UNICEF in Action(West Bengal)

UNICEF has been providing continued technical support to the Government of West Bengal in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of the State Plan of Action for Children (SPAC) (2014-18) as well as the District Plan of Action for Children (DPAC) (2014-18) in Malda and Purulia districts of West Bengal.

The State Plan of Action for Children (SPAC) (2014-18) for West Bengal was published and launched by the Chief Minister on Dec. 16, 2014 in the presence of the MoS (IC) WCD and other dignitaries.

Through the SPAC and DPAC, the Government, in collaboration with UNICEF and key civil society partners, aims at promoting the holistic development of women and children in the state in a time-bound manner, by lowering maternal and child mortality, reducing open defecation, improving the nutritional status of women and children, enabling children to reach their full developmental potential through completion of elementary education with quality, ensuring their protection from violence, abuse and all forms of exploitation and ensuring the rights of all children, with special focus on the marginalized and excluded communities.
 
Under the leadership of the Information and Cultural Affairs Department, Government of West Bengal, UNICEF has facilitated the formulation of the State Communication Platform in 2015 for promoting convergent IEC and BCC for effective implementation of major flagship schemes and programmes in West Bengal.

A media platform has also been created with journalists from leading media houses with the aim of sensitizing the media on CRC and child rights as well as to facilitate the coverage of concerns related to the rights of children.  
 
UNICEF has also lead the formulation of an NGO Platform in West Bengal comprising of key INGOs, NGOs and other civil society organization working on women and children.

The NGO Platform has been established with concurrence from the Government of West Bengal. It aims at facilitating greater dialogue and collaboration between the Government and civil society to achieve common objectives through convergent programming and implementation of programmes. 
 
In West Bengal, UNICEF is the lead development partner in the state’s Call to Action, a comprehensive approach to accelerate Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCH+A).

Under this global, strategic approach to improving child survival and safe motherhood, UNICEF adds value to the government programme through advocacy and technical inputs in an effort to ensure services are provided with quality and equity. The Call to Action has been a cornerstone in UNICEF West Bengal’s efforts to address RMNCHA challenges.
 
In the area of Child Protection, UNICEF has provided technical assistance to the Government of West Bengal in drawing up the Standards Operating Protocol for Rescue, Recovery, Rehabilitation and Integration of child victims of trafficking from Bangladesh. In parallel, it has helped write an inter-state protocol on trafficking between West Bengal and Maharashtra.

UNICEF is also encouraging children’s participation in ensuring their own safety and welfare through the establishment of child cabinets and Meena Manch girls’ groups. The groups have focus on improving access and quality of services and work largely through madrasas. 
 
UNICEF’s cooperation for Education in West Bengal includes developing an accelerated learning package to ensure children who have been out of school can quickly be absorbed back into mainstream classes.

Another package and a curriculum on early childhood education have also been developed for both Anganwadis (government health and day care centres) and pre-primary sections of the School Education Department, and Early Childhood Education of the State Resource Group has been completed.

UNICEF is also piloting the Activity Based Learning through Child-Friendly School (CFS) model that promotes inclusiveness, gender-sensitivity and personal empowerment so that each and every child, irrespective of their circumstances, has access to a safe and quality education.
 
UNICEF’s demonstration of communication approaches for arsenic mitigation, including for water safety and security, and sanitation promotion through the Sanitation Hygiene Advocacy Communication Strategy (SHACS) have drawn the attention of the Government of West Bengal and other policymakers. The programmes are creating an enabling policy environment towards elimination of open defecation in the state.
 
UNICEF initiatives include:
 
Child Survival 
 
Continuing to support the nationally acclaimed Special Care Newborn Unit (SCNU) programme that was piloted in Purulia district and subsequently scaled up across India. The programme has now been in operation more than 10 years.
 
Partnering with institutions to support supervision of immunization programmes, Village Health and Nutrition Days and Integrated Management of Neonatal and Childhood Illness programmes.
 
Facilitating gap analysis, evidence-based planning and capacity-building to improve facility quality and community based maternal, neonatal and child care. 
 
Strengthening interventions to improve women’s nutrition before, during and after pregnancy.
 
Lending technical support to improve the quality of adolescent health care, a new area of collaboration.
 
Nutrition
 
Providing technical and operational support to state government for establishing and operationalizing the ‘Nutrition Mission’ through the Mission Directorate for ICDS.
 
Promoting convergence to address anaemia in all age groups in a more integrated manner through technical as well as monitoring and supervision. In addition, UNICEF had supported the state to re-initiate biannual Vitamin A supplementation and Dewoming for all children under 5 years to address micronutrient deficiencies.
 
Provide technical and operational support to integrated programming for adolescents, especially to address anaemia for school going as well as out of school girls by promoting two major flagship programmes of Weekly Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation (WIFS) and SABLA (Rajiv Ghandi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls) schemes and Universal Salt Iodization. 
 
Demonstrating replicable models of Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres and supported their scale up to address severe acute malnutrition among children.
 
Setting up a working group for a multi-sectoral integrated nutrition plan and providing technical support to the State Nutrition Support Cell for improved monitoring.
 
It has rendered technical and operational support to scale up early identification of undernourished children and promote evidence based high impact low cost intervention. 
 
Technical support and demonstration of resource mobilisation for children through CSR partnership for strengthening Anganwadi infrastructure, improving quality of supplementary food at AWC’s and strengthen ECE component at AWC’s.
 
