Recognized as the ‘Land of Kings’ for its regal past of palaces and princely states, Rajasthan builds on a proud history and boasts thriving tourism and industry. Located in India’s west-central interior, the state is home to about 63 million people.
Rajasthan is generally considered a conservative society that still values long-held beliefs and attitudes. Although the state is home to a number of large cities, most people live in rural areas, farming and herding as they have for centuries.
Although women now head many village councils in Rajasthan and female literacy has doubled in recent decades, challenges remain.
The Government of Rajasthan is committed to tackling urgent issues concerning children and women and achieving accelerated progress on social development indicators in partnership with UNICEF. Some of the major issues confronting the state are high student dropout rate, a large number of children in labour, particularly in the cotton industry, girls being married before the age of 18 and becoming pregnant soon after, putting the lives of both mother and child at risk. Malnutrition is pervasive across all age groups, especially among girls.
UNICEF support is largely around the demonstration of models of empowerment for generation of demands, strengthened local self-governance, and improved coverage and quality of basic services to children and women.
The Government of Rajasthan has up scaled a number of interventions which were jointly piloted with UNICEF. This includes LEHAR (Learning Enhancement through Activity in Rajasthan), a programme that institutionalizes joyful learning in primary schools, and life skills education to adolescent girls in all Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (residential schools for girls from marginalized communities). Together, these interventions are proving to be successful in delaying marriage and motherhood.
New Born Care Units piloted with UNICEF support are being established across the state in a phased manner. As a high percentage of children under three are underweight and anaemic, which puts them at risk of serious illness and even early death, the State Government is working with UNICEF to train anganwadi workers to encourage families to adopt appropriate child care and feeding practices to prevent and reduce malnutrition. Special centres for severely malnourished children have been set up by government with assistance from UNICEF in all the districts of the state.
Challenges and Opportunities
In Rajasthan, more than a third of children younger than three are underweight, and almost 80 per cent are anaemic. Malnutrition is one of the major causes of morbidity among young children in the state.
The number of children in Rajasthan who has been fully immunized against common childhood diseases such as tuberculosis, polio and diphtheria is very low and barely a third of children who suffer serious bouts of diarrhoea receive life-saving oral rehydration treatment.
School dropout rates are high and the number of working children is increasing.
Other challenges and opportunities:
• Although Rajasthan is the third largest salt-producing state in the country, less than half of the state’s households use adequately iodized salt, needed to prevent iodine deficiency which can impair brain development and cause motor and hearing problems.
UNICEF in Action
Being a partner of choice for the Government of Rajasthan, UNICEF is working on a set of models and demonstrations of delivery of essential interventions and approaches in select priority districts, such as Tonk, Baran, Dungarpur and Udaipur, aimed at statewide scale up. Initiatives include programmes to ensure better nutrition for children, and provide assistance to those already malnourished.
UNICEF is supporting a range of interventions in two broad areas: ‘Child Survival and Development’ and ‘Learning and Protective Environment for Children’ in partnership with various government departments. The following is a brief description of major activities in the two categories:
Child Survival and Development
Learning and Protective Environment
• Activity-based learning to improve quality and ensure completion of elementary education.