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Caption: The “new Pratibha,” as her parents call her, proudly shows a neatly-kept balance book. With the help of a bank and skills learnt through the Deepshikha program, 17-year-old Pratibha Vankherde and her friends started a small fabric business that helped them to make and save some money. Started by UNICEF in 2008 in three remote districts of Maharashtra and a few slum communities in Mumbai, the Deepshikha programme focuses on empowering adolescent girls to become efficient leaders through education, life-skills, HIV & AIDS awareness and financial literacy.Pratibha says her self-confidence has soared and eventually she wants to become an engineer. Credit: UNICEFIndia/2011/Graham Crouch


Known for its Mumbai billionaires and Bollywood movie stars, Maharashtra projects an image of prosperity. People migrate here from all over the country, making it the second most populous state in India with 100 million residents. Almost half of the state’s population live in its teeming cities.

Maharashtra has become one of India’s most progressive states with infant, child and maternal mortality rates lower than national averages and improving school enrolment and literacy levels.

At the state’s commercial heart is the cosmopolitan city of Mumbai. While the city’s vibrant industries include shipping, textiles and machinery, some 54 per cent of Mumbai’s population live in slums.  UNICEF is supporting efforts to improve overstretched health and education facilities in slum communities here and elsewhere in the state.

UNICEF and its partners are reaching out to half a million people with HIV/AIDS living in Maharashtra who often face severe discrimination, inadequate health services and limited education opportunities.

Challenges and Opportunities

In Maharashtra’s cities, malnutrition is a significant concern. More than a third of children aged three and younger have had their growth stunted permanently by undernourishment.

In rural areas, many women and children experience nutrition and health problems related to the state’s high rate of child marriage. Almost half the girls in Maharashtra’s countryside marry and have babies while they are still teenagers, and continue a cycle of malnutrition and illness that affects their children.

Other challenges and opportunities:

• An urbanization trend in India has people crowding into Maharashtra’s cities and slums.
• Faced with overstretched city health facilities, the urban poor rely on outreach services from rural centres, or struggle to pay for private care.
• Although state education standards are improving, the dropout rates for girls, particularly of tribal or scheduled castes, are particularly high.
• Schools find it difficult to retain students, offer a quality education, deal with overcrowding and teacher accountability, although some now offer classes in different dialects and provide a midday meal, milk, uniforms and other benefits for free.
• HIV/AIDS is a serious threat, particularly in Mumbai and Nagpur, a city that straddles the crossroads of four major highways. Maharashtra is one of six high prevalent states in the country.
• Children aged five to 14 years are working illegally in city industries and homes as domestic servants as well as in rural farming, particularly in cotton cultivation.

UNICEF in Action

In Maharashtra, UNICEF is working hard to eradicate malnutrition and this is a goal the State Government is committed to achieving. Together, UNICEF and the Government of Maharashtra are running a range of initiatives to tackle this issue, including systems for tracking vulnerable children, promotion of breastfeeding for newborns, and encouraging mothers to give quality solid foods to older children.

UNICEF has demonstrated a participatory process in village planning to facilitate dialogue between village communities, service providers and government functionaries for more accountable service delivery. Together, the Government of Maharashtra and UNICEF are playing a critical role in the scale up of participatory and decentralized planning process with community participation as mandated by Government of India guidelines.

The Integrated District Approach (IDA) in six districts works at four broad levels -  (i) building village capacity to demand services through village planning, (ii) behaviour change communication, (iii) strengthening integrated and participatory planning, and  (iv) delivery of convergent, quality services for women and children, especially from the marginalized communities and forge partnerships between government communities. The lessons and experiences from the integrated districts are guiding state decisions. 

UNICEF is also assisting the State in building an alliance of trainers and resource institutions for stronger knowledge management around programming for children and young people.

UNICEF initiatives include:

Child Survival
• Maharashtra is the first state to link a bi-annual deworming and vitamin A supplementation programme, offering both treatments together to all children.
• A UNICEF plan to address high levels of anaemia among adolescent girls offers iron supplements to millions of young women across the state.
• Programmes, supported by UNICEF, for managing neonatal and childhood illnesses are resulting in fewer baby deaths and better handling of low birth weight babies. These programmes have been extended through most of Maharashtra with focus on upgrading the Sick New Born Care Units in existing government hospitals.
• To improve maternal and newborn care, UNICEF supports training of skilled birth attendants and institutional deliveries, particularly in high-risk and tribal areas.
• The state’s commitment to address malnutrition is reflected in the setting up of the only ‘hands on’ mother  and child health and nutrition mission in the country with cabinet approval, Rajamata Jijau, also known as ‘The State Nutrition Mission’, which is supported by UNICEF.

Education, Child Protection and HIV/AIDS
• UNICEF has entered into a historic partnership with the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) to provide financial and technical support to India’s largest ‘urban’ education intervention called ‘The School Excellence Programme’, covering 1,327 schools, nearly 14,000 teachers and over 450,000 students, focused at improving the quality of learning in municipal schools.
• UNICEF provides financial and technical aid to NGOs working on issues of child rights, child labour, street children, prostitution and trafficking
• UNICEF also supports a girls’ empowerment programme, called Meena Manch (Meena Clubs), which helps bring girls to school and to stay there, including girls from socially excluded tribal groups.
• The Deepshikha, or Lighting Lamps, model piloted by UNICEF is a determined effort to build life skills of young and adolescent girls from the most deprived communities. The programme organizes them into active and empowered groups and provides knowledge, skills and opportunities. UNICEF is assisting adolescent girls to receive grants for small businesses and development activities in villages and slum communities.
• The Sports for Development programme teaches young people to promote sports and healthy living in villages and schools, particularly for girls, the disabled and children from marginalized communities.
• UNICEF provides technical support for effective implementation of services to prevent parent to child transmission of HIV/AIDS through which mothers can access confidential testing, counselling and anti-retroviral treatment.
• UNICEF supports ‘Red Ribbon Clubs’ in which young people teach others about HIV prevention.
• UNICEF supports the Regional Pediatrics ART Centre for ensuring quality care and treatment to HIV-positive children.
• UNICEF also supports the formation of ‘Positive Speaker’s Academy’ for people living with HIV to help promote their rights.
• The partnership has been with the State nodal Department, Water Supply and Sanitation Department under the State Government and District level TSC, Divisions, Key resource Centres and NGOs. Special initiatives have been undertaken in the State such as Bio-Village Project in IDPs, WASH Compliance in Schools, Multiple Use Water Services project (MWUS), Sanitary Napkin production and promotion of menstrual hygiene, Risk based rapid assessment of water quality as per JMP manual and NGP concurrent monitoring. 

UNICEF office in Maharashtra 

19 Parsi Panchayat Road,  Andheri East,  Mumbai 400 069, India

Tel: 91 022 2826-9538, 2826-9727, 2825-3663, 6574-0097, 6574-0098, 6699-4526, 
Fax: 022 2826-9539 
Email: mumbai@unicef.org



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