Kanyashree Prakalpa (KP)
Department Of Women Development and Social Welfare, Government of West Bengal

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
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 marriage of children continues to be practiced in West Bengal. According to DLHS -3, 2007-08, the state ranked fifth highest in the country when it came to the prevalence of child marriage, with almost every second girl a child bride (54.7%). Although more pervasive in rural areas, statistics revealed than even in non-slum areas of Kolkata, more than a quarter of girls are married before they reach adulthood. Child marriage is a gendered practice, affecting far more girls than boys. It is perhaps the most prevalent form of sexual abuse of minor girls, and has a negative impact on their health and the health of their children, leaves them financially and socially disempowered, and vulnerable to child labour, trafficking and other forms of exploitation. In fact, the districts with the highest incidence of child marriage in West Bengal are also those where trafficking is rampant. Child marriage and school drop-outs go hand in hand. In West Bengal, attendance of girls in school drops from 85% in the age-group 6-10 years 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 elementary school has been noticed, however, the transition from elementary to secondary school remains a concern. Secondary education is not free, and many impoverished parents, failing to see the economic rationale for investing in their daughters education, marry them off at this age in the belief that this will enhance the girl’s 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 years, 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 Development (DWD) implemented anti-child marriage campaigns spreading the message of prevention, and endorsing enforcement of the law and its penal provisions for adults aiding and abetting child marriage,. However it quickly became evident that legal prohibition and social messaging are largely ineffective in addressing child marriage. For one, India’s multiplicity of formal and religious laws complicates the issue of what constitutes the ‘appropriate’ age of marriage for girls. Secondly, because the practice is ascribed to time-honoured tradition and is justified from a patriarchal perspective as essential for protection of girls from the ‘evils of society’, eradicating it requires tangible drivers of social change that can transform victims made vulnerable by their age and gender into actors determining their own lives.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
In early 2013, the Chief Secretary of West Bengal advised the Secretary, DWD of the need to address the issue of child marriage on an urgent footing. The Secretary took ownership of the process, and after a technical analysis of the problem and alternate solutions, proposed a conditional cash transfer (CCT) scheme, which came to be named Kanyashree Prakalpa by the Chief Minister of the state, who is also the Scheme’s guiding force. Kanyashree Prakalpa is a Conditional Cash Transfer scheme that concentrates on girls currently most at-risk for dropping out of school and for child marriage: adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18. The scheme has two benefit components. The first is a cash benefit of Rs. 500/- to be paid annually to the girls in the target age group for every year that they remained in education, provided they are unmarried at the time. The second benefit is a one-time grant of Rs. 25,000/-, to be paid after a girl turns 18, provided that she was engaged in an academic or occupational pursuit and was unmarried on her 18th birthday. The term ‘education’ encompasses secondary and higher secondary education, as well as the various vocational, technical and sports courses available for this age group. To ensure an equity focus, the scheme is open only to girls from families whose annual income is Rs. 1,20,000/- or less. For girls with special needs, as well as for girls deemed currently residing in Juvenile Justice homes, this criterion is waived. By making financial benefits conditional upon the receiver’s actions, CCT programs negotiate a behavioural change in an area of developmental concern. In this case, the behavioural areas of concern are the high incidence of child marriage and the low attendance and retention of adolescent girls in education. Kanyashree Prakalpa therefore seeks to empower girls, specifically girls from socio-economically disadvantaged families by: • Incentivizing 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. • Disincentivising marriage till at least the age of 18, the legal age of marriage, thereby reducing the risks of early pregnancies, associated risks of maternal and child mortality, and other debilitating health conditions, including those of malnutrition. It was also decided that the Scheme should confer more than just monitory support; it should be a means of financial inclusion and a tool of empowerment for adolescent girls. The scheme’s benefits are therefore paid directly to bank accounts in the girls’ names, leaving the decision of utilization of the money in their hands. To reinforce the positive impact of increased education and delayed marriages, the scheme also works to enhance the social power and self-esteem of girls through a targeted behaviour change communication strategy. Since its launch on October 1, 2013, over 2.016 million applications have been registered for Kanyashree Prakalpa, and over 1.876 million applications sanctioned. The scheme is just one year old; however, judging by the huge response, and by the findings of a Rapid Assessment conducted by UNICEF in September 2014 (details in Pt 10), the implementers feel that several years of sustained implementation will bring about a discernible change in the status of the state’s women.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The Scheme’s design takes cognizance of the opportunities that CCT schemes offer in creating a safety net for vulnerable groups (in this case, the protection of vulnerable girl children), and has taken into account the challenges faced in implementation of existing schemes in India and elsewhere. First, its design is simple– there are two age-appropriate benefits, and their purpose is immediately linked to the aspirations of its target group. It is made accessible to girls in their own domain, in educational institutions, has very basic eligibility criteria and asks for minimum of documentation, and banks provide no-frills banking facilitates. The scheme’s simplicity lends itself to dynamism: it is continually being refined and streamlined as challenges present themselves in the field, and is extensible, both horizontally and vertically. Secondly, the Scheme is goes much beyond financial enablement to promote social and psychological empowerment. The Scheme’s communication strategy not only builds awareness of the scheme, but includes adolescent-friendly approaches like events, competitions and Kanyashree clubs, and the endorsement of strong women figures as role models. Thirdly, the scheme is a model of good governance: its convergent implementation & monitoring mechanisms and end-to-end IT enablement promote efficiency, transparency and accountability.