Under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 (PCMA), 18 is the legal age of marriage for girls, and 21 for boys in India. Despite several years of this Act being in existence, the early erriage of children continues to be practiced in West Bengal. According to OLHS -3, 2007-08, the state ianked fifth highest in the country when It came to the revalence of child marriage, with almost every second girl a child bride (54.79\›). Although more pervasive in rural areas, statistlcs revealed than even In non-slum reas of Kolkata, more than s quarter of girls are married before they mech adulthood.
ild marriage Is a gendered practice, affecting far more girls than boys. It Is perhaps the most pievalent loin of sexual abuse of minor girls, arid has e negative mpact on their health and the health of thai£ children. leaves them financially and socially disempowered, and vulnerable to child labour, trafficking and other
oms of exploitation. In fact, the districts with the highest incidence of child marriage in West Bengal are also those where trafficking is rampant.
hild marriage and school drop<›uts go hand in hand. In West Bengal, attendance of girls in school drops from 85°6 in the age-group 6-10 yeae to a mere 33°/» in
the age group 15-17 years (NFHS III, 2005-06). After the implementation of free and universal elementary education in India, progress in enrollment and completion of eIemen\ary school has been noticed, however, the transition from elementary to secondary echool remains a concern. Secondary education is not free, and many lm)x›verlshed parents, failing to see the economlc rationale for Investing In their daughteis education, marry them off at this age in tha belief that this will enhance the girl’e and the family’s security. This step however, condemns the girls to a life of financial and social insecurity. Field studies show that most women have to take up some economic activity in later year6, and that their lack of qualifications and work experience makes them ill-equipped for the labour market, and therefore susceptible to poverty and exploitation throughout life. As a result, poverty, a factor that fuels child marriage, in turn perpetuates the feminization of poverty.
After the enactment of the PCMA 2006, the Department of Women Development and Social Welfare and Child Dovelopmant (DWD) Implemented anti-child marriage campaigns spreading the message of prevention, and endorsing enforcement of the law and its penal provlsions for adults aldlng and abetting child
maniage,. However it quickly became evident that legal prohibition and social messaging are largely ineffective in addressing
child marriage. For one, India’s multiplicity of fomal and religious laws complicates the issue of what constitutes th ” ‘ ” ’appropriate’ age of marriage for girls. Secondly, because the practice is ascribed to time-honoured tradition and is justified from
a patriarchal pempective as essential for protection of girls from the ’evils of society’, eradicating it equires tangible drivers o
social change that can transform victims made vulnerable by their age and gender into actors determining their own. lives. . °
Department of Women Development and Social Welfare, Government of West Bengal (DWD&SW) hae designed the Kanyashree Prakalpa – a conditional cash transfer scheme with the aim of Improving the status and well being of the girl child in West Bengal by incentivizing schooling of all teenage girls and delaying their marriages until the age of 16, the legal age o
marriage. Kanyashree Prakalpa is a Wast Bengal Government sponsored scheme which will be implemented henceforth in all districts of the State.
Kanyashree Prakalpa seeks to improve the s\atus and wellbeing of girls, specifically those from socio-economically disadvantaged families through Conditional Cash Transfers by:
Incentivlzing them to continue In education for a longer period of time, and complete secondary or higher secondary education. or equivalent In technical or vocational steams. thereby giving them a better footing in both the economic and social spheres.
Disiricentivising marriage Bill at least the age of 18, the legal age of marriage, thereby reducing the risks of early pregnancies, associated rlsks of maternal and child mortality, and other debilitating health conditions, including those of malnutrition.
It wae also dwided that the Scheme should confer mole than just monetary support; it should be a means of financial inclusion and a tool of empowerment for adolescent girls. The scheme’s benefits are therefore pald directly to bank accounts In the girls’ names, leavlng the decision of utilizatlon of the money In their hands.
To reinforce the posltlve impact of increased education and delayed marriages, the scheme also works to enhance the social power arid self-esteem of girls through a targeted behaviour change communication strategy. The communication strategy not only builds awareness of the scheme, but Includes adolescent-friendly approaches Ilke events, competitions and Kanyashree clubs. and the endorsement of strong women figures as role mrxJels to piornote social and psychological empowerment.
As more and more girls remain in school, it is envisaged that they will use the opportunity to gain skills and knowledge that will help them become economically independent. Even if girls do get married soon after they turn 18, ii is expected that their education and enhanced social and emotional development will give them a better foundation for in their adult lives. And over time, as entire generations of women enter marriages only after they have some degree of economic independence, it is expected thet the practice of child marriage is completely eradicated, and women will attain their right to health, education and socio-economic equality.
Conditional Cash Transfer Provisions
Kariyashree’s core objectives are simple and focussed: It aims to ensure that girls stay In schoolggddelay their marrlages till at least age 18. Kanyashree’s appn›ach Is also simple: it uses a social safety net mechanism that has shown a high degree of success in transforming the lives of children and adolescents In several countries in the world: Conditional Cash Tiansfers. The scheme has «•o cash transfer components:
The first is sn Annual Scholamhip of Rs. 750/- to be peid annually to the girls in the ege gioup 13 to 18 yeers (studying in Class VIII equivalent or above for every year that they remained in education, provided they are unmarried at the time.
The second Is a One-Time Grant of Re. 25,000/-, to be paid aftef a girl tums 18, provided that she was engaged in an academic or occupational pursuit arid was ur\married.
The term ‘education’ encompasses secondary and higher secondary education, as well as the various vocational, technical and sports courses available for this age group. Given that children from socio-economically disadvantaged families are more vulnerable to child marriage. the scheme is open only to girls from families whose annual income Is Rs. 1,20,000/- or less. For girls with special needs, orphans and girls in J.J. Homes the income criterlon is waived. Girls with special needs, but in a clsss below class VIII. can also apply for the annual
National and International Recognition
Kanyashree Prakalpa’s implementation is a model of good governance: its convergent implementation & monitoring mechanisms and end-to-end IT enablement promote efficiency, transparency and sccountability, and the Scheme is replicable in its entirety.
The scheme’e simplicity lends itself to dynamism: it is continually being refined and streamlined as challenges present themselves in the field. On the other hand, it has the potential to extend Itself as it matures through linkages and opportunities.
- The Scheme has received considerable national and international recognition for its design and governance
- Received West Bengal Chief Minister’s Award for Empowerment of Girls, 2014
- Represented as one of the “best practices” in “Girl Summit 2014″ organised by Depanment for International Development, UK and UNICEF in
- Appreciated by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of Indla, and referred to as a good practice when designing the “Beti Bachao, Beti Padf›ao’
- Received the Manthan Award for Digital Inclusion for Development (South Asia and Asia Pacific) 2014 under the category E-Women and Empowerment
- Received National E-governance Award (2014 — 2015) under the category of ‘Citizen Centric Servlces” awarded by the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances
- Shortlisted among the best projects for final evaluation by the United Nations Committee of ExpeAs in Public Administration (2014-2015)
- Winner, Skoch SMART Governance Award, 2015
- Received Award of Appreciation at the CSI Nihilent e-Governance Awards 2014-15