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 US 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, which is conducting an RCT to evaluate results. Few RCTs exist in the area of adolescent gender programs. If the results of this RCT are positive, the program will build the evidence base and leverage a low-cost pathway through government schools to rapidly scale the approach in Haryana, with the potential for other states across India to adopt it as well.