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The West Bengal government announced the scheme on March 8, 2013 and launched it on October 1, 2013. In the interim period, the following significant actions were taken to operationalize the scheme. a) Process maps and Implementation guidelines were developed and refined through a number of consultations convened by the Secretary, DWD, first at state level with key departmental secretaries, technical agencies such as National Informatics Centre and bankers, and then with district and block level stakeholders. b) Convergent implementation platforms, including the state and district management units and monitoring mechanisms were formalized at state, district and block levels by the passing of government orders, and recruitments undertaken. c) Through discussions with the State Level Banking Committee, funding mechanisms were developed and the lead bank selected. Procedures and protocols were set in place for providing accessible, no-frills banking facilities to Kanyashree candidates, including a simplified one-page application form. d) The Scheme’s MIS strategy was developed, and the development of an e-portal undertaken by the National Informatics Centre West Bengal. The e-portal ensures end-to-end IT enabling of the process of enrollment, scrutiny, sanctioning and disbursement of funds, and provides real-time monitoring information. e) All significant stakeholders at state, district, block and grassroots levels were provided orientation and training on the scheme, and provided with Implementation Guidelines. Refresher trainings take place at regular intervals as the e-portal evolves and implementation mechanisms are streamlined. Revised implementation guidelines are currently being prepared. f) A detailed communication strategy based on with components of public advocacy and behavior change methods was developed by UNICEF and went through a process of approval. A media partner was selected as per government guidelines, and as a part of media strategy, audio-visuals were prepared with well-known celebrities endorsing the scheme. Advertisements for both English and local newspapers were developed and a phased media plan was rolled out. g) On August 14, 2013 (now celebrated annually as Kanyashree Day), state wide events were held to publicize the Scheme. In Kolkata, the event was presided over by the Chief Minister of the state. Regular awareness campaigns were organized by the Government, Kanyashree Melas were held across districts, and advertisements were tele-casted across major TV channels and published in noted national and local news dailies. Interactions with intended candidates, parents and teachers were organized within schools and communities to create awareness of the objectives and entitlements of Kanyashree. h) The Scheme was formally launched on 1 October, 2013. Till date (10 November, 2014) over 2.016 million applications have been registered, and over 1.876 million applications sanctioned. i) A Rapid Assessment Study (UNICEF, 2014) in 6 districts in West Bengals confirms that the scheme is delivering positive outcomes: retention has increased in schools in the last year as compared to the previous two years and fewer child marriages have been reported. Focus group discussions point to a positive response by parents and recipients towards the provisions of the scheme, and a sense of security and encouragement for the future of girls. Several years of sustained implementation are expected to bring about a discernible change in the status of the state’s women.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The key person is the Secretary of the DWD, the nodal department for the development of women and children, who was guided the Chief Secretary of the state. The scheme is backed by committed political support, with the Chief Minister of West Bengal being its main guiding force, personally endorsing the scheme’s focus on empowerment of girls, and providing timely inputs into the scheme, including designing the scheme’s logo, naming the scheme, assuring its financial sustainability and ensuring that due attention is directed to the scheme and its concerns though public appearances on Kanyashree day and several other events. While the DWD is the nodal department for Kanyashree Prakalpa, key implementing departments are the Finance Department, Departments of School Education, Higher Education, Technical Education, and Minority Affairs and Madrasah Education. The Department of Health & Family Welfare, Municipal Affairs, Panchayat and Rural Affairs, Sports and Youth Affairs, Mass Education and Information and Cultural Affairs promote and support the scheme in their own domains, and are an integral part of the Steering and Monitoring Committees at state and district levels The National Informatics Centre West Bengal is responsible for the setting up of the Kanyashree Portal, a single-window portal for e-governance of the Scheme. Other key partners are the State Level Bankers Committee who facilitated and simplified the process of opening no-frills accounts for recipients. UNICEF Office for West Bengal have provided technical support in developing the communication strategy, conducting periodic surveys and supporting the baseline study. Private agencies involved are JWT India, commissioned to develop high-quality mass-media messaging and Nielsen India Private Limited, who are conducting the baseline survey. At the grassroots level, several NGOs have facilitated the establishment of Kanyashree Clubs and other behaviour change elements of the communication strategy.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
Cash Disbursements under the scheme are entirely are entirely funded by the Government of West Bengal, as are the administrative costs. Since the scheme is mainly implemented through existing government structures, administrative costs are relatively low and relate to printing of application forms, orientation and training at state & district level, media agency & roll of communication plan, and recruitment and sustenance of state & district units. Of a total project cost of Rs. 6.3 billion for the period 2014-2015, administrative costs have been capped at Rs. 670 million (i.e. 10.16%).

