The health of any society can be judged in terms of how well its most vulnerable and disadvantaged are cared for. In India, Women & Child Development in 2020 continued robustly despite the Covid-19 pandemic. The Covid-19 crisis has impacted every facet of governance, with sectors like District Administration and Policing rising to the challenge….
The health of any society can be judged in terms of how well its most vulnerable and disadvantaged are cared for. In India, Women & Child Development in 2020 continued robustly despite the Covid-19 pandemic. The Covid-19 crisis has impacted every facet of governance, with sectors like District Administration and Policing rising to the challenge. The WCD landscape is evolving very visibly, especially in recent years. From Prime Minister Modi’s Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign to the various programmes at the grassroots level, the need for gender equality and protection of child rights has never been more talked about than it is now.
Children and women, especially those from underprivileged communities, have been some of the worst-affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. From schools and childcare centres closing with the lockdown to poor women suffering economically, the pandemic has had a terrible impact on families all over the country. Governance in response to Covid-19 has shown grit and the Women & Child Development in 2020 sector too has done its part in protecting its beneficiaries this past year.
The following table shows sector-wise performance over the last few years. Children and women, especially those from underprivileged communities, have been some of the worst-affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. From schools and childcare centres closing with the lockdown to poor women suffering economically, the pandemic has had a terrible impact on families all over the country. Governance in response to Covid-19 has shown grit and the Women & Child Development in 2020 sector too has done its part in protecting its beneficiaries this past year. Women & Child Development in 2020 continues to be an important aspect of governance overall. SKOCH State of Governance 2020 studied several remarkable projects from the sector. Out of these, 11 projects were found to be particularly transformational in terms of the impact they had on people’s lives.
|Shifting Governance Priorities: State Governments From 2015-2020|
|Projects Ranked Per Year (%)|
|Ease of Doing Business||0.74||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.22|
|Finance & Revenue||0.12||0.92||1.24||2.63||4.05||10.09||2.06|
|Food & Civil Supplies||0.00||1.28||1.44||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.52|
|Governance (General Administration)||2.83||7.88||2.06||8.88||9.80||9.21||5.73|
|Police & Safety||12.92||9.34||1.44||0.00||3.04||0.00||6.44|
|Power & Energy||2.21||3.30||2.47||0.00||0.00||0.00||1.80|
|Social Justice & Social Security||0.00||0.00||0.00||1.97||0.00||0.00||0.22|
|Tourism & Culture||0.00||0.37||0.41||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.15|
|Women & Child Development||1.35||1.47||1.65||2.30||0.00||0.00||1.27|
|Total number of projects studied||813||546||485||304||296||228||2672|
|Response to covid %||24.97%|
|Numberof Projects related to Response to Covid||203|
The following table looks at the top performing states in the category of Women & Child Development in 2020. The #1 rank goes to West Bengal, which comes as no surprise to those familiar with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s passionate commitment to gender equality and the protection of children. West Bengal submitted several noteworthy projects under the category of which most were found to be impactful. Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan also figure in the Top 5 performers in this category.
|State Rank By Women & Child Development||State Name|
Started in May 2020, the Home-based Early Childhood Care & Education (ECCE) and parenting program by the Department of Women and Child Development & Social Welfare, Government of West Bengal, has helped 14 lakh parents of children between 3 and 6 years of age. The programme has been critical in ensuring the continuity of education during lockdowns. The informal ‘play-way’ method of teaching encourages guardians to use their surroundings, easily-available materials and an interactive approach to educating children.
The goal is to keep educators, parents and children looped into the education journey despite the pandemic in order to prevent dropouts later. The scheme builds on work being done by Anganwadi workers under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and Shishu Aloy project to promote child-friendly and parent-empowering educational curriculums that allow for holistic development.
The Jaago scheme by the Department of Self Help Group & Self Employment, Government of West Bengal, helps SHGs in the state by awarding them an annual grant of Rs. 5,000/- through the Direct Bank Transfer system. The monetary incentive helps SHGs that are doing important work for women empowerment through financial independence, battling social evils and also spreading awareness about the Covid-19 pandemic. Women empowerment through gender sensitisation and sustainable economic has improved other social health index indicators such as education, age of marriage and planned pregnancies with a gap between siblings. These SHGs have done good work for women’s healthcare, family planning, menstrual hygiene and pregnancy & delivery needs. Around 80.9 Lakh women SHG members have been helped by the scheme against the original target of 100 Lakh.
