Bengal, UNICEF focus on community participation to end child marriage
Kolkata, March 11: The West Bengal government and UNICEF have unveiled tools to give impetus to their joint initiative focusing on community participation for ending child marriage, gender inequality and gender-based violence.
West Bengal State Rural Livelihood Mission (WBSRLM), under the aegis of the ‘Anandadhara’ project, has engaged Self-Help Groups (SHG) since September last year to form child-friendly ‘sanghas’ (clusters) to end child marriage and other deprivations meted out on the children in the state.
Speaking at a programme on Friday, Vibhu Goel, CEO of WBSRLM, said that various state government departments and UNICEF have been working together so that these malpractices are finished forever.
“Without community participation, it is difficult to make headway. Promotion of better practices by SHG members, their families and their extended families and introduction of a community-based monitoring system are key to achieve success in child protection and child development issues,” Goel was quoted saying in a UNICEF release.
Under the umbrella of ‘Anandhadhara’, the key rural livelihood mission, West Bengal is one of the top states in the country with more than 10.45 lakh SHGs.
“We are also focusing on instilling a mechanism of self-belief among the women so that child marriage and other social malpractices are rooted out,” Goel said.
Laying stress on monitoring the process, he said, “If the process is not monitored then where and what steps should be taken to achieve success would remain untraced.” The tools to track the milestones of the project including prevention of child marriage, child trafficking, and identifying teenage pregnancies would be sent to the ‘sanghas’ in the next two weeks.
National Family Health Survey Report-V shows that nearly 48 per cent of rural girls are married off underage in the state.
Of late, particularly following the COVID pandemic, incidents of child marriage have gone up in all districts of the state. In the coming financial year, the programme would be extended to 110 ‘sanghas’ to prevent child marriage and take a proactive role in the protection of child rights.
“Regular discussions at all levels on a specified social issue for awareness, self-monitoring by SHGs and tracking of the status of the girl children in their locality are being planned to be implemented with the help of charts, visuals and other audio-visual methods as part of these tools,” Goel said.
WBSRLM, in collaboration with UNICEF, has developed the adolescent girls’ tracker, SHG discussion points, thematic messages and posters to promote empowerment and gauge the progress of the initiative.
“Once we implement the tools at the community level, these trackers and documents will have a great change in society to prevent these social evils. The initiative will help to create a protective environment for the children, adolescent girls and women and address practices like child marriage and gender-based violence in the society,” UNICEF chief in West Bengal, Mohammad Mohiuddin, said at the programme. He said that the state government has been requested to involve the SHGs in the initiative since the members enjoy the advantage of knowing and being known and recognised in the community and they can take preventive measures as well as facilitate response for the avoidance of these practices. (PTI)