24 Jan 2014

Empowering Women, Nurturing Children: Achievements of Ministry of Women and Child Development

The Ministry of Women and Child Development is the nodal ministry for all issues concerning women and children. The Ministry is moving forward towards a paradigm shift in its approach to social sector issues which were earlier welfare oriented but now look at holistic empowerment, especially of the marginalized. The emphasis continues to be on empowerment and development of women, adolescent girls and children in all spheres of life. The Ministry has achieved several significant milestones in the past four years.
Significant Legislations
The Ministry has enacted the Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. The Act is a landmark as there was no such legislation in the country to address the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace. The Act covers all women irrespective of their age and employment status at the private and public working spaces including domestic workers and those in the unorganised and informal sectors of work. Clients and customers are covered through this Act. The Act extends to organisations, department, office, branch unit etc. in the public and private sector, organized and unorganized, hospitals, nursing homes, educational institutions, sports institutes, stadiums, sports complex and any place visited by the employee during the course of employment including the transportation. Rules are currently being framed for operationalising the Act.
To address the growing instances of child abuse, the Ministry has brought in a special law, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 which came into force from 14 November, 2012. The Act provides protection to children from the offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography through stringent punishment. The Act mandates special courts for speedy trial, child friendly procedures in courts and punishment for not reporting the offence to police or appropriate authority, and for abetment and making false complaint or false information.
In addition, the Ministry has amended the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 in 2011 to remove discriminatory references to children affected by disease such as leprosy, tuberculosis, hepatitis-B etc. Notification in this regard has been issued on 8 September, 2011. The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Amendment Bill, 2012 has been introduced in the RajyaSabha which has referred the Bill to Department related Parliamentary Standing Committee for consideration. Also, Cabinet Note for amendment in Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 has been circulated to the concerned Ministries for their comments.
The Ministry launched the Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (RGSEAG), also known as‘SABLA’ in November, 2010. The scheme aims at all-round development of adolescent girls of 11-18 years by making them self-reliant by improving their health and nutrition status and facilitating access to learning and public services through various interventions such as health, education, vocational training and counselling and guidance at the AnganwadiCenters. SABLA is at present running in 205 districts across the country. During 2012-13, 88.76 lakhs adolescent girls have benefitted under this scheme (as on 31.12.2012).
A comprehensive scheme called ‘Ujjawala’ aims to prevent trafficking on the one hand and also provides rescue and rehabilitation of victims. It has five specific components- Prevention, Rescue, Rehabilitation, Reintegration and Repatriation of victims of trafficking. The Scheme is mainly implemented through NGOs.  In 2012-13, 73 projects have been approved and                  Rs. 7.39 crore has been released.
A conditional cash transfer scheme, Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY) has benefitted 4.69 lakh pregnant and lactating mothers during 2012-13. Being implemented on pilot basis in 53 selected districts using the platform of ICDS, the scheme envisages providing cash to Pregnant & Lactating (P&L) women during pregnancy and lactation in response to individual fulfilling specific conditions. It addresses short term income support objectives with long term objective of behavioural and attitudinal changes. This Scheme is included in the DBT scheme of the government.
The ‘Swadhar’ scheme addresses specific vulnerability of women in difficult circumstances through a home-based holistic and integrated approach. It provides shelter, food, clothing, counselling, training, clinical and legal aid and aims to rehabilitate the women in difficult circumstances. Rs. 2363.15 lakhs have been released to the scheme for 2009-2013. The Ministry has introduced Support to Training & Employment Programme (STEP)scheme to train and upgrade skills of women and to provide project based employment under identified sectors. During 2009-2013, the scheme benefitted 30,481 marginalized women. 
The Ministry proposes to launch a new scheme- “One Stop Crisis Centre for Women” (OSCC) - during the current financial year. This scheme addresses the need for positive steps to be taken for women in crisis to provide immediate relief for the victims. It has been proposed to implement the said scheme on a pilot basis initially in 100 districts. In addition, pilot projects have been initiated in Pali (Rajasthan) and Kamrup (Assam) to demonstrate convergence of programmes and schemes for women. Women resource centres or Poorna Shakti Kendra (PSK) is a one stop centre for services to women were opened in 150 Gram Panchayats. Each PSK has two Mahila Gram Samanvyaks appointed by the mission who act as motivators for the women in the Gram Panchayat and are also responsible for providing training on various issues.
The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme, one of the flagship programmes of the Government of India, has been strengthened and restructured. This scheme represents one of the world’s largest and unique programmes for early childhood care and development. The government has allocated budget of Rs. 1,23,580crore during the 12th Five Year Plan.The restructured and strengthened ICDS will be rolled out in three phases covering 200 high burden districts in first year (2012-13) with 41 districts from Uttar Pradesh, additional 200 districts in second year (2013-14) including districts from special category States and NER and in the remaining districts in third year (2014-15).

Under the restructured ICDS Scheme, the Anganwadi will now be the first village outpost for health, nutrition and early learning for children and mothers, 2 lakh Anganwdis will now get pucca buildings at cost of Rs.4.5 lakh each, and 70,000 Anganwadis or 5% of the existing AWCs will now have facility of a crèche which will benefit working mothers in both rural and urban areas. Also, cost norms for supplementary nutrition have been increased from Rs. 4/- to Rs. 6/- for children (6-72 months), from Rs.6/- to Rs.9/- for severely underweight children, and from Rs.5/- to Rs.7 for pregnant and nursing mothers.

Under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), the Ministry provides a protective environment for children in difficult circumstances, as well as other vulnerable children, through Government-Civil Society partnership. It brings together multiple existing child protection schemes of the Ministry under one comprehensive umbrella, and integrates additional interventions for protecting children and preventing harm. 

Statutory Bodies like Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) and Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) are functioning in 619 and 608 districts of the country respectively, and 1195 various types of Homes have been provided financial assistance. ‘Childline’ service, which is an emergency outreach service for children in need of care and protection through a 24-hour phone helpline (1098), has been expanded to 274 cities/districts of the country from 83 cities before implementation of ICPS.

In addition to these programmes and schemes, the Ministry of Women and Child Development is also drafting a national Plan of Action to combat the declining child sex ratio in many parts of the country, through wide consultations incorporating the views and knowledge from different stakeholders.  The Rajiv Gandhi National Crèche Scheme is also being restructured to provide better facilities. 

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