Tamil Nadu is one of India’s most progressive states, ranking in the top three on several economic and social indicators. It ranks third in terms of industrial development and fifth in terms of GDP. Tamil Nadu’s indicators are higher compared to other states and the country’s national average in literacy (80 per cent ), the sex ratio (995 females per 1,000 males), (98 per cent) institutional health coverage and in terms of enrolment in primary education (100 per cent). Tamil Nadu is also the most urbanized state with an urban population of 48.45 per cent, according to the 2011 census.
Tamil Nadu has a child population of 6.8 million, with 10 per cent of children in the 0-6 age group. Over the years, the state has adopted progressive child and women policies by introducing path-breaking social policy interventions. Perhaps the best known example is the noon meal scheme introduced in schools in the early 1960s. The scheme was a pioneering effort to protect children from hunger and increase enrolment, thereby stemming drop-out in primary schools.
Despite Tamil Nadu’s high standing on many development parameters, many challenges remain. Caste and gender-related poverty issues are prominent and these have a direct impact on the vulnerability of children. Within Tamil Nadu, regional and social disparities pose a great problem for children in some regions and in socially excluded communities such as scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other highly disadvantaged communities.
UNICEF started work in Tamil Nadu four decades ago. Over this period, it has collaborated with the Government of Tamil Nadu and civil society organizations, academic institutions and the media to actively pursue central issues of child survival, growth and development and child protection.
Critical areas of intervention in the state are: maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, child nutrition, education, water, sanitation and hygiene and child protection. UNICEF collaborates with relevant departments of the State Government, State Planning Commission and State Commission for Protection of Child Rights in these interventions.