West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights has done incredible work during Covid times to protect children and their needs. The Commission carried out 30 activities aimed at promoting child welfare. The Commission continues to tackle the issues of child marriage and trafficking. A special Help Desk was established for the same and a specific mandate was issued to DMs and SPs to keep the matter at priority level during Covid. The helpline received 95 calls with complaints about trafficking and child marriage cases and each of these was investigated and addressed by the Commission. SPs and the CP of all Police Commissionerates were advised to monitor children’s safety and prevent domestic abuse during the lockdown.
The Share Your Food campaign was established to address the hunger crisis arising out of the pandemic. It teaches children the value of sharing their food with others. The Commission has prioritised the importance of mental healthcare for children and introduced the concept of the Corona Diary to get an insight into what children are thinking and feeling during the pandemic. A helpline was set up for children to reach out when they felt stressed. A total of 155 calls were received and assistance was provided by specialists from the particular fields. WBCPCR has also delivered insulin to children suffering from Type 1 Diabetes and shared balanced diet plans for childhood nutritional needs.
Department of Self Help Group & Self Employment, Government of West Bengal, introduced Micro Projects in convergence MGNREGS and other Departmental resources. The goal is to combat the impact of Covid-19 on markets and SHGs by promoting the production of basic needs goods like vegetables, egg, milk, fish and non- vegetarian good at the village level. These products were earmarked for sale in the local market only. The concept of micro-projects is sustainable as it takes the local context into account and also allows for a multi-departmental approach to assisting several overlapping target groups: the beneficiaries include former migrant workers and underprivileged fishermen, farmers and daily wage earners. As a result of this scheme, more than 500 SHGs have been helped and of these 80% are all-women SHGs.
The SohojPath – (Bridging the learning gap through Community Radio for the Children in Street Situations) project by WBCPCR is promoting education for children living in slums and on the streets during Covid times. The idea is to boost continuity of education even while schools and learning centres are closed by optimising community methods. Children in these settings typically lack access to smartphones and internet connections. And so, the program uses Community Radio to connect with them. Regular interactions are not only helping with childhood education and development but also preventing child rights violations.
The 30-minute learning module was ‘narrowcast’ by radio to children between Classes I-IV three times a week. The reach of the programme is assessed by how many children could listen to it. 1,269 children made for a direct audience in a 10km radius around the University in South Kolkata. The NGO Save the Children has several centres and had an audience of 700 children. The Hope Foundation shelters aired the programme to 526 children. This makes up the official coverage area. It has also been noted that children outside this coverage area – such as those living in and around New Market, Chetla, Central, Nimtala- have also been able to tune into the programme. The recordings are uploaded to YouTube and links are forwarded along the Commission’s district network so that thousands of other children can benefit as well.
Integrated Child Development Services, Government of Tamil Nadu, recognises that the first six years are crucial to development. Proper stimulation and interactive engagement are essential during this period. Virtual learning method of teaching was introduced during the lockdown for Anganwadi children. Anganwadi workers designed learning activities for children between 2-5 years and shared activity videos on parent WhatsApp groups. Feedback videos helped check the efficiency of the program. Anganwadi workers received smartphones with internet connections. 2,28,905 WhatsApp groups for monitoring were formed at the Directorate, District, Block and Anganwadi level. A total number of 20,27,115 beneficiaries were incorporated into these groups. The project allows for effective optimisation of existing infrastructure and staff and requires little to no extra financial investment. 434 projects across 32 districts are a testament to the power of creative thinking and adaptability.
An important Women & Child Development in 2020 project is the District Mission Management Unit by the Tamil Nadu Corporation for Development of Women. The goal was to promote better healthcare delivery and social engagement during Covid-19. SHGs have been identified as a powerful tool for information dissemination and needs assessment as 14,865 women in the district are part of the same. 2,225 SHG members volunteered to produce masks and as a result around 8,32,263 masks were made and sold to people at low prices.
14 Blocks, 5 Municipalities and 16 Town Panchayats were covered under this effort. With the Project Director at the helm, the Panchayat Level Federation also set up production of hand sanitiser. Authorities identified that offering sustainable livelihood opportunities was crucial to help tide over during this time. They were able to combine two pressing requirements during the pandemic -safety supplies and income opportunities- and create a program that allowed the 26.1 Lakh-strong population of Cuddalore to meet their needs in this difficult time. The project was initiated with a target of Rs. 579.57 Crores for credit linkage, of which it was able to make Rs. 480.36 Crores, which is a tremendous achievement especially in Covid times.
