The State Situation
Gujarat’s economic development has been often acclaimed as a highly effective growth and private sector driven model. In fact, the average growth rate of GDP in Gujarat over the last two decades has been higher than the national average, and more balanced than the other high growth rate states, primarily because of improved performance across sectors, especially that of agriculture and industry.
However, in terms of overall social development, Gujarat has more miles to cover in ensuring that the economic growth translates into improved human development.
Though there has been significant improvement in terms of health and education infrastructure over the years, especially in urban areas, the challenge remains in further improving the access of people living in remote rural areas to health and education services.
In the area of social development, one of the main challenges faced by the state is the high prevalence of child under nutrition, in addition to a slow reduction in Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), which has drawn necessary attention of the Government and forms a critical partnership area for UNICEF.
The organization is also engaging with the State Government by providing technical support for immunization, ante-natal care and to enhance access and quality of elementary education, with greater focus on hard-to-reach areas.
Progress made so far for children in the state
UNICEF set up its office in Gujarat in 1992 and since then it has been collaborating with the Government of Gujarat to support accelerated and sustained progress on childrenrelated issues. Inclusion and participation of disadvantaged children continues to be a high priority.
UNICEF works closely with various departments at state level, district administration, and with civil society, along with a network of women, youth and children’s organisations, NGOs, Professional bodies, academic institutes for the benefit of women and children of the state.
As a result of these partnerships, successful and replicable models in health, nutrition, education, sanitation and child protection have been developed and scaled up to deliver lasting results.
The emphasis has been towards developing the Government’s capacity, strengthening the systems and networks, advocating for constructive policies, empowering communities and local groups and inspiring them to adopt appropriate behaviours and practices.
Key Opportunities and Challenges
- The access to basic services by the state’s 14.76* per cent tribal population [Census 2011] is constrained by difficult geographical reach and remoteness. To combat this, the State Government has adopted Taluka – a sub district citizen-centric approach, which offers the opportunity for UNICEF to build the capacities of local institutions and Government functionaries for enhanced service delivery in core areas of UNICEF.
- In recent years, the social infrastructures like health and education have grown significantly. This can in a way also largely be attributed to the increased presence of private sector in the state. However, it would be crucial to ensure that access to services is enhanced for those in need.
- Issues of quality and access to basic services by the poor have emerged as a top priority for the State Government. Responding to this, Gujarat, in its 12th Five Year plan, has enhanced social sector allocation to 40 per cent. This will help addressing the infrastructural gaps and be instrumental in meeting the critical needs and entitlements of children and women.
- Issues of social norms and behaviour continue to be a barrier in promoting access to safe drinking water, improved sanitation, exclusive breast feeding, use of iodised salt, hand-washing, and immunization among others.
UNICEF has been engaging with the State Government in addressing these issues through the development of and integrated behaviour change communication strategy, tools and campaigns.
UNICEF in Action
Besides the support to the State Government, UNICEF works in partnership with different stakeholders, including NGOs, corporates, academia and community groups, to:
- Support the implementation of major flagship programmes in the areas of health, nutrition, education and child protection.
- Facilitate policy dialogues and programme planning which have greater potential for quality improvement and enhanced coverage.
- Develop and implement effective communication strategies to address the knowledge gaps of various groups, in particularly, children and women.
- Amplify the impact of interventions and have a wider outreach.
UNICEF initiatives include:
- Providing techno-managerial assistance to ensure all children are fully immunized against vaccine preventable diseases.
- Supporting the State Government in effective implementation of the Integrated Management of Neonatal and Childhood Illnesses (IMNCI) strategy to ensure management of common illnesses at home or timely referral to the nearest health facility.
- Building the capacity of frontline workers in the delivery of quality Health and Nutrition services during Village Health and Nutrition Days and counselling families on appropriate child caring and feeding practices.
- Supporting programmes to promote use of oral rehydration salts (ORS) and zinc tablets to tackle diarrhoea, which continues to kill a large number of children.
- Improving infant and maternal death notification and verbal autopsy, and using the local data for decision making.
- Partnering with civil society organizations to disseminate key messages on appropriate child feeding and caring practices, hygiene behaviour, safe drinking water and sanitation.
- Promoting appropriate Infant and Young Child Feeding Practices (IYCP), including exclusive breastfeeding up to six months and introduction of complementary feeding from the seventh month of life.
- Encouraging regular growth monitoring of all children between 0 to 6 months of age.
- Reducing micronutrient deficiencies by promoting use of iodized salt, consumption of iron folic acid tablets by all adolescent girls, and vitamin A for all children up to five years.
- Working closely with the State Government for effective implementation of the Integrated Child Protection Scheme, including the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection) Act, 2000, by building the capacity of stakeholders, including police.
- Establishing partnerships with civil society organizations in six districts – Kutch, Vadodara, Banaskantha, Patan, Rajkot and Bhavnagar – to mobilize the community around protection of child rights, with focus on eliminating child labour.
- Supporting the State Government to develop models for providing early childhood education for all children between 3 and 6 years and quality elementary education through activity-based learning for all children between 6 and 14 years, as part of the Right to Education Act implementation
- Building capacities of district and block level government teachers, and developing child-friendly teaching and learning materials to help teachers to adopt child-friendly methods to support the children in learning more effectively.
- Supporting the State Government in devising systems to not only track whether children are in school but also the performance of children as per their age.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene
- Strengthening Government capacities for sustainable and inclusive improvements in service delivery and hygiene behaviour change.
- Promoting models of drought proofing and monitor the quality of water through Government agencies and institutionalize the same across the state.
- Working closely with the Government to accelerate sanitation coverage and use, as well as promoting hygiene behavior at family level and among children in schools.
Social Policy, Planning, Monitoring & Evaluation
- Supporting the Government to improve data systems in terms of filling in data gaps, improving coverage, enhancing quality of analysis and dissemination in order to strength the evidence base on outcomes for children.
- Strengthening of policy framework and implementation capacity of large scale state and national programmes to reduce disparities among disadvantaged groups.
- Promoting public discourses on the status of children, MDG realization, required policy framework and reporting on the implementation of flagship schemes.
Communication for Development
- Strengthening local and sustained community-based initiatives through partnerships with dairy cooperatives to reach out to hard-to reach tribal villages through an intensive behaviour change programme.
- Support the State Government to promote children rights and eliminate child labour by empowering families and communities through awareness raising and, fostering positive attitudes and practices for decision-making in the best interests of the children.
- Building capacities of grass root functionaries of various Government flagship programmes with better interpersonal communication skills to be able to mobilize communities better in order to adopt appropriate behavior to ensure child survival, development and protection.
Advocacy & Communication
- Establishing partnerships with private sector organizations, corporates, academia, media associations, parliamentarians, and policy makers to generate or disseminate knowledge and updates on key children issues.
- Initiating and sustaining public and policy dialogues with key influencers and decision makers to ensure that children’s issues are given high priority for any state level planning and programming.
- Creating and promoting forums and networks for adolescent participation to ensure their voices, opinions and ideas are heard, respected and considered by key decision makers, especially with regard to issues that affect their lives.