ITU News recently caught up with Kanyashree Prakalpa to learn more about what the government-backed digital cash transfer programme is all about. Read the Q&A below:
“Kanyashree Prakalpa” is a unique end-to-end, ICT-driven conditional cash transfer programme which aims to improve the lives of millions of adolescent girls from poor socio-economic backgrounds through educational, social, financial, and digital empowerment.
Through this programme, the Government of West Bengal encourages girls who are vulnerable to child marriage to continue in education and avoid getting married.
Kanyashree is an online platform for adolescent girls. The girls are encouraged to use Kanyashree Online Portal, Kanyashree Apps & various SMS Services in their eCorner. The scheme was initiated in Oct 2013, and through conditional cash transfers, it has enrolled almost 4.3 million girls aged 13 – 19 years. Each of these girls has a bank account in her name, and over 9.5 million cash transfers have been disbursed since the scheme’s inception. For many girls, the money is spent on finishing higher education, or on starting a business, or as a fixed deposit. What is important is that these cash transfers give the girls choice and influence.
‘Kanya’ means daughter & ‘shree’ means ‘prosperity’. Each girl has taken the Kanyashree pledge—to continue education for as long as possible and not marry until age 18. Being a “Kanyashree Girl” has become a matter of identity, pride, and entitlement.
We feel that these are the reasons that the “Kanyashree Online” has been nominated as one of the finalists!
With the enactment of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act in 2006 in India, 18 became the legal age of marriage for girls, and 21 for boys. Despite the law, West Bengal still had a high prevalence of child marriage in 2007-08, with almost every second girl a child bride. Although more pervasive in rural areas, child marriage affects far more girls than boys, even in non-slum areas.
Child marriage is perhaps the most prevalent form of sexual abuse of minor girls. It has a negative impact on the girls’ educational attainment, and on their health and the health of their children; it leaves them financially and socially disempowered, and vulnerable to child labour, trafficking, and other forms of exploitation.
“Kanyashree Prakalpa” is a unique ICT-driven conditional cash transfer programme which aims to improve the lives of millions of adolescent girls from poor socio-economic backgrounds through educational, social, financial, and digital empowerment.
After 2006, it quickly became evident that legal prohibition and social messaging are ineffective in addressing child marriage. Eradicating child marriage requires tangible drivers of social change—to transform victims made vulnerable by their age and gender into actors who have agency over their own lives.
Against this backdrop, the Department of Women and Child Development and Social Welfare in the Government of West Bengal conceived “Kanyashree Prakalpa”, which aims to empower adolescent girls to be the architects of their lives through digital and financial inclusion.
3. How are you bringing innovative approaches to these problems?
Kanyashree Prakalpa’s innovation lies in the following approaches in scheme design and implementation:
Exposure and access to technology to young girls boosts their confidence from a very early age. It increases their chance to continue education, and helps them pursue a bright career in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
Girls’ education is a strategic development priority, as it can help lift households, communities, and nations out of poverty. According to a recent report published by The World Bank, ending child marriage would increase women’s expected earnings, potentially generating more than $500 billion in benefits annually each year.
“Kanyashree” has received a good deal of national as well as international recognition so far. It is even the ‘first place winner’ in The United Nations Public Service Awards. This international recognition motivates the implementers to strengthen the movement further. The Kanyashree Girls are the real winners and the brand ambassadors of change in West Bengal, India!
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