Global pat for Bengal's girl child scheme

Kanyashree Prakalpa, a West Bengal government scheme that provides scholarship to girls from economically-backward backgrounds, has been given international recognition by the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) and UNICEF. State representatives have been invited to the Girl Summit 2014 in London, in June, and talk about the scheme to a global audience.

The conditional cash transfer scheme to school girls was inaugurated by the Trinamool Congress government on October 1, 2013, with the express purpose of ensuring the education of girls and thereby preventing forced child marriage.

Under the scheme, the government provides an annual scholarship of Rs. 500 to girls between 12 and 18 years (class eight to class 12) to continue with their studies, provided they are unmarried. A one-time grant of Rs.25,000 is also provided to the girl, once she reaches the age of 18, to pursue higher studies.

"Bengal?s unique Kanyashree Project has received international acclaim. It is indeed a matter of great pride and recognition for our innovative scheme," Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Facebook.

Commenting on the development, Asadur Rahaman, Chief of Field Office UNICEF, West Bengal, said it was the UNICEF office in Kolkata that had proposed the scheme ahead of the summit as a "good practice".

"Roshni Sen, Secretary, Women and Child Development, is expected to represent the State at the Summit and talk about the scheme," Mr. Rahaman told The Hindu.

There were visible changes at the ground level with regard to enrolment of girl students and child marriage, Mr. Rahman said, citing a State survey. UNICEF has provided technical assistance to the scheme and is aiding the State in its evaluation and monitoring processes.

UNICEF representatives also pointed out that apart from increasing enrolment in school and preventing child marriage, the scheme would address the issue of trafficking of young girls.

State Minister for Women and Child Development Sashi Panja said the scheme would get huge recognition in being discussed on such a platform.

In an attempt to mark the scheme and increase awareness, the State had announced August 14 as Kanyashree Divas.
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