Centre (SMC) – A Supervision and Monitoring Centre aimed at improving service delivery of the department. The system has been particularly helpful during the pandemic, with SMC reaching out to essential services providers and beneficiaries to provide guidance about tackling the various challenges thrown up by the pandemic. SMC engaged with 53,029 Anganwadi Workers during the lockdown and made over 1.66 Lakh calls to beneficiaries and other people to monitor services delivery. The ICDS helps over 55 Lakh people: 7.08 lakh children and pregnant and lactating mothers, 19 lakh children between 6 months and 3 years, 17.7 lakh children from 3-6 years and 13.17 lakh adolescent girls between 11 and 18 years of age.
Regular communication with field functionaries helps identify problem areas and prioritise needs so services can be improved. Beneficiary feedback is instrumental in addressing delivery delays and challenges. The system has seen an average of 19,000 calls made per month. The system has ensured proper supply of Take Home Ration materials, improved grievance redressal, resulted in accurate data collection and empowered care workers and citizens to better look after their dependents. For instance, growth monitoring records have gone up from 58% in November 2019 to 93% in March 2020 and height measurement has increased from 44% to 78%. Field functionaries are doing a markedly better job, which can be seen in the fact that home visits have gone up from 67% in November 2019 to 93.10% in October 2020.
Supportive supervision has proven to be an effective tool for boosting overall operational efficiency.
Department of Women and Child Development, Maharashtra, launched the MAVIM “e-Business” project in the field of Agriculture Technology. This was done keeping in mind that the pandemic has disproportionately affected the economically weaker sections of society. Since the SHGs service underprivileged communities, there was concern about womenfolk no longer being able to work during the lockdown and suffering economically as a result. Their businesses and families were badly affected because of the pandemic.
The low-cost system helps underprivileged women sell their agri-products and allied sector produce. In fact, the rates are improved compared to those from pre-Covid times. The system helps marginalised and poor women farmers under Mahila Arthik Vikas Mahamandal (MAVIM) – The State Women’s Development Corporation of the Government of Maharashtra. It allows members to do business for less than Rs. 5,000/- per annum.
The system uses an app to collect data, which is then stored on a server. A dashboard displays the data in real-time and offers downloadable reports. Farmers can make profiles about the type and size of land, crop availability, insurance, produce quantity and variety, etc. The app also incorporates survey forms in Marathi that can be downloaded without internet – both these factors make the system more accessible and helps in planning targeted interventions.
The project is helping about 4,000 SHGs per district and conveying accurate, real-time data to the authorities. As a result, women farmers can benefit from improved partnerships for the sale of their goods by tapping into the potential of e-Commerce. It also allows the authorities to accurately track production per district. The platform also records patterns of the previous year to offer estimates about expected yields for the current agricultural season. This information can be invaluable for poor farmers so that they may plan better and avoid losses.
The target population comprises 8-10 Lakh women farmers and project authorities have managed to collect information for 2 Lakh farmers. Of these, 56% farmers were not covered by crop insurance schemes. 90% of the 2 Lakh farmers are dependent on rainfall while only 10% have irrigated lands. The project intends to reach all women farmers.
Department of Women and Child Development, Maharashtra, introduced the Know Your District programme to empower block, district and state level government officers with a support system that helps them make data-driven decisions. The basic idea was to design, develop and deploy this system so that evidence- based interventions could be enacted in time for bettering women and child development indicators.
The state has collected vast amounts of data over the years following the introduction of the National Nutrition Mission (Poshan Abhiyan) and Common Application Software. Digitisation of data at the Anganwadi level began as a result. But this data has rarely been analysed and used to affect actual change. The KYD programme aims to plug the holes in the data value chain and create real policy impact. Intelligent, actionable data is to thus made available to decision-makers at every tier of the government.
WCD Maharashtra along with ICDS reaches out to 70 Lakh children between 0 and 5 years of age. A state level Know Your District dashboard is complemented by 7 district-level KYD dashboards. 18 indicators pertaining to the health and nutrition needs of children and women are being assessed along with 6 indicators about the Anganwadi infrastructure.
Integrated Child Development Services, DWCD Rajasthan, introduced the Early Childhood Education Program Through Responsive Parenting. Anganwadi Workers connect with parents via phones and share learning activities for children. For parents without phones, AWWs planned home visits and used the opportunity to garner feedback about previous efforts. The primary goal of the ECE program is to tackle the negative impact of the pandemic on childhood education. As part of the program, parents learn to teach their children according to the weekly and monthly calendars designed under the existing ECE curriculum in Rajasthan. The ECE Activities address all 5 aspects of childhood education and developmental needs: Cognitive, Creative, Language, Socio-emotional and Physical.
Around 12 Lakh children were enrolled with the Rajasthan Anganwadi centres for the ECE program. Rajasthan has been championing the cause of ECE and the easily-replicability and scalability of the concept has inspired similar efforts in other states like Orissa and Madhya Pradesh.
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