', challenges and way ahead


Central Idea

  • India’s future prosperity hinges on the well-being and development of its adolescent girls. The period of adolescence is critical for cognitive growth, making improved access to nutrition during this phase crucial. By addressing any nutrient deficiencies acquired in early developmental stages, we can unlock the full potential of the girl child.

Ever-growing Nutritional Concerns

  • High Prevalence of Anemia: The National Family Health Survey-5 (2019-21) reveals that a staggering 59.1% of adolescent girls in India are anemic. Anemia not only affects their overall health but also hampers their cognitive development and academic performance.
  • Underweight and Malnourishment: According to NFHS-4 data, over 41.9% of school-going girls in India are underweight. Malnourishment deprives girls of essential nutrients necessary for their growth, development, and overall well-being.
  • Menstruation-Related Nutritional Challenges: The onset of menstruation poses specific nutritional challenges for adolescent girls. The increased nutrient requirements during this phase, coupled with inadequate access to nutritious food and hygiene products, further exacerbate the risk of undernutrition and anemia.
  • Impact on Cognitive Development: Poor nutrition during adolescence can have long-lasting effects on cognitive development, affecting academic performance and limiting educational attainment. This hampers opportunities for employment and economic self-sufficiency later in life.
  • Increased Risk of Chronic Diseases and Pregnancy Complications: Undernourished adolescent girls are at a higher risk of developing chronic diseases and experiencing complications during pregnancy. This not only burdens families and communities with healthcare costs but also leads to financial instability and increased poverty.
  • Impediment to Women’s Labor Force Participation: Adolescent health serves as a significant indicator of women’s long-term participation in the labor force. Improved nutrition during adolescence enhances the prospects of young girls to engage in productive activities, contributing to economic growth and development

Long-term Consequences of Neglecting Nutrition among adolescent girls

  • Academic Performance and Educational Attainment: Poor nutrition during adolescence can lead to cognitive impairments, affecting academic performance. Malnourished girls may struggle to concentrate, learn, and retain information, ultimately limiting their educational attainment.
  • Economic Self-Sufficiency: Limited educational attainment and reduced job prospects due to undernutrition can impede economic self-sufficiency for adolescent girls. They may face challenges in finding stable employment and earning a sufficient income, perpetuating cycles of poverty and dependence.
  • Health Consequences: Undernourished adolescent girls are at a higher risk of developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disorders, later in life. Poor nutrition during this crucial developmental phase also increases the likelihood of experiencing complications during pregnancy
  • Inter-generational Cycle of Malnutrition: Neglecting the nutritional needs of adolescent girls perpetuates an inter-generational cycle of malnutrition. Malnourished girls are more likely to give birth to undernourished babies, continuing the cycle of poor health and nutrition from one generation to the next.
  • Increased Healthcare Burden: The long-term consequences of undernutrition, including chronic diseases and pregnancy complications, impose a significant healthcare burden on both families and communities. The cost of treating and managing these health issues places additional strain on healthcare systems and can lead to financial instability for families.
  • Social Participation and Empowerment: Adequate nutrition plays a vital role in enabling individuals to actively participate in society. Undernourished adolescent girls may face limitations in engaging in social and community activities, including work, politics, and community involvement.

What needs to do to address these challenges?

  • Policy and Programmatic Interventions: Governments should prioritize nutrition interventions for adolescent girls by developing and implementing policies and programs that specifically target their nutritional needs.
  • Convergence and Collaboration: There should be effective convergence and collaboration among various government departments and stakeholders involved in nutrition and health programs.
  • Awareness and Education: Comprehensive awareness campaigns and nutrition education programs targeted at adolescent girls, their families, and communities should be implemented.
  • Strengthening Health Systems: Health systems should be strengthened to effectively deliver nutrition interventions to adolescent girls. This includes training health workers to provide appropriate counseling, screening for nutritional deficiencies, and ensuring the availability of necessary supplements and treatments.
  • Research and Data: There is a need for continued research and data collection on the nutritional status of adolescent girls. This data should be disaggregated by various parameters such as age, location, and socio-economic background.
  • Empowering Girls: Empowering adolescent girls is essential for their overall development and well-being. This can be done by providing opportunities for education, skill-building, and economic empowerment. Empowered girls are more likely to prioritize their own health and nutrition and become agents of change within their communities.
  • Partnerships and Investments: Public-private partnerships and investments from both domestic and international stakeholders are crucial for scaling up nutrition interventions for adolescent girls.

Need for the Strategic Modifications and Collaborations

  • Integration of Government Initiatives: Various government initiatives targeting adolescent girls’ nutrition should be integrated and coordinated to ensure comprehensive coverage and avoid duplication. For example, the Scheme for Adolescent Girls (SAG) can be brought under the umbrella of the Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition programme (POSHAN) 2.0, facilitating a more cohesive and synergistic approach.
  • Strengthening Awareness and Nutrition Education: Targeted adolescent-oriented schemes, such as the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK), should incorporate robust awareness and nutrition education programs. Integration of behavior change communication (BCC) efforts can generate greater demand and promote the adoption of good nutrition practices.
  • Collaborative Efforts for Convergence: Effective convergence and collaborations among relevant departments and stakeholders are crucial. This includes collaboration between the health, education, and women and child development departments to ensure a coordinated approach.
  • Regional Contextualization: Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) efforts should be tailored to the regional context and cultural nuances to ensure better acceptance and uptake of nutrition interventions. Collaboration with local community leaders, influencers, and organizations can help in designing region-specific interventions and strategies.



  • Addressing nutrition among girls is not just a health concern but an investment in the nation’s future. We have a responsibility and an opportunity to prioritize the nutritional needs of India’s girls, nurturing a healthier, stronger India where every girl can reach her full potential.

Also read:

A reality check on Nutrition programs


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