Education
 
Working closely with the West Bengal government on ECCE curriculum and manual aligning the National curriculum and Early Learning Development Standards (ELDS). Capacity building of 400 master trainers completed, model centres scaled up in 500 AWCs across the State reaching to 10,000 children. ECCE State Council is in place to roll out ECCE programme.
 
Providing technical support towards implementation and monitoring of RTE Compliance Child-Friendly Schools (CFS) indicators by i) developing strategies, materials, M&E strategy to mainstream children who are out of school both at Primary level ii) monitoring of RTE indicators through improved data analysis, review, monitoring visits, development of Child Protection policy and manual for teachers.
 
Technical support to School Education Department in improving learning outcomes of children and capacity of teacher educators on child friendly large scale assessment and teaching learning process to improve learning in early grades.
 
Strengthening Meena Manch adoloscent groups in 80 Madrasas in Malda District for improving retention and stop early marriage.
 
Life skill curriculum and packages implemented from grade 5-8 in KGBVs improving the capacity of Girls in communication and negotiation skill.
 
Child Protection
 
Assisting the Government of West Bengal to roll out the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) around the state by developing guidelines for Child Protection Committee (CPC) and Child Welfare Committee (CWC) members and strengthening the 2013-14 implementation plan.
 
Providing technical support for the ICPS capacity-building plan and developing guidelines for CPCs, CWCs and cross-border repatriation of victims of trafficking.
 
In Malda and Purulia districts – which have among the highest incidences of child marriage in the state – supporting an intervention to strengthen adolescent groups in developing evidence-based documentation and advocacy efforts which address social norms and values around child marriage and child trafficking.
 
Building parent and community support for girls’ education through sensitization of School Management Committees.
 
Helping create a child protection Management Information System, including cases registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) Act.
 
Developing a girl child-specific District Plan of Action for Children (DPAC) through decentralized planning.
 
Providing training support to members of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR).
 
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene
 
Establishing Rural Sanitary Marts (RSMs) to improve sanitation and water testing labs to test drinking water samples.
 
Supporting the government develop a State Policy on an Open Defecation-Free West Bengal.
 
Developing and sharing cost-effective arsenic technology and communication approaches to mitigate arsenic risks.
 
Organizing Nirmal Vidyalaya Abhiyan, an Indian government Child-Friendly Schools initiative aimed at improving WASH standards, across 80,000 schools in 2013 and mainstreaming the WASH in Schools mandate in primary school textbooks.
 
Developing Water Safety Planning with the Public Health Engineering Department in Kashipur block, Purulia district.
 
Facilitating, commissioning and installing 43 fluoride research units in Purulia district.
 
Enabling sanitation coverage and 100 per cent Open Defecation Free status in high priority districts.
 
Disaster Risk Reduction
 
Cyclone Aila Emergency Response: UNICEF and its partners moved emergency supplies to affected families, including water jerry cans, water purification tablets, family hygiene kits and packets of oral rehydration salts (ORS). A multi-sectoral rapid assessment mission was also conducted with UNICEF focusing its key interventions on the three most affected blocks of Sandeshkali 1, Sandeshkali 2 (North 24 Parganas) and Gosaba (South 24 Parganas).
 
Partnered in the creation of an inter–state agency to combat future disasters.
 
Building capacities and reducing vulnerabilities for better preparedness and management in emergencies.
 
Helping in capacity-building of civil society partners and improving coordination between communities, departments, NGOs and other stakeholders to reduce the vulnerabilities of disaster-affected people.
 
Advocacy and Partnerships
 
Assisting the government to expand and enhance the quality of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) in various ways: by improving the training of workers in Anganwadi (government health and day care centres); and by developing innovative communication approaches with mothers. 
 
Establishing and rolling out, along with partner the Confederation of Indian Industry, through their joint “CII-UNICEF Corporate Social Responsibility Hub,” the first public private partnership project to strengthen Anganwadi centres, in Metiabruz. The project also included the Department for Women and Child Development and six businesses. 
 
Initiating and sustaining public dialogues with key influencers and decision-makers to ensure that children’s issues are accorded priority on their agenda.
 
Policy, Planning & Evaluation
 
Supporting Government and UNICEF sectors towards strengthening data, monitoring, evaluation and knowledge management and conducting advocacy to mainstream equity within policies and frameworks meant for children and women is a key PPE priority. PPE has supported the implementation of Rapid Survey on Children as well as the Kanyashree Baseline Survey between 2013-15.

During this period, it has also completed the assessments of several key MIS systems in West Bengal including the ICDS-MIS, the SBM-MIS, HMIS and UDISE. PPE is supporting the Government of West Bengal in the preparation of monitoring plans for various programmes and the roll-out and strengthening of the Kanyashree MIS. 
 
Strengthening state and district capacities (within priority districts) for results based planning, monitoring and evaluation, including the technical facilitation of child centric social budgeting.

The technical support provisioned for the preparation and implementation of SPAC and DPAC are a case in point. Time bound and measurable indicators and targets have been agreed upon by relevant departments for the completion of SPAC and DPAC priorities, which are consultatively reviewed in a regular manner. 
 
Technical support to the Government of West Bengal for the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of  Kanyashree Prakalpa – a social protection scheme for improving the status and wellbeing of the girl child in West Bengal by incentivizing schooling of all teenage girls and delaying their marriages until the age of 18, the legal age of marriage. Promotion of child sensitive social protection mechanisms is a key priority for PPE. 
 
Promotion of research and knowledge management through collaborations with the academia remains a priority. Based on findings and recommendations of such research, PPE aims at conducting high level policy advocacy for inclusive and equitable programming and monitoring, with emphasis on disadvantaged children and marginalized communities. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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