Special Service and Features24-January, 2014 15:19 IST
The Girl Child – Investing in the Future

FEATURE

 

 

FEATURE

WCD

 

 

 

K. S. Narayanan*

 

Welcome to the world of the girl child. Her story across India is promising yet gloomy, hopeful yet mired in despair.

A girl child is the hand that rocks the cradle, the procreator, and the mother of tomorrow. A woman shapes the destiny of civilization.

Indian history is full of examples of successful women who have been leaders in various walks of life. Yet the irony is that a creation as beautiful as the girl child is also one of the gravest concerns facing India due to many cultural factors.

Realising this, Indian governments have undertaken progressive legislation and have implemented several schemes from time to time. Yet more needs to be done not only to ensure her survival and also to help her realise her full potential.

One such effort initiated by the United Progressive Alliance Government in 2008 is the observance of National Girl Child Day on January 24 every year.

The reason January 24 was chosen is that on this day in 1966 Mrs. Indira Gandhi took over as the first woman Prime Minister of India.

Children in the age group 0–6 years constitute around 158 million of the population of India as per the 2011 census. These children in the age group of 0-6 are future human resource of the country.

Then, why celebrate just National Girl Child Day? The reason is obvious: the girl child continues to be the most vulnerable member of Indian society.

The 2011 Census shows that there has been an improvement in social indicators such as literacy and the gender gap in effective literacy development rate and that the overall sex ratio has improved from 933 to 940. However, at an age-group wise dis-aggregated level, the Census shows a decline in the ratio of girls per thousand boys in the 0 to 6 age group, i.e. in the Child Sex Ratio as compared to 914 in 2011 from 927 in the 2001 Census.

The latest Census clearly shows that decline in Child Sex Ratio has now been witnessed in as many as 22 States and 5 Union Territories. The National Family Health Survey-3 data on under nutrition in children below 5 years had already flagged that 43 per cent of girls are under-nourished.

Through this campaign, the government has highlighted the inequalities encountered by the girl child.

National Girl Child Day: Objectives

Armed with more than half a dozen objectives, the government, along with other stakeholders, is trying to ensure the girl child survives and succeeds with dignity and respect in a male-dominated society.

·        To increase the awareness and offer new opportunities to the girl child.

·        To remove all the inequalities faced by the girl children.

·        To ensure that every girl child is getting proper respect, human rights and value in the Indian society.

·        To work against diminishing the child sex ratio and fight the social stigma against the girl child.

·        To initiate couple towards the girl child by increasing awareness about the importance and role of the girl child.

·        To address the girl children issues associated to their health, education, nutrition etc.

·        To propagate the gender equality

What will National Girl Child Day celebrations achieve? It attempts to attack the prevailing mindset and ensure that even before a girl is born she is not viewed as a burden and that she does not becomes a victim of violence or female foeticide.


Legislative Measures

 

For meeting these challenges, the government is stressing on the importance of three 'A's, i.e. Advocacy, Awareness and Affirmative action. Some of the important legislative measures taken so far include:-

·        Banning Sex determination during pregnancy and Policies & programmes for rewarding the girl child

·        Restricting Child marriages

·        Improving Antenatal care for all the pregnant women

·        Introduction of “Save the Girl Child” scheme

·        Free and compulsory primary school education for both boys and girls till 14 years of age.

·        Reservation of 1/3 seats in the local government for women.

·        School children are well availed with the uniforms, noon meal and educational materials and schemes of higher learning for  SC and ST girls.

·        Balwadi-cum-creeches.

·        The Open Learning System has been established for easiness to the girls of backward areas.

·        Self-Help Groups initiated in various states is helping girls in rural areas access better livelihood opportunities

Other Affirmative Actions

The Women and Child Development Ministry had implemented a scheme called “Dhanalaksmi” to make cash transfer to the girl child family to fulfil the basic needs such as immunization, birth registration, school enrolment and maintenance up to the Class VIII.

Another equally important scheme is the ‘Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (RGSEAG)–‘Sabla’, a Centrally-sponsored scheme introduced in the year 2010-11 on a pilot basis. Sabla aims at all-round development of adolescent girls of 11-18 years (with a focus on out of school girls) and is being implemented in 205 districts from all the States/UTs.

Kishori Shakti Yojana (KSY) implemented since 2006-07 as a component under the centrally sponsored Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme seeks to empower adolescent girls in terms of nutritional, health and family care, learning life skills and going back to school. Currently KSY is being implemented in 6118 blocks in the country.

Financial Empowerment

To commemorate National Girl Child Day in 2014, India Post is launching a special drive for opening of new Saving Bank (SB) accounts in the name of each girl child. The drive starts from January 24 and will conclude on 28.

The objective of the drive is to secure the future of girl child by motivating them to open a small savings bank account.

This facility is available in all 4480 Post offices of North Karnataka Region covering all villages. Under this scheme, each account fetches 4 percent interest per annum and depositor can make any number of transactions. The executives will visit all schools to help each school going girl child to have one SB account in her name.

Protecting Against Sexual abuse

The Integrated Child Protection Scheme being implemented since 2009-10 and Childline services is also addressing the issue of safety and security of girl child in India.

Top policy makers realised how child abuse is shrouded in secrecy and there is a conspiracy of silence around the entire subject. In 2005 the Ministry of Women and Child Development undertook a study to examine the extent and magnitude of child abuse in India. As a result a special law - the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 - was passed by Parliament in May, 2012 to address this issue.

Child Budgeting

Child Budgeting introduced in the Union Budget for 2008-09 by the UPA government aims at providing for Schemes for the Welfare of Children. Initially it covered the “Demands for Grants” with child-specific schemes from Ministries of Women and Child Development, Human Resource Development, Health and Family Welfare, Labour and Employment, Social Justice & Empowerment, Tribal Affairs, Minority Affairs, Youth Affairs and Sports. Currently the 'Child Budgeting' statement covers 18 “Demands for Grants” from Union Ministries/Departments of Atomic Energy, Industrial Policy, Posts, Telecommunication, and Information and Broadcasting among others), marking a significant increase from an initial Budget. This along with the Gender Budgeting is likely to improve opportunities for girl child to survive and succeed in India.

National Child Policy Resolution Adopted

To affirm its commitment to the rights based approach in addressing the continuing and emerging challenges in the situation of children, the Government of India had adopts this Resolution on the National Policy for Children, 2013. The document calls for a comprehensive review of this Policy once in five years in consultation with all stakeholders, including children. The Ministry of Women and Child Development will lead the review process.

Conclusion

Protecting a girl child in India should not be limited to observing National Girl Child Day every year. Instead armed with strong legislative measures, the governments and other stakeholders - the community, civil society, business houses, neighbourhood and parents – must play a strong role to secure a safe life for the girl child in order to build a better society, better future and a better India.

(PIB Features.)

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National Girl Child Day is observed on 24th  January every year.

 

*The author is a Freelance Writer.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author in this article are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of PIB.

SS-156/SF-156/24-01-2014

RTS/HSN**


(Release ID :102712)