WCD minister launches campaign to curb practice, will rehabilitate Covid affected destitute children and women through ‘Vatsalya’ initiative
Geetanjali Minhas | August 6, 2021 | Mumbai
Maharashtra has been successful in preventing 790 child marriages during the Covid-19 pandemic. Building on that success, women and child development minister Yashomati Thakur has launched a state-wide campaign to curb the practice.
The campaign is a joint initiative between the department of women and child development, UNICEF and Akshara Center. Launched on Thursday, it will continue till September 2021.
Thakur unveiled four information boards calling for prevention of child marriage. Part of the efforts include campaigns to prevent child marriage, dissemination of awareness materials, stories of brave girls who prevented child marriage through social media, counselling to parents as well as engaging social workers working in the field.
Rajeshwari Chandrasekhar, head, UNICEF Maharashtra, Nandita Shah, joint director, Akshara Center, and Nirmala Samant Prabhavalkar, a former Mayor of Mumbai and advocate, were present on the occasion.
Thakur said, “As a minister I am very concerned that girls are forcibly pushed into adulthood roles. The government is making various efforts to prevent child marriage which also requires strengthening of grassroots organisations, child protection committees in rural areas and helplines such as Childline 1098. A committee has been constituted to suggest changes in the Prevention of Child Marriage Act, 2006 to make it more effective.
“I am delighted to be launching this campaign today. This campaign will give strength to girls who oppose child marriage, anganwadi tai, gramsevaks who prevent child marriage, teachers, officials of rural development department, child protection committees, district child protection units and child welfare committees, etc.’’
Rajeshwari Chandrasekhar said that though the rate of child marriage in Maharashtra has come down from 47.7 percent in 1998 to 21.9 percent in 2019, yet one in five marriages in the state during the pandemic period is a child marriage and the practice has increased in some districts. Collective efforts are needed to prevent child marriage.
Closure of schools due to Covid-19, loss of contact with friends and support organisations and a rising rate of poverty have put many struggling girls in dire straits. Parents want reduce their responsibility towards family by marrying off girls.
Out of the 790 child marriages prevented in the state last year, 88 were in Solapur district, 62 in Aurangabad , 45 each in Osmanabad and Nanded, 42 in Yavatmal and 40 in Beed.
Earlier in the day, in a televised meeting with Idzes Kundan, principal secretary, department of women and child development, Sharad Ahire, joint secretary, Rahul More, deputy commissioner, Dilip Hiwarale, Heramba Kulkarni, convener, corona single women's rehabilitation committee and representatives of about 150 NGOs working for women, Thakur launched ‘Vatsalya’, an initiative in Amravati district on an experimental basis for children orphaned and widowed due to Covid-19. The initiative will include schemes of various departments for the rehabilitation of destitute children and women.
The women and child development minister said plans are to expand the initiative throughout the state.
Thakur said that Covid-19 has created problems for both children who have lost their parents as well as for widowed women. These women are facing evictions from their families and problems in inheritance rights. “These women will be included in the Vatsalya initiative being implemented for orphans to benefit from the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojana as well as other schemes. Efforts will be made to create employment for these destitute women and provide help for their daily needs.
Thakur said a task force set up at the state and district level for children orphaned by Covid-19 will also consider surveying women widowed due to corona. She said the centre’s help will be sought to implement the scheme for women and children and the state government's policy will be to provide maximum assistance.
It is estimated that more than 20,000 women have become widows in the state due to Covid-19 and about 14,000 children lost their fathers.
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