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The following outputs have contributed to the success of the initiative: a) Accessibility and efficient service delivery through a single-window service delivery mechanism: application forms are available with schools and other institutions, and candidates are supported by the school staff in filling up application forms, collecting and collating supporting documents and in liaising with neighborhood banks for the opening of bank accounts. Eligibility criteria have been kept to a minimum, and certification can be effected by local municipal / panchayat levels. Simplified single page account opening forms have been developed in consultation with banks to facilitate opening of zero balance bank accounts, and benefits are remitted through direct bank transfer b) Its communication strategy with its focus on building self-esteem of girls has several innovative methods designed to capture the imagination of young girls. Events such as drawing, poster making and poetry writing competitions on Kanyashree schemes are continually held across all districts. Kanyashree Clubs have been set up in some schools for peer group counseling and life skills activities. Girl achievers with outstanding records are felicitated at state and district levels. August 14 is celebrated as Kanyashree Day with simultaneous public events being held in every district and block in West Bengal in presence of senior elected representatives like MPs , MLAs and ministers. At the State level, the event is celebrated with the Chief Minister in attendance, in the presence of celebrities, thereby ensuring state wide publicity on the issue of girl children. c) Convergent operational platform and e-portal that have enabled the scheme’s wide coverage, and a multi-layered monitoring mechanism and the willingness to continually improve processes as opportunities or challenges arise allow for dynamism and refinement.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Kanyashree Prakalpa has a multi-tiered monitoring structure, with a State-Level Steering and Monitoring Committee chaired by the Finance Minister and comprising high-level government functionaries providing strategic guidance. In addition, the Chief Minister personally monitors the scheme on a regular basis. Every District has a Steering and Monitoring Committee, headed by the District Magistrate, and block and district level officials monitor the performance of schemes, and continually refine processes to work around area-specific challenges. The State and District Level Monitoring Committees continually communicate through video conferences, feedback and based on analysis of MIS data. Regular interactions between ground level field implementers and recipients leads to immediate grievance redressal: information about bottlenecks and barriers in form distribution, enrollment and remittance to recipients are relayed from the field to the district and state monitoring committees to inform continual process improvement. The Kanyashree portal also has a feedback section which is currently being upgraded. A baseline study is currently being conducted by Nielsen India Private Limited, with a mid-line survey being planned three years after the baseline. Three key result areas being monitored are: • Education: mainly Gross enrollment ratios at several educational stages, trends in girls attendance in schools, vocational training and other institutes) and 6 other indicators. • Child Marriage: including mean / median age of marriage, prevalence and incidence of early marriage and 10 other significant indicators • The Baseline study also has a set of indicators which will evaluate the scheme implementation process.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
One of the early course corrections was to enhance accessibility and efficiency of service delivery. In the initial stages of implementation, application forms were made available at various government offices in municipal and panchayat areas. This however, resulted in several candidates uploading multiple applications on the portal. The process was subsequently streamlined, with application forms distributed to and collected from candidates by the school or institution where they are enrolled. In addition, institutions were capacitated in uploading applications onto the portal, with each candidate being issued a unique id card. With banks facilitating the opening of bank accounts in camp mode in schools and other educational institutions, these have now become a single-window of service delivery. Since the Secretary, DWD had taken note of the inherent challenges in implementing CCT schemes, the implementation strategy has been designed to be extremely responsive, and is always in a process of continuous improvement. Currently, the department in collaboration with the National Informatics Centre in the state is in the process of integrating the Kanyashree portal with the Central Plan Fund Monitoring System (CPFMS) under the Ministry of Finance; Government of India for better financial management and effective fund flow mechanism. The CPFMS will also generate the Financial MIS for the scheme, across the state. For quality assurance and greater accountability, the department is also in the process of procuring Digital Certificates, USB e-Tokens and SSL Certificates for all DMs and ADMs (involved with Kanyashree Prakalpa) across the state.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
