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

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Child marriage – a global concern: Each day, child marriage—marriage below the age of 18—affects more than 41,000 girls globally. Almost half the world’s child brides live in South Asia. While India ranks as 12th in international rankings, in absolute terms the country has the highest number of child brides in the world. (UNICEF, 2014). Child marriage is recognized as a major developmental challenge, and achieving a number of proposed SDGs on poverty, nutrition, economic growth and reduction of inequality, especially gender equality, depends on the global community’s successful eradication of the practice. West Bengal, India In West Bengal, one of the most populous states in India, child marriage continues to be a norm even a decade after India enacted the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. The state has an adolescent female population of 6.1 million (Census 2011), and according to District Level Health Survey -3, 2007-08 (DLHS-3), 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 surveys show that there is a downward trend in prevalence over the last few decades, the decline is very slow and has a grossly negative impact on development. After the enactment of the PCMA 2006, the Department of Women Development and Social Welfare and Child Development (DWCD), Government of West Bengal saturated the state with 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, discriminatory attitudes towards the girl child, socio-cultural norms and poverty combine to perpetuate child marriages in West Bengal. The state’s geo-political location makes it vulnerable to trafficking, and traffickers use the guise of marriage to trick economically disadvantaged parents to part with their under-age children. 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?
1. Kanyashree Prakalpa (Kanya = daughter, Shree = prosperity, Prakalpa = Scheme) is a conditional cash transfer scheme that sees to empower adolescent girls from socio-economically disadvantaged families of West Bengal through prevention of child marriage, increased educational attainment, and financial inclusion through direct transfer of benefits to bank accounts in the girls’ names. 2. 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 which not only builds awareness of the scheme, but includes adolescent-friendly approaches like events, competitions and Kanyashree clubs, and the endorsement by strong women figures as role models to promote social and psychological empowerment. 3. The scheme’s goal, its convergent implementation mechanisms and its end-to-end e-governance mechanism Kanyashree Online (http://wbkanyashree.gov.in) align with 9 SDGs.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
Programmatic Strategy Kanyashree Prakalpa has two conditional cash transfer benefits that are designed to discourage child marriage and incentivize education: • The first is an annual scholarship of Rs. 750/- to girls between the ages of 13 and 18 for every year that they remain in education, provided they are unmarried at the time. (The amount was raised from Rs. 500/- per annum to Rs. 750/- per annum in the year 2015-16). • The second benefit is a one-time grant of Rs. 25,000/- to be paid to girls between the ages of 18 and 19, provided that they are enrolled in an educational institution and are unmarried. The term ‘education’ encompasses secondary, higher secondary and higher education, as well as the various vocational, technical and sports courses available for this age group. Girls must be enrolled and regularly attending educational institutions that are recognized by the government located in West Bengal. To ensure an equity focus, the scheme is open only to girls from families below a certain income ceiling. For girls with special needs, orphans and for girls currently residing in registered child care institutions, the income ceiling is waived. The scheme’s benefits are paid directly to bank accounts in the girls’ names, thereby laying the foundation of their financial inclusion, and low rates of leakage. While the Conditional Cash Transfers reduce the vulnerability of its beneficiaries to child marriage and its attendant risks, and allow them to complete the developmental tasks of adolescence, including receiving a complete education, these do not necessarily translate into an economically secure and socially empowered future for them. A key objective of the scheme’s communication strategy therefore to ensure that primary stakeholders. i.e. girls receiving the scheme’s benefits, do not perceive the benefits as hand-outs (welfare), but as enablers to a more socially and economically empowered future through use of the knowledge and skills they gain through a complete education. Kanyashree’s programmatic strategy therefore directly strikes at the inter-linked issues of child marriage and female school dropouts. By incentivizing education and simultaneously discouraging marriage before age 18 for girls from families that are socio-economically vulnerable, the scheme gives parents a push towards investing in their daughters’ education, and gives girls the ability to negotiate with their parents for greater freedom in deciding their futures, and allows them the opportunity of breaking free from cycles of disempowerment brought about by child marriage and low levels of education. Governance Strategy The backbone of Kanyashree’s implementation strategy is e-governance through Kanyashree Online, a