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 over about 68 million people, almost 50% of whom are under the age of 18 years (Census 2011).
Rajasthan is India’s largest state in terms of geographical area and as it prides itself on a rich cultural heritage, the people here are known to value long-held beliefs, customs and traditions.
Progress made for Children:
Over the past decades, successive Governments in Rajasthan have shown commitment towards addressing developmental concerns in the state, especially that of children and women.
In 2012, Rajasthan government, supported by UNICEF, announced the landmark Girl Child Policy to ensure survival, growth, development and empowerment of girls and also is one of the few in India that has increased the bar on child labour from 14 to 18 years.
The state also pioneered the implementation of Right to Education Act 2009, and the government has acknowledged UNICEF’s collaboration in formulation of state rules on RTE.
UNICEF has been an active partner, supporting the governments in planning and implementation of flagship programmes and working towards accelerating progress on social development indicators.
For instance, government reports indicate Infant mortality has come down 27 points since 2001 and Rajasthan is the first state to scale up setting up Special New Born Care Units in all 33 districts, which was piloted with UNICEF.
Today almost 80% women are opting for delivering in hospitals & health centres. School Education has also seen a significant improvement in the last 10 years with over 80% children now enrolled in elementary education (DISE 2010-11). Increase in gender parity at the elementary level has been a particularly encouraging trend.
Key Challenges and Opportunities:
However, the rate of change and desired impact has not necessarily have been equally distributed across geographical zones and social communities.
Apart from the sheer size of opportunities, contrasts and challenges in the human capital of the state, the marked differences between geographical location (rural and urban), social groups (caste and religion), rich and poor and between sexes, is stark.
The tribal dominated districts of Banswara, Dungarpur and Udaipur, with difficult geographical terrain have consistently lagged behind on vital social development indicators. For instance, the mortality rates among rural children and children belonging to SC/ST groups remain much higher (SRS & AHS 2010-11 data).
A high percentage of children under-three are undernourished i.e. stunted, severely wasted and anaemic, which puts them at risk of impaired growth, serious illness and even early death. A high percentage of children under three are underweight and anaemic, which puts them at risk of serious illness and even early death.
According to Annual Health Survey 2010-2011, 7 out of 10 children in Rajasthan receive full immunization against common childhood diseases such as tuberculosis, polio and diphtheria is and a third of children who suffer serious bouts of diarrhoea receive life-saving oral rehydration treatment.
UNICEF is working with the government towards promotion of appropriate child care and feeding practices, special centres for severely malnourished children have also been set up across several districts in the state.
Yet, Rajasthan carries one of the highest burdens of undernourished children in India and it’s pervasive across all age groups, especially among girls (NFHS-3).
Though improved source of drinking water is now available to 71 per cent homes, provisioning and use of toilet at home is low, at 35% (census 2011). Although most families have access to water, more than half of these sources are contaminated with excess levels of fluoride, nitrates, salinity and effluent.
Other major issues confronting the state are student dropout rate which continues to be higher than the national average; large number of children being engaged in paid labour (particularly in the cotton industry); and thousands of girls getting married before the legal age of 18 years, resulting in early pregnancies (Census 2011).
The Government of Rajasthan has up scaled a number of interventions which were jointly piloted with UNICEF, including activity based learning as part of new syllabus and textbooks and Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation as tool for improving quality education.
UNICEF is also supporting the government for promoting Child Marriage Free and Child Labour Free villages, in high priority districts.
UNICEF Partnership with Government:
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 high focus districts such as Udaipur, Dungarpur, Barmer, Baran etc to ensure survival, growth an development of children, especially those belonging to marginalized communities.
While earlier the focus was on strengthening institutional service delivery and utilization systems at both facility and community levels under different national and state social sector programmes, the shift is now being made to more working in areas of advocacy and technical support for results focused implementation.
Child Survival and Development
• Strengthening quality assurance of services provided through the health facilities for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health care and denominator based monitoring systems
• Demonstrating use of technology for improving interpersonal communication, identification of danger signs, facilitation of local decisions at the family level and real time monitoring systems with reminder mechanism.
• Focus in high priority district and build capacity of supervisors and various level managers in evidence based planning, monitoring of implementation of programmes
• Identification of most deprived areas, their reasons for being most deprived and leveraging results through evidence based advocacy for improving situation of women and children in terms of survival and development.
• For severely malnourished children, improving the quality of service delivery at malnourishment treatment centres
• Strengthening the Implementation of essential nutrition interventions for 1000 days – i.e. pregnancy to 2 years of age through development of Nutrition plan of action with partners including NRHM and ICDS.
• Provisioning of safe drinking water and home based treatment of water to prevent fluoride contamination in villages
• Strengthening capacities of partners to accelerate total sanitation and adopt key hygiene practices through advocacy, mass mobilisation and community approaches
• Improve WASH facilities, operation and mantainence systems, and practices in institutions (schools and health centers angawadis), monitoring systems for improved efficiency of flagship programmes and effective programme outcomes
Protective and Learning Environment
• Activity-based learning to improve quality and ensure completion of elementary education.
• Increased focus on leadership initiatives for Head Teachers for ensuring improved school management, across the state
• Pilot initiative providing ‘transport vouchers’ to disadvantaged tribal children located away from schools
• Innovative pilot initiatives to prevent child marriage, especially among identified rural areas
• Developing model intervention of prevention of child labour, particularly in southern Rajasthan where children migrate to cotton cultivation areas.
This includes formation of child protection structures at village, block, and district level, involving active participation from government and as well as communities
• Supporting the creation of Rajasthan Commission for Protection of Child Rights and Child Directorate at the state level