As the Scheme is just over one year old, and baselines are yet to be established, it is premature to comment on the impact of the initiative. However, the receptivity to the scheme has been extremely favorable, and the fact that over 2.016 million) girls have enrolled in the span of a year, points to the enthusiasm it has generated. A Rapid Assessment was conducted by UNICEF in September 2014 which revealed that since the implementation of the scheme in October 2013, the attendance rate in schools has improved from 72% in 2011-12 to 75% in 2013-14. Moreover, while 73 cases of child marriage were identified by schools in 2012-13, in the current academic year only 54 cases have been reported. The Rapid Assessment also noted that the scheme has drawn great appreciation and attention amongst parents and girls, as well as school teachers and head teachers, who report changes in confidence and a sense of financial security in their wards. According to parents of Kanyashree recipients, Kanyashree has given them the confidence as well as the cushioning for relieving their hardship and ensuring higher education of their children. Both the Rapid Assessment study and reports from the districts speak of innumerable cases of girls, currently sixteen or seventeen, who, because of family circumstances, were on the verge of giving up education during or after completing secondary school. These girls and their parents, mostly daily wagers, seasonal labourers, domestic workers, were acutely aware that if the girls were to aspire for better lives, they needed education – but were unable to sustain the expenses to keep their daughters in school. The annual scholarship amount and the assurance of Rs. 25,000/- at age 18 has been a lifeline for every one of them. Even relatively better-off families have reported a great sense of comfort in the knowledge that the one-time grant would be their daughters’ safety net. The following are reflections from Focus Group Discussions with parents: “We struggle every day to send our children to school, this has taken some of the burden of our shoulders”. “Our daughter feels that she has something in her name – it is her foundation for her future life. Whether she wants to study further, or whatever she wants to do – there is some security.” According to the girls, Kanyashree has given them the courage and confidence to dream and plan for their future. They feel especially empowered by having bank accounts in their name, and the ability to make the decision of how to use their money. The following reflections are from teachers of Kanyashree recipients: “The girls seem different, more independent, more enthusiastic about their studies. Having their own bank account has been very empowering. It has given them the confidence to speak their minds to their parents.” “Previously, some children’s project work would be delayed because their parents would not be able to give them the money to buy the necessary material. Now we see that they have the material immediately – they are buying this from their own money”

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
Financial Sustainability: The huge response from the bottom-up, and the leadership and commitment from the top has made the scheme vibrant and sustainable, and the Government of West Bengal looks on the costs incurred as an investment in the education of adolescent girls. Kanyashree Prakalpa has tremendous political ownership, and is entirely state-government funded. Despite a financial crunch, the Government has earmarked Rs. 6.3 billion for the scheme, looking upon the amount as an investment in the future of the adolescent girls of the state. Replicability: the scheme is managed and monitored by existing government machinery at district and state levels, with service delivery being implemented through schools and other educational institutions. The Kanyashee portal facilitates the enrollment of candidates, sanctioning of grants and disbursement of funds and serves as a single-window reporting mechanism. The Scheme has a comprehensive documented strategy, implementation guidelines and a communication strategy which are periodically updated, and this makes the scheme replicable and scalable. In fact, Kanyashree was represented as one of the “best practices” in “Girl Summit 2014” organised by the Department for International Development, UK and UNICEF in London. The Scheme has also been appreciated by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, and is being documented as one of the good practices towards designing the “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ scheme.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
Social innovation means developing new ideas, services and models to better address social issues. Kanyashree Prakalpa’s early experiences show that government departments can, and must: a) Evoke the aspirations and capture the imagination of the primary stakeholders when addressing social issues. Kanyashree’s communication strategy that works to promote the self-worth and self-esteem of girls has generated great goodwill and enthusiasm in adolescent girls in the state, and has facilitated a two-way conversation between the scheme’s implementing mechanisms and its recipients. The scheme’s early course corrections in increasing accessibility and developing schools and other educational institutions as a single-window service delivery mechanism has come about in part because of this two-way communication and the implementers willingness to learn from its primary stakeholders. b) Information technology and convergent platforms are structural mechanisms: they can only deliver if they backed by equal enthusiasm and creativity on the part of the human beings implementing them. This requires attitudes of openness on the part of government functionaries, a willingness to learn from field experiences, to proactively address challenges, and to communicate horizontally and vertically. It also requires outstanding leadership which can motivate the team from state level to the grassroots.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Department Of Women Development and Social Welfare, Government of West Bengal
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Roshni Sen
Title:   Secretary , Department Of Women Development and So  
Telephone/ Fax:   (091 33) 2334-1563 / +919051887333 / (+9133) 2334-
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   secdsw@gmail.com  
Address:   10th Floor, Bikash Bhavan, Salt Lake
Postal Code:   700091
City:   Kolkata
State/Province:   West Bengal

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