mechanism that has facilitated the scheme’s efficiency and effectiveness. The entire process, from enrollment to direct bank transfer is online. Real time reporting with data disaggregated by age, location, minority groups, disability and educational attainment are available, as are service delivery performance indicators. Services are available through the portal’s web interface and its m-web version, a mobile app and SMS services. Kanyashree Online is integrated with Core Banking System of 90 major Banks to ensure verification of bank accounts. It also has a strong duplicate application checking mechanism as well as a robust “Face Detection” system to ensure “Zero Leakage”. The bi-lingual portal is also a tool to promote digital literacy amongst the Kanyashree girls. Target Audience: As per Census 2011 data, West Bengal had an adolescent (10-19 years) population of 17.3 million, out of which 48.11 %, i.e., 8.3 million are girls. There are 6.1 million girls in the age group of 13-19 years which is the target group under Kanyashree Prakalpa. As of March 2017, Kanyashree, a three and a half year old scheme, has enrolled almost 4 million girls from most vulnerable sections of the society studying in over 16,000 educational institutes in West Bengal.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
First, the scheme’s 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 educational institutions, has very basic eligibility criteria and asks for minimum of documentation, and banks provide no-frills banking facilitates, with the scheme’s benefits transferred directly to bank accounts in the girls’ names. 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 all round development. Throughout the state, Kanyashree girls participate in year-round activities to broaden their vision and skills. Complementary initiatives are emerging in every district. Kanyashree sanghas– girls groups with a distinct Kanyashree identity are being set up in schools where Kanyashree girls learn life-skills, receive vocational training, training in martial arts and other activities that promote self-esteem and confidence in themselves. Kanyashree has now become a brand, a platform for adolescent girls of the state, and its enormous database facilitated by e-governance ensures tracking of individual girls and their linkages to other adolescent girls’ progammes in the state.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The Scheme has been designed and is implemented by the DWCD in convergence with 13 other government departments. At state level, the State Level Project Management Unit (under the DWCD) is the main administrative unit, with corresponding units established in each of the state’s 20 districts. The scheme’s beneficiaries access the scheme through a single-window service delivery mechanism: application forms are available with the approximately 16,000 schools, colleges and other educational institutions 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. From this point onward, service delivery is completely online through Kanyashree Online (wbkanyashree.gov.in), the scheme’s e-governance mechanism maintained by the National Informatics Centre, West Bengal. E-Governance ensures that the scheme delivers implementation and monitoring management of a high order; and efficient and effective service delivery. An important point to note is that girls receive their financial benefits through bank transfer after thorough matching of accounts with banking servers, and after a thorough field verification. 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 from all departments 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 implementation structure of the scheme has enabled it to reach almost 4 million girls studying in over 16,000 educational institutions of all forms in the state. Moreover, through the Scheme’s communication strategy, families and communities vulnerable to child marriage are regularly exposed to child marriage prevention messaging through local media. In fact, Kanyashree is now a brand in its own right, and has become an emblem of girl’s empowerment throughout West Bengal.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
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, DWCD at the state, district and grassroots levels. b) Convergent implementation platforms, including the state and district management units and monitoring mechanisms were formalized and recruitments undertaken. c) Through discussions with the State Level Banking Committee, procedures and protocols were established to provide 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. e) Significant stakeholders were oriented and trained through a Training-Of-Trainers approach, and Implementation Guidelines disseminated. f) A communication strategy was developed by UNICEF, a media partner selected as per government guidelines, and the communication strategy launched. 