“To call woman the weaker sex is a libel.”
Mahatma Gandhi conveys an important social message through these words – Women are not supposed to be only ‘creatures of sentiment’, but they must strive to become ‘companions’ to men, in every sense of the term. The first eminent feminist, Mary Wollstonecraft, echoed the same in “A Vindication For the Rights of Women” (1792), by saying that ‘strengthening the female mind’ requires giving her the opportunity to acquire education. The Government of West Bengal launched a scheme in the year 2013 that treads the path paved by such stalwarts – The “Kanyashree Prakalpa”
1) Specifications of the “Kanyashree” Scheme:
This innovative initiative provides monetary benefits to unmarried girls in the age-group of 13-18 and after, who belong to poverty-stricken families with an annual income below 1,20,000 rupees. The cash is transferred to the personal bank accounts of the concerned candidates in two divisions:
a) An Annual Scholarship of 750 rupees from Classes VIII-XII (K-1 Form)
b) One-Time grant of 25,000 rupees after the girl turns 18, provided she continues her education, along with fulfilling the other criteria (K-2 Form)
2) Statistical Improvement after “Kanyashree” Scheme implementation:-
a) In West Bengal, attendance of girls in schools drops from 85% in the 6-10 age-group to a mere 33% in the 15-17 age-group ( National Family Health Survey III, 2005-2006 ). But the introduction of “Kanyashree Prakalpa” has taken prominent steps in spreading awareness among the parents about the importance of a girl’s education.
“Since the “Kanyashree Prakalpa” has been launched, [… ] we have seen around 6% rise in enrolments of students in both secondary and senior secondary schools.” – joyously comments the UNICEF Chief Field Office for West Bengal, M. Asadur Rahman.
b) Referring to the District Level Household and Facility Survey (DLHS 4:2012-2013), M. Asadur Rahman also added that the percentage of under-18 child brides has remarkably gone down to 31.6% as compared to that of the last survey (DLHS 3: 2007-2008) which was as high as 54.76%. Thus,the Government of West Bengal has been successful in reducing the associated risks of maternal and child mortality, and other more serious health issues like malnutrition and anaemia.
A detailed report of the success of “Kanyashree can be assessed by clicking at the following link:
3) Special emphasis on Women’s Empowerment:-
Along with addressing the issue of trafficking of young girls, “Kanyashree Prakalpa” has introduced adolescent-friendly “Kanyashree Clubs”, that organise events and competitions to boost the confidence of these socially retarded girls, thereby creating strong and independent personalities out of them. They can follow their dreams riding the new bicycles gifted to them under this scheme.
4) International recognition for “Kanyashree” Scheme:
a) The “Kanyashree Prakalpa” has been internationally recognized by the United Kingdom’s Department of International Development (DFID) and UNICEF has already provided technical assistance to the scheme.
b) A global platform was provided to the Government of West Bengal to promote this path-breaking thought at the Girl Summit 2014 held in London.
The Government of West Bengal celebrates 14th August as “Kanyashree Diwas” or “Daughter’s Independence Day” as a reminder that a girl child is an asset and backbone of a progressive society.
The renowned American leader, Brigham Young,had rightly said:
“You educate a man,you educate a man. You educate a woman,you educate a generation.”