Scaling A School-Based Adolescent Program to Address Gender-Biased Sex Selection in India
Despite two decades of rapid economic growth and social transformation, outcomes for women in India are considerably worse than those for men. Educational attainment, age of marriage, and labor force participation are all lower. Of significant concern is gender-biased sex selection – which can occur before or after birth. In the Indian state of Haryana, there are alarming estimates of 830 girls per 1,000 boys. Despite calls for action from the government, little progress has been made to address deep-rooted attitudes and norms that lead to these disparities.
Breakthrough, a human rights NGO in the U.S. and India, aims to change awareness, attitudes, and ultimately, behaviors that limit outcomes for women, particularly by targeting gender-biased sex selection. The Breakthrough program uses a powerful curriculum and “train the trainer” model that empowers teachers to facilitate classroom discussions with adolescents in government secondary schools to change perceptions and reset expectations around gender roles. The program includes a partnership with the Government of Haryana, which has allowed Breakthrough to carry out its intervention in 150 secondary schools, and J-PAL South Asia, which is conducting an RCT to evaluate results. Few RCTs exist in the area of adolescent gender programs.
Results of the RCT were positive in terms of improved beliefs and attitudes about gender roles and the program is being scaled up through government schools across two states in India. UP has provided additional funding to J-PAL South Asia to conduct a follow-up survey with students in the original study to understand if Breakthrough's curriculum resulted in longer-term changes in behavior with regard to female employment, educational attainment, age of marriage, and gender biased sex selection.