Nurturing today’s dreams and tomorrow’s realities

By Anil Agarwal
In Issue 11
August 9, 2016
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The Nandghar initiative of  the Vedanta group aims to create a unique model for child development and women empowerment

I  believe deeply that women and children are more precious than any other natural resource  a country can have. Everyone deserves the best start in life and I can’t think of any social issue that is more important than a sincere work for women and child development. It is society’s passport to a better future.

In serving the best interests of children, we serve the best interests of all humanity. Very often, I ask myself…how we can make a better  world for future generations! I believe we can, if we are working for the welfare of women and children; not just under any project but while working with a missionary zeal.

India is an economic powerhouse in South Asia both in terms of its economy and annual rate of growth, but malnutrition has been one of the enduring enigmas of contemporary India. While poverty is not the only cause of malnutrition, it is an important cause, not just because poor people may lack adequate food but also because the poor parents often have less time and resources to care for their children.  So, we need to work on models which can address these issues at grassroots level i.e. in rural part of our country. Anganwadi scheme is one such approach that requires a fresh outlook.

India is home to over 13.7 lakh Anganwadi and the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) is one of the largest social initiatives by any government in the world. The role of Anganwadi is critical in combating malnutrition, promoting pre and post-natal care, immunization and early child hood education.

We, at Vedanta aim to strengthen these innovations by providing an integrated model “Nandghar” which provides access to quality early childhood care and education complemented with skills development. While joining hands with the Government of India for this mission, Vedanta has signed a MoU with the Ministry of Women and Child Development to construct 4,000 AWCs across India. The Model reimagines the existing Anganwadi Network present across the country and enhances the role of Anganwadi in the community.

The Nandghars are in line with Prime Minister’s vision of social development through initiatives such as Digital India, Swachh Bharat and Skilling India. A Nandghar will use state of art construction technology and has added benefits such as round the clock electricity through Solar panels, e-learning in a stimulating environment, clean drinking water through RO purifiers and primary healthcare through mobile medical units.

The Nandghars will run as children’s education and health centre in the morning and train women in vocational skills in the second half. This will be a revolutionary measure to eradicate malnutrition in children and create women entrepreneurs across the country. An estimated 400,000 children and women will benefit through this project each year.

Vedanta has proposed a state of the art infrastructure to supplement the services currently offered by Anganwadis. The value add of Nandghars will result in creation of learning environment and centers of employment. They will provide interactive learning, primary health care, nutritious food, skill development, clean water, toilet and electricity through solar panels.

The empowerment of women is a very effective tool for development. When women- the real architect of society, thrive, all of society benefits, and succeeding generations are given a better start in life. But, while women in rural India spend 30 per cent of their time working in fields, there is a huge gap in their average earning. Men earn Rs 9.8 per hour in the rural sector while women earn Rs 5.3, approximately. Moving women to more productive vocations will contribute to rural economy and empower women. Nandghars will support women towards entrepreneurship by providing training, access to credit and support services.

The Nandghar with its design aesthetics and functional utilities has the potential to be center point for the community around it. The operational approach of the Nandghar is to identify and converge government programs for sustenance of the infrastructure created as part of the investment.

The underlying approach to the sustenance of the infrastructure is to create a robust skills and entrepreneurship approach towards Nandghar. The model aims to create an economic incentive for the community to sustain and enhance the role it has in the neighboring community.

The proportion of underweight children in India is 29.4 per cent, and that of stunted children 38.7 per cent. (Rapid Survey, Ministry or Women and Child Development, 2013). 8.49 crore children avail the Supplementary nutrition through AWCs, which is 67.65 children per nganwadi. By adopting a cluster based approach to delivery of health and skills services, we aim to create a sustainable model for delivery of healthcare, skills training and sustenance of operations of Nandghar.

A central Health Clinic will cater to daily health issues of women and children and circulate a Mobile Medical unit equipped with a Doctor and a Paramedic in the Nandghar cluster, fortnightly. Each cluster will comprise of 25 Nandghars.

 Nandghars aim to improve preprimary  education by introducing interactive learning. Pre-loaded content on TV and smart kits provided to children help in building cognitive ability. The Anganwadi workers are provided training and are equipped with 52 weeks of engaging content.

Our aim is to co-create across India with GoI, a movement that will help rejuvenate the quality of life of millions of children and empower women to be independent, armed with appropriate skills to shape their own destinies.

The writer is the Chairman of the Vedanta Group

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