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. The Scheme was formally launched on 1 October, 2013. The Scheme’s implementation is driven by a process of continual improvement in the years following its launch, the following are the major steps taken to strengthen its implementation and impact: a) Several policy amendments were made, the most significant being the raising of the annual scholarship from Rs. 500/- to Rs. 750/- based on feedback from beneficiaries, and were disseminated in a second version of the Implementation Guidelines. Service delivery is held to standards set in the West Bengal Right to Public Service Delivery Act, 2013. b) In 2014, a baseline study was conducted by Nielsen India Private Limited. Continual monitoring is effected through online reporting, field verification, spot checks and structured and unstructured reporting formats. The government strongly supports independent third-party evaluations. While a multi-phased state-wide rapid assessment by Kadence International and an impact evaluation by Calcutta University are underway, Pratichi Institute have recently submitted a process evaluation which is submitted with this nomination. c) The Scheme’s e-governance mechanism Kanyashree Online (wbkanyashree.gov.in) has matured into a full-fledged transformational model of governance, with a significant focus on digital participation for adolescent girls. d) A robust application tracking and grievance redressal mechanism has been constituted, and beneficiaries communicate with implementers through multiple channels – face to face in schools, at block and district offices, through push-and-pull sms messaging, through Kanyashree Online as well as through a mobile application. e) Continual interaction is encouraged between all levels of implementation – state, district, block and grassroots and refresher trainings at regular intervals ensure that all stakeholders are up-to-date and are supported in implementation. The benefits paid out under the scheme are funded by the Government of West Bengal, as are the administrative costs. Kanyashree’s budget under the DWCD has been Rs. 31.33 billion with 95.68% of the fund going directly to beneficiaries, and only 4.31% spent on administrative costs. Also, the funds of other departments and schemes relevant to adolescent girls are used for allied activities. The state government and political parties across the board look on the scheme’s expenditure as an investment in its adolescent girls, an investment which will pay dividends in the future in terms of increased income and tax –paying citizens.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The key person is the Secretary of the DWCD, 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. While the DWCD 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, facilitating programme implementation and providing linkages to Kanyashree girls in the various schemes available to socio-economically disadvantaged adolescent girls and their families. 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. At the grassroots level, several NGOs have facilitated the establishment of Kanyashree Clubs and other behaviour change elements of the communication strategy. Of course, the mainstay of the scheme are the educational institutions and their staff, who serve as the single-window service delivery point of the programme. Not only do they serve as the single-window service delivery point of the programme, teachers and other staff are actively involved as advocates for the empowerment of girls and against child marriage.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Because of the Scheme’s goal of empowerment of girls through eradication of child marriage and promotion of education for girls, it directly contributes to SDG goals 1, 3, 4, 5, 8 and 10. E-Governance, convergence and partnerships in implementation contribute to SDG goals 9, 16 and 17. Through its conditional cash transfers, Kanyashree has enrolled almost 4 million girls aged 13 – 19 years since October 2013, thereby ensuring that this cohort stays in education and unmarried till at least age 18. Of these girls, approximately 1 million have achieved this goal. Each of these girls has a bank account in her name, and over 7 million cash transfers (both the annual scholarship and the one-time grant) have been disbursed since the scheme’s inception. The scheme’s communication strategy has ensured that each of these girls, their school-mates, both male and female, their parents, families and community are aware of the scheme’s purpose, and the core message of gender equality through education, choice, and economic empowerment. The state’s position on child marriage is unequivocal and clear, and Kanyashree has given various concerned stakeholders the wherewithal to take an overt stand against child marriage. This includes state officials mandated with preventing and reporting child marriages, teachers and community members, forward-thinking religious leaders, community based groups and NGOs. Most importantly, it has allowed adolescent girls to speak of their own choices and wishes to their parents. Girls under the Kanyashree umbrella are preferentially linked to government departments’ education, health, skills development facilities and schemes to ensure their advancement. One of the major linkages are with SABLA, where out-of-school SABLA girls are mainstreamed into education and provided Kanyashree benefits, and already-enrolled Kanyashree girls are linked to SABLA and receive its life-skills trainings and nutritional components. While Kanyashree’s e-governance mechanism has been central to the successful implementation of the scheme, and has emerged as a valuable database of vulnerable adolescent girls in the state, continual capacity-building, feedback from the bottom-up and a willingness to learn from the field has been one of the scheme’s most valuable processes. A number of gaps pointed out in the process evaluation conducted by Pratichi were already a part of internal monitoring exercises, and had been addressed before the report was published in February 2017. (Pratichi’s field study commenced in February 2016).

