New Delhi: January 24 in India is marked as National Girl Child Day every year. The day is an initiative of the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) and it is being celebrated since 2008, with an objective of highlighting the inequalities faced by girls and to promote awareness about the rights of a girl child and the importance of their education, health, and
nutrition. As a part of the day’s special programme, NDTV Banega Swasth India team spoke with some of the inspiring daughters, mothers and sisters, who have been doing their bit to support girl child in the country.
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Sheetal Mehta, Trustee & Executive Director, K.C. Mahindra Education Trust is one such person. She has been associated with project Nanhi Kali, which is an initiative of Anand Mahindra, Chairman of Mahindra Group. Mr Mahindra began Project Nanhi Kali (which means ‘a little bud’) at the K.C. Mahindra Education Trust, with the objective of educating underprivileged girls in India. The project was started against the backdrop of spiralling population growth rate, low female literacy level and low female workforce participation, in addition to social issues such as child marriage and child labour.
Talking about the organisation and how it is helping change the lives of girls in India, Sheetal Mehta said,
Nanhi Kali is a girls and women empowerment project. Through this project we support underprivileged girls to complete 10 years of schooling. Every girl under this programme gets access to a digital device, which is preloaded with smart educational content. In addition, we provide the girls with school bags and school supplies kit. The older girls even get feminine hygiene products, so that they can attend school with dignity.
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Highlighting the main objective of the initiative, Ms Mehta said that the organisation aims to build a girl-friendly ecosystem, which prevents the girls from dropping out of schools. She added,
Till date, we have supported over 500,000 girls.
Talking about COVID-19 that disturbed lives across the world and how did the organisation ensure that girls continue to study, even in the unprecedented times, Ms Mehta added,
Nanhi Kali has an army of 5,000 trained tutors, who we call community associates. They live in the communities where the girls are staying. So, through them we managed to reach out to the girls, even in the COVID times. We continue to supply them with small learnings snippets that engaged them and let the learning process continue right throughout this pandemic period as well.
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Talking about why educating the girls is important for their overall development and country’s growth, she further said,
There has been overwhelming evidence that suggests educated girls and women contribute to the overall development of the nation. It is critical that these women participate in the economy. Women’s economic empowerment boosts productivity. It also has a huge number of positive outcomes like it helps bring down the maternal mortality and infant mortality rates. When a woman is educated, she ensures all her children are educated. She will also ensure that the income she has earned goes back in supporting the nutrition, health and education of all her children. So, it’s really a win-win situation.
Ms Mehta signed off by adding that if India really wants to pursue social-economic growth then it is critical that women participate in the economy. She said,
It is simple, the more women work in the economy, the more money and growth will be there.
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NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, that is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.