Children in Tamil Nadu

Infant and neo-natal mortalities and prevalence of stunting among under 5 children are lowest and primary enrolment rates in schools are highest in the country.

UNICEF India celebrity advocate Trisha Krishnan at ¬AIR site TNSCB Community Hall in Ennore, Chennai.
UNICEF/UN0342682/Kolari

The challenge

Tamil Nadu lies in the southernmost part of the Indian subcontinent and is bordered by the union territory of Puducherry and the South Indian states of Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. The state is home to several historic buildings, multi-religious pilgrimage sites, hill stations and three World Heritage sites. Tamil Nadu is the seventh most populous state in India. 48.4 per cent of the state's population live in urban areas and has the sixth highest ranking among Indian states in human development index.

Tamil Nadu has the country's third longest coastline at about 906.9 km. Tamil Nadu's coastline bore the brunt of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami when it hit India, which caused 7,793 direct deaths in the state.      

Tamil Nadu is one of the pioneer states in India for initiating pro-poor policies and social protection programmes for children and women in the most marginalized communities. The state introduced progressive legislations and schemes such as social security measures, expansion of health, nutrition, WASH and education systems and public distribution system.       

Over the decades, these social policies were implemented effectively with high public investment in social sector and strong administrative structures and systems that facilitated effective planning and monitoring.  This significantly demonstrated impact on well-being of children in health, nutrition and education.  Infant and neo-natal mortalities and prevalence of stunting among under 5 children are lowest and primary enrolment rates in schools are highest in the country.

Advancing children’s rights and well-being

UNICEF focuses largely on enhancing social inclusion and strengthening enabling environment by developing convergent social policy approach and comprehensive systems that integrate efforts for greater impacts on child well-beings.

The substantial progress made in last couple of decades in improving outcomes for children and reducing multi-dimensional deprivations in Tamil Nadu, UNICEF state office for Tamil Nadu’s programme efforts focuses largely on enhancing social inclusion and strengthening enabling environment by developing convergent social policy approach and comprehensive systems that integrate efforts for greater impacts on child well-beings.

UNICEF State office aligns its social policy strategy, which are relevant for the ‘middle income country’ context, aims to enhance and build on existing systems within the state governments, the relevant line departments, State Child Rights Protection Commission and the local self-governments in both rural and urban areas.    

UNICEF works around the three pillars of social policy work - public finance for children, decentralization and child friendly local governance, and social protection for the vulnerable families and their children. These areas are applied to the sectoral interventions on child survival, child development, child protection and build on child participation.             

UNICEF India celebrity advocate Trisha Krishnan with youth advocates at Stella Maris College, Amphitheatre in Chennai.
UNICEF/UN0342703/Kolari
UNICEF India celebrity advocate Trisha Krishnan with youth advocates at Stella Maris College, Amphitheatre in Chennai.

The three pillars of social policy programme broadly focus on five key priorities:

Comprehensive approach to strengthen social protection systems for more integrated approach - for improvement of targeting most vulnerable, greater impact on child well-being and efficient and equitable spending for priorities – including emergency and reducing vulnerability and risks.

Going beyond child survival and access to early childhood education – develop comprehensive policy for early childhood development and programmes and financing model for all young children, from conception up to the age of school entry, achieve their developmental potential in equitable inclusive care environments, programme and policies, including in humanitarian setting. Children up to the age of school entry receive essential services including quality childcare, health, nutrition, protection and early learning services to address their developmental needs.

A comprehensive policy and programme that support adolescents and young people to reach their full potential as productive and active members of society. Working on people’s agency, focuses on bringing together public and private partners – as well as young people - to identify and scale solutions. Opportunities and programme linkages are created for adolescents and young people to access to develop skills for learning, employability and active civic engagement.

Focusing on transition to secondary education from 8 to 9th grade, enhance the government planning for continuum of 12 years of education for smooth transition and quality of learning.

Establish strong monitoring and governance systems for child labour (15-18 years), child marriage and second-generation issues in child protection to support inter-sectoral convergence and reaching last miles. Modelling with financing and capacity development strategy to strengthen child protection systems will be explored to enhance social welfare functions and functionalise including front line social workers at the levels below district.

Advocacy is an intrinsic process for addressing the disparities, discrimination and exploitation children face by helping to bring the issue of adolescents and young people’s vulnerability to the forefront of the agenda for decision makers. To achieve these outcomes through the Social Policy approach it is imperative to have a strong position to speak on behalf of children, adolescents and young people and enable them to speak on issues that impact them. Hence, strong partnership is built with the academia, media, civil society organizations, adolescents and youth led organizations and well know personalities or celebrities.