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The main challenge in implementing Kanyashree has been to ensure that each of the scheme’s approximately 4 million beneficiaries, their families and communities, stakeholders in 16,000 and more educational institutions, and local, district and state-level administration remain focused on the key purpose of the scheme: prevention of child marriage; and that all steps taken, when dealing with associated issues, have positive messaging. Although focusing on the poorest of the poor, being associated with Kanyashree has become a matter of prestige; and this has been ensured by a) Political support of the highest order b) Continual and consistent public and media attention on the empowerment of girls c) Ensuring that all administrative personnel are provided regular high-quality capacity building to ensure consistency of implementation and public advocacy.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
The Scheme was initiated in October 2013, and since then, approximately 4 million girls between ages of 13 – 19 have enrolled in the Scheme. About 1 million girls aged 18 have received the one-time grant- i.e. they have reached age 18 without becoming child brides. Data from several sources indicates that the scheme is contributing towards improvement in education outcomes for girls. Government data reports that while the average annual drop-out rate in upper-primary schools has reduced from 5.93% in 2012-13 to 5.53% in 2014-15 for boys; for girls the figures drop from 3.47% in 2012-13 to 2.87% in 2014-15 (Unified District Information System Education). In the West Bengal Board of Secondary examination in 2016, the sex ratio of examinees was 54.57% for girls and 45.43% for boys. The number of girls appearing was 0.624 million, while boys was 0.519 million. An independent assessment conducted by Pratichi Institute, India shows that the enrolment of girls between the ages of 13 and 18 years has shown an overall growth of 11% points from 79.8% (Kanyashree Baseline, 2014) to 91.4% (Pratichi Assessment, 2016). Significantly, for the single year ages of 16, 17 and 18, the improvement in enrolment in rural areas is higher than in urban areas. Comparing the enrolment of girls in District Level Health Survey-4 (2012-13) and the Pratichi Assessment 2016, there is an upward trend of increased enrolment in single age groups 13 to 17 years, with the increase in percentage points ranging from 3.55 to 16.05 percentage points. Almost half of Kanyashree’s beneficiaries are from backgrounds that are highly vulnerable to child marriage: Scheduled Castes 22.39 %, Scheduled Tribes 4.33%, Other Backward Classes 13.59%. Recipients from the General Caste comprise 59.06%, and others 0.63%. Figures disaggregated by religion show that 63.83% of beneficiaries are Hindu, and 35.38 % beneficiaries are Muslim, these communities forming a large percent of the population that look on child marriage as a positive norm. 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, though 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 have been able to provide lifeline to 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.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
Given the significant outlay of the scheme (approximately Rs. 10 billion annually) , its status as a flagship scheme of the government, and its huge vulnerable beneficiary base, the DWCD was especially careful to ensure that transparency and accountability is built into the scheme’s implementation and monitoring mechanisms. As the scheme is largely implemented through existing government offices and educational institutions, administrative costs are relatively low for the scheme’s coverage; and 96.85% of the fund goes directly to beneficiaries. E-governance and decentralized implementation plays a large role in ensuring detecting fraud and corruption. Kanyashree application forms are received and uploaded at educational institutions, and then pass through field verifications and online scrutiny at block level. Subsequently, they are screened and verified through beneficiary banks’ central servers for genuineness of account holder details, and only thoroughly sanitized applications are then sanctioned for direct bank transfer, again through centralized banking services. Apart from enquiring with their schools about the status of their applications, girls can track their applications through sms, a mobile app and through Kanyashree Online. A multi-channel multi-layered grievance redressal mechanism also plays a large role in ensuring transparency and accountability. • Beneficiary updated at each step of the process: o Receives SMS alerts on registration / renewal, sanction and fund transfer o Each beneficiary receives a unique ID and can log into the portal to check the progress of their applications online. • Beneficiary Queries and grievances are handled at: o Mainly at Institutional level by head of institution / teachers, with escalation to higher levels if necessary. o Nodal officers names and contact details (phone and email) are available online o At state level queries are handled through dedicated email (support.kanyashree@nic.in) and Help Desk manned by the SPMU, NIC and other state officials o Every grievance is recorded on the Kanyashree Portal, with DPMU receiving SMS alerts for action, and beneficiary receiving SMS alerts on action taken.

 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)
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, leaves them financially and socially disempowered, and vulnerable to child labour, trafficking and other forms of exploitation. Child marriages and low education levels perpetuate generational cycles of ill-health, illiteracy and poverty, and contribute to the feminization of poverty. Kanyashree Prakalpa is a gender-centric scheme with its core purpose being the eradication of child marriage of girls and increasing their retention in school. The scheme’s eligibility criteria, identification, scrutiny and monitoring mechanisms ensure that those girls who are the most vulnerable to child marriage, i.e girls from socio-economically disadvantaged families are enrolled in the scheme.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Department Of Women and Child Development and Social Welfare, Government of West Bengal
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Roshni Sen
Title:   Secretary , Department Of Women and Child Developm  
Telephone/ Fax:   +913323341563/ +919051887333 / +913323341918
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   secdsw@gmail.com  
Address:   Bikash Bhavan, 10th Floor, Salt Lake
Postal Code:   700091
City:   Kolkata
State/Province:   WEST BENGAL

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