Declining Child Sex Ratio
Support to Community mobilization and people driven response to prevent sex selection and arrest child sex ratio decline.
Decline in child sex ratio has been one of the priority issues of WPC, right from its inception. The organization has addressed the issue of declining child sex ratio in numerous national, regional and state level forums in India, and has also engaged in discussions regarding stringent implementation of the Act. With idea of adopting holistic and integrated approach to arrest the decline in child sex ratio, WPC in collaboration with UNFPA implemented a project titled ‘Support to community mobilization and people driven response in preventing the sex selection and arresting child sex ratio decline’. The project was aimed at addressing diverse aspects of sex selection through partner NGOs in identified states where the decline in child sex ratio has been continuous. In the whole programme WPC acted as a nodal agency and under the able guidance of an advisory committee and, following a meticulous selection process, 32 NGOs were selected from 11 states for implementing the project. The partner agencies were given 24 months, (starting from May 2009 to April, 2011) for implementing the programme, so as to get a significant and measurable impact of the interventions that was undertaken at the field. The selection of the partners depended on various criteria but important ones included; the child sex ratio of the area for which the programme was proposed and experience of the organization in working on the issue or on issues concerning health /gender were selected for funding.
A conscious and strategic attempt was made to rope in all those who work on this issue. Since the whole phenomenon is supply and demand driven, both dimensions were influenced so that the issue is dealt with in its totality. It was crucial that the issue be tackled from all three sides: demand, supply and implementation. On the ‘demand side’, people were educated and influenced in a manner that discourages them from seeking sex-determination services, and on the ‘supply side’, interventions were designed to ensure that the medical community and service providers do not indulge in practices that promote sex-selection. The sensitization of those who make up the ‘implementation side’ that is, the appropriate authorities and state representatives was vital, so that they can discharge their duties in effective implementation of the PCPNDT Act. While it was necessary that adequate efforts be made at all three levels, it was also essential to build a strong political will by influencing the Government at the policy level. Hence, the project started with the three broad goals: Ensuring reduction in demand for pre-birth sex selection practices; Curbing supply of facilities which encourage sex selective abortions; Creating pressure groups within states for effective monitoring of implementation of the Act. In order to reach these specific goals the focus of the partner agencies and WPC has been community mobilization, forging alliances with the key players, CSOs and building rapport with Sate and District level authorities.
During the three years of the project WPC has advocated with state governments to allow representatives from the selected IPs to serve as either members or special invitees in the state/district level advisory committees. State level advocacy workshops have also been conducted in Bihar, Gujarat, Orissa, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Haryana, in order to enhance communication between NGOs, media and the concerned government officials. The state level meeting in Uttarakhand resulted in the reconstitution of the state supervisory board, with the implementing partner, RLEK as a member. During the state level meeting in Gujarat, senior government officials pledged their support to the issue and agreed to incorporate initiatives into pertinent programs. At the national level, WPC has been actively discussing the issue of female foeticide and the PCPNDT Act at any event organized in either New Delhi or in other states guaranteed to generate a large audience.
Through various interventions aimed at mobilizing community, partner organizations reached out to 5.5 lakh households from 1260 villages in 410 Gram Panchayats /69 blocks spread across 51 districts in 11 states. The interventions by the partners could best be assessed to provide indicative direction as to what were the potential ideas that have emerged from the project which could be further developed for deeper engagement with the issues of decline in sex ratio and strategies for prevention of sex selection. It was felt important to capture the essence of the processes which got unfolded in the execution of the project, these were concerning greater ownership and accountability of the community to prevent gender discrimination and ensure the rights of the girl child beginning with her right to life and how far has the project been able to prioritize gender responsive governance in the state and its duty bearers.
Read more about the UNFPA project.