Social policy and inclusion

UNICEF works to create an enabling policy environment for equity and children’s rights in India.

Indian children crowd at the window of a classroom at a Feeder School, in Lowkiwali Village, in Lahoal Block, on Mesaki Island, Dibrigarh District, Assam, India.
UNICEF/UNI87429/Ferguson

Strengthening social protection and increasing investment for children

India is one of the world’s fastest growing economies but human development has not kept pace with economic growth. The Country ranks 129 out of 189 countries in the 2016 Human Development Report.( Source: HDI Report 2018)

India also ranks 127 out of 155 countries in the 2017 global Gender Inequality Index.

Deeply entrenched caste-based and gender inequalities have further economically excluded millions, particularly those from rural areas. Children from rural areas, slums and urban poor families, scheduled castes, tribal communities and other disadvantaged populations suffer from multiple deprivations related to poverty, malnutrition, access to quality health services, child marriage, poor school attendance, low learning outcomes, lack of sanitation facilities, hygiene, and access to improved water.

Disparities are also seen in the provision of and access to basic services in rural and urban areas. Children from rural areas are more likely to die before completing age five than those living in urban areas. Children in states with high levels of deprivation and conflict are more vulnerable than those in states with stronger governance systems.

Over 65.5 million urban dwellers living in urban slums have poor housing conditions and limited access to services such as sanitation, schools and health clinics. The share of the child budget in the national budget, too, (3.29%- Union Budget 2019- 20) has never been over five per cent, and even this disproportionately in favour of education schemes.

Scheduled Tribes bear the highest burden of child stunting in India. Nearly 45 per cent of Scheduled Tribes in rural areas remain below the poverty line, compared to 25 per cent in all other groups.                                

The solution

UNICEF’s programme on inclusive social policy is aligned with the Government of India’s National Development Agenda.

With a multifaceted strategy and equity-focused approach, UNICEF contributes to national priorities of accelerated growth, good governance, innovative budgeting and effective implementation by enhancing social inclusion and the realisation of basic rights for all children. It aims to enable a social policy that addresses the various types of barriers, including caste, gender or religion, which prevent children from freely accessing information, social services, and institution.

Our inclusive social policy programme strengthens policies and systems so that children and adolescents, particularly the most marginalised and vulnerable, progressively benefit from effective and inclusive social services and social protection system. 

UNICEF works closely with national and state governments to build/strengthen programs with mothers and children as the direct beneficiary, such as maternity benefit programmes, cash transfers for the girl child and cash transfers to prevent child labour.

UNICEF enables convergence across ministries and departments towards integrating existing social protection systems for children. It focuses on integrating social policies and social protection in health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, education and child protection.  This is done by assisting national and state governments in developing prevention strategies for child marriage and child labour; refining existing social protection schemes so that children remain in school; and prioritizing nutrition interventions in the key developmental stages of early childhood and early adolescence.

We support local institutions in developing gram panchayat (village council) development plans for inclusive growth with equity and social protection. Gram panchayats and urban local bodies facilitate the convergence of existing social programmes to improve access to social services for marginalised children and women. UNICEF helps them deliver social services for children by using quality data for the enhancement of governance and accountability.

UNICEF is supporting the Government of India to monitor the realization of child rights for the flagship programme Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (Save the girl, educate the girl), that promotes girl’s education and also the national Jan Dhan Scheme that aims at comprehensive financial inclusion and provide banking services to all households in the country.

UNICEF generates evidence to inform national and state programmes with the focus of equity and child rights. For instance, disaggregated information from results of the Rapid Survey on Children 2013-14 supported by UNICEF was used to inform and amend existing programmes such as the Integrated Child Development Scheme and informed the development of new programmes like Mission Indradhanush for immunization and the national and state nutrition missions.