Migrant Adolescent Girls in Urban Slums India: Aspirations, Opportunities and Challenges
Agarwal,S; Jones,E; Verma, S; (2016).Migrant Adolescent Girls in Urban Slums India: Aspirations, Opportunities and Challenges. Indian Journal of Youth and Adolescent Health 8-21
14 Pages Posted: 16 May 2017
Date Written: December 31, 2016
Background: Many adolescents grow-up with inadequate access to opportunities facing challenges and risks. This study focuses on recently migrant adolescent girls in India’s fast growing urban slum population for whom multiple vulnerabilities intersect, including gender, poverty and migrant status.
Objective and Methods: This qualitative study aims to better understand circumstances, opportunities and challenges faced by recent migrant slum-dwelling adolescent girls.
The study was conducted in fast growing Indore (2 million population), Madhya Pradesh. Qualitative data collection methods were used to explore girls’ experiences in-depth from their own perspectives. Individual interviews were conducted with adolescent girls aged 12-19 who migrated to slum within the past 2 years (n=18) and non-migrant adolescent girls for purposes of comparison (n=4). A group-interview with slum women’s group members discussed challenges for migrants and ways in which these might be addressed. Data were analysed thematically.
Findings: Recent migrant adolescent girls in these slum contexts were largely associational migrants, either accompanying their families or joining their husbands following marriage. Push and pull factors of differences in employment and educational opportunities between rural and urban areas motivated families of unmarried girls to migrate. They joined family connections in the city, which provided support to migrating families. Recently married girls either joined city-based marital family or accompanied their husbands who themselves were labour migrants in the city. Neither married nor unmarried girls played decision-making roles in their migration experience.
Married migrant adolescent girls faced many challenges in accessing educational, employment, social opportunities and services in the city. Among them, restrictions on freedom of movement played a key role. Most girls came across having weak social networks in the neighbourhood and city. They also had low awareness of opportunities and services available. This generated particular risks for childbearing migrant girls. Contact with natal family being limited, the quality of relationships with the husband and marital family was crucial for married girls’ well-being.
Unmarried adolescent girls attending schools were positive about their migration experience. The city was perceived to offer greater educational opportunities than their village. Through attending school, they also accessed opportunities for building new relationships and social activities, which helped them overcome initial language and cultural barriers to integration. Nevertheless, not all unmarried adolescent girls were able to access these opportunities owing to restrictions by family members, economic circumstances, or factors related to their educational attainment before migration. These girls’ worlds remained small despite moving to a large city.
Discussion: Recent migrant adolescent girls living in low-income slum contexts in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, were largely associational migrants, either accompanying their families or joining husbands following marriage. This study provides insight into the circumstances of these associational migrants, whose experiences are often missing in the literature, and the meaning they attached to their migration experience in relation to educational, employment and social opportunities and challenges. Moreover, home and the place of work are more separate in urban compared to rural areas, further restricting access to employment opportunities. There were exceptions-some recently married migrant girls did engage in education or employment-although social norms restricting these girls’ access to social spaces led to situation where girls were enrolled at university, for example, but engaged only in “home study.”
Migrant adolescent girls faced sub-optimal access to public health and nutrition care services owing to lack of information about services, poor outreach services from Primary Urban Health Centers, weak linkages between urban slum and informal settlement communities and public healthcare system. Lack of information about where nearest and needed government health facilities are located, limited social networks in the area to provide support and information also contribute to low access to the city’s healthcare services, particularly pregnancy care of married recent migrant adolescent girls.
Conclusion: In sum, experiences of migrant adolescent girls in urban slums were diverse. Where girls’ economic and/or family and social circumstances allowed, migration entailed a positive change that enhanced their opportunities. Specific challenges of this population segment need focus in policies and programs, prioritizing three particularly vulnerable groups: girls who are neither in education nor employment, pregnant girls or new mothers, and those with difficult relationships in marital homes. Proactive outreach to raise awareness about opportunities and services and fostering social networks through frontline workers and slum-women’s groups are recommended.
Recommendations are made for addressing specific needs of this population in policies and programmes, prioritising three particularly vulnerable groups: girls who are neither in education nor employment, married girls who are pregnant or new mothers, and those with difficult relationships in their marital homes.
Where girls’ economic and/or family and social circumstances allowed, migration entailed a positive change that enhanced their opportunities. Specific challenges of this population segment need focus in policies and programs, prioritizing three particularly vulnerable groups: girls who are neither in education nor employment, pregnant girls or new mothers, and those with difficult relationships in marital homes. Proactive outreach to raise awareness about opportunities and services and fostering social networks through frontline workers and slum-women’s groups are recommended.
On the health access front, in India it is easier for women’s groups to approach older, married migrant girls than the younger, unmarried migrants. For example, women’s groups can lead a pregnant (married) adolescent migrant to the antenatal services available in the community about which she might not otherwise be aware. In the event of need, one of the trained, confident women of the group could accompany the pregnant girl to the hospital for delivery.
The recently agreed United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outline specific focal areas for improving the status of vulnerable and impoverished populations pledging that “no one will be left behind”. This is reflected by the emphasis of many of the 17 SDG targets on achieving inclusive development, including target 11, which aims to “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. Ensuring that development is inclusive of urban migrants is essential not only for Target 11, but for the SDGs as a whole.
Keywords: Adolescent girls, Urban migrants, Married girls, Urban slums, Internal migration, Social network, Educational opportunities, Health services
JEL Classification: D 63, D71, D83, I12, I14, I15, I18, I19,I21, I24, I30, I31, I38, J12, J13, J18, L31, R23, Z1, Z13
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