What gets measured, gets managed

UP Population Policy : Strategies To Improve RCH Services

Age at Marriage

Nearly 64 percent of girls in UP marry before reaching the legal age at marriage. Low age at marriage not only contributes to the high fertility rate but also to the risks associated with early childbearing. Childbearing at a young age also contributes significantly to the infant mortality rate. An increase in the age at marriage is possible only when there is a major change in social values and attitudes towards the girl child.

  • Services of advocacy groups such as religious leaders, community leaders and women's groups will be used to bring about changes in the values and attitudes of people, particularly in rural areas.
  • Electronic media will be used to disseminate information on the legal age at marriage and also on the adverse consequences of early marriage on the health of adolescent girls.
  • Those marrying before the legal age at marriage will not be eligible for any government job or for any job in government-managed organizations.
  • Registration of marriages will be made compulsory and panchayats and urban local bodies will be entrusted with the responsibility for registering marriages.
Adolescent Education and Family Life Education

Family life education (FLE) will be provided to adolescent boys and girls. Family life education will cover planning for one's future and the importance of education, gender roles and responsible parenthood. Parents will be involved in some of the sessions to encourage positive parent-child communication.

  • The Department of Health and Family Welfare in consultation with the Department of Education and other stakeholders will develop curricula appropriate to the cultural milieu and introduce a FLE programme in secondary schools and colleges.
  • NGOs will be involved in FLE programme implementation for girls not attending schools, particularly in urban and rural areas.
  • Parents and community leaders will be involved from the beginning and throughout the implementation of any adolescent FLE initiative to ensure social support. Orientation programmes will be organized to encourage parents to send their adolescents to the programme.
  • Learning material appropriate for adolescent boys and girls on key topics will be generated and made widely available.
Empowerment of Women

Women bear the entire burden of childbearing and child rearing. Yet, in most cases, they have very little say in decisions about their own childbearing, when to have children, how many children to have, and whether to use contraceptives. If women had the choice, many would prefer to have fewer children than what they actually have. In many families, the role of women is largely confined to the kitchen and they do not participate in the process of decision making even on issues of vital importance to them and other family members. There is a need for reform to eliminate gender inequalities and a multi-pronged approach to empower women.

The Government of UP has already initiated a series of measures in this direction. In several development programmes such as the Integrated Rural Development Programme, Training Rural Youth for Self-Employment, Jawahar Rojgar Yojana, Jawahar Gram Samridhi Yojana and several other schemes, it has been made compulsory to have 30 to 40 percent women as beneficiaries. Nearly 50 percent of self-help groups in UP exclusively belong to women. In the three-tier panchayat system, 33 percent reservations have been made for women, and as a result, there are currently about 265,764 elected women panchayat members.

  • 33 percent of all new jobs in the government sector or in organizations owned and controlled by the government will be reserved for women
  • 33 percent of all commercial establishments such as ration shops, which require government licenses will be reserved for women
  • Education, particularly girl's education, is important to empower women. All efforts will be made to universalize primary education for girls and to retain girls in schools up to the secondary level. Special campaigns will be conducted to make the community aware of the importance of female education
  • Added emphasis will be given to formation of self-help groups exclusively for women, and the groups already formed will be further strengthened. Non-governmental organizations with development projects funded by the government will be encouraged to constitute self-help groups in their project areas
  • Women's milk cooperatives, currently in operation in 12 districts, will be extended to all districts, and exclusive women cooperatives will be formed to encourage participation of women in different economic activities
  • The strong bias of the society against girls is manifest in the preference for sons, and the extreme form of bias is reflected in the rising tendency of couples to opt for termination of pregnancies if the foetus is known to be female. A law has already been enacted to prevent such heinous practices, and all provisions of this law will be rigourously and strictly enforced.
  • Women's polytechnics and working women's hostels will be opened in major cities in a phased manner to increase participation of women in secondary and tertiary sectors
  • All forms of gender bias in the provision of services to women will be eliminated by sensitizing personnel in different departments, particularly in the health and family welfare department
Role of Panchayats in Programme Implementation

Panchayats have a constitutional responsibility for health, family welfare and education activities. Last year, the state government took active steps to devolve financial and administrative powers to the panchayats. It also declared the year 1999-2000 as the year of 'decentralization'. During this year, the state transferred the assets and functions of 12 departments, including family welfare to these elected bodies. The staff of eight departments have also been transferred to panchayats and designated as panchayat development officers. Today there are 61,054 panchayat development officers serving panchayats in UP, which have a total of 797,554 elected members. Out of these, 264,754 are women. An amount equal to 4 percent of state revenue has been devolved to panchayats and 7 percent to urban local bodies. With their vast reach and influence, panchayats are ideally suited for implementing the RCH programme at the grassroot level and bringing about convergence of service delivery at the village level.

The state government recognizes the overarching role that the panchayats can play in the implementation of the family welfare programme by converging services from a host of development departments and by using their influence to advocate the small family norm and create demand for services by mobilizing the community. However, panchayats need to be further strengthened and empowered to fulfil their role with respect to programme implementation, supervision and monitoring.

  • Gram Pradhans and panchayat members along with panchayat development officers will undergo training and sensitization on a continuous basis to orient them to their role in the RCH programme. They also will be exposed to the range of services being provided. Beginning with Gram Pradhans, all members of the Health and Welfare Committee and women panchayat members will be trained in the next three years directly or through distance learning methodology.
  • Panchayats will be provided with IEC materials and support to carry out demand- generation activities and mobilize community members to avail themselves of immunization, antenatal care and family planning services
  • Panchayat meetings at all levels will begin with the review of reproductive and child health programme performance
  • Health and Welfare Committees of the panchayats would identify area-specific unmet needs for reproductive health services and develop village-level plans to provide these services
  • Funds under various development schemes would be utilized for maintenance of subcentres and for creating village-level health infrastructure like apna ghar (delivery centres) by imaginative dovetailing
  • Panchayats would be responsible for recording marriages in addition to births and deaths. This data would be shared with the grassroot-level workers to help them provide RCH services, including family planning
  • Of the total financial resources allocated to Panchayati Raj institutions, 10 percent will be earmarked for performance based disbursement; particularly for the performance in the areas of reproductive and child health services and female education
  • Every year each zilla, block, and gram panchayat would be appraised for its contribution to meeting reproductive, child health and family planning needs, and for recording marriages, births and deaths. Those panchayats whose performance best meets clients RCH needs will be honoured by the Chief Minister and given special development grants for community assets

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