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Decrease dependency on governments to achieve MDGs

Sep 18, 2010

Citizen’s efforts can help in the realisation of Millennium Development Goals. But every stakeholder must focus on active implementation and awareness generation, feels Dola Mohapatra, National Director, ChildFund India. Achieving the MDGs is possible, he feels, if all of us sincerely commit to the cause.

OneWorld South Asia: What have been some of the accomplishments of the UN Millennium Campaign in the last ten years? Dola Mohapatra_photo - NEW.jpg

Dola Mohapatra:  I would say, globally, we have made some big inroads. Before the Campaign started, all activities were dispersed. The campaign gave us a bigger platform globally. The biggest achievement, I would say, is that the campaign has galvanized resources and people on key issues, i.e. the MDGs.
Though, there are debates about it, even on environment, there have been significant accomplishments in certain areas. We have come quite a distance.

OWSA: There are ample laws and schemes that have been formulated by the government for maternal and child welfare, but most people are not able to benefit from them. What do you think is the problem and how do we address it?

DM: I feel it is a citizen question; not a government question. Let’s say, if you take NRHM (National Rural Health Mission) or NREGA (MGNREGA) or Right to Education, those were very laudable, praise worthy laws by the government. So, why don’t they achieve impact?

First of all, India is a huge country with huge challenges, difficult terrains, different pockets, so we can’t just take one blanket approach. In some states, these programs have been very successful, and others not so much. It all depends on the approach and who is implementing these projects.

Second, people themselves, those who are the likely intended beneficiaries of these programmes, lack awareness. NREGA is a clear example. It guarantees hundred work days, but in some states, people only get an average of ten days. A lack of awareness affects the success rate of the programme.

When NREGA was started, we conducted intense awareness sessions among our target groups, who by and large are deprived, excluded and vulnerable citizenry. We also conducted familiarization sessions with the district government, with district authorities and BPL families.

OWSA: Could you elaborate on some of ChildFund India’s locally led initiatives?

DM: As an organisation, we focus on a child’s complete living environment and not just a few aspects of it. We look at their livelihood conditions, their general health, housing conditions of the family, etc. We work the most on six of the MDGs indicators, including the first one where we work with about one hundred thousand families. We give them livelihood support in terms of agricultural improvements, technology improvements.

We train four thousand youth every year on employable skills and that has increased livelihood base in many families. On universalisng primary education, in the three thousand villages that we work, we can take credit for 100% enrollment and gender parity, both girls enrollment ratio and boys’ enrollment ratio. In 80% of cases, they complete up to 8th to 10th grade.

We work very closely with the government systems. We have adopted about thousand schools where we work to improve the quality of the school programmes. We don’t just give school books, uniforms, benches and desks, but we create a positive environment. So first we begin with an assessment of the learning quality, the teaching materials, the participation of parents, participation of children etc. And this assessment is not done by us alone; it is done by children, parents, teachers and the school authorities as well. Based on the assessment, we develop a three year plan, for school quality improvement and out of thousand; I would say some six hundred have met our quality standards. I can give you an example of Bihar, the district of Jamuie,  in one of the Naxal affected areas, when we started this school quality assessment work, the enrollment in that school was ten children. Now, after seven years, there are 350 children in the school.

Ten years, ago 50% of our children were underweight, malnourished. Today this figure has fallen to almost 43-44 per cent. ChildFund’s efforts in this area have yielded significant results. We took what we call the positive deviance approach, where we bring members from the same community and demonstrate cases where healthy practices by mothers have a positive effect on the child’s quality of life.

OWSA: ChildFund India envisions an India where every disadvantaged and marginalised child is supported and enabled to grow up playing an active positive role within the family, community and nation. How can we make this a vision for the entire nation?

DM:  I feel it is a social equity issue; it is a target as per the Millennium Campaign. We want an India where, every single family, every single child is involved in their own development and that of the country.
I feel and I say this from my experience, there is a growing disconnect between the rural and urban areas. We need to make the urban youth more involved in the problems the country faces and include the marginalised into the country’s mainstream as well. It’s not just the government, not an NGO, nor the UN’s role. It is actually a social responsibility for everyone. When I go to universities these days, it is heartening to see a majority of youth are thinking on the same lines and want to contribute.

OWSA: With five years left to the MDGs, what should be the strategy to achieve them? What is the focus of UN Millennium Campaign this year; could you tell us something about that?

DM: The only way to achieve MDGs is to make it a top priority for everyone. The Stand Up campaign has been quite successful in increasing awareness in this regard. But this needs to be a continuous process, and people need to become more proactive. The high level reviewers, the state governments, the heads of states and the UN, should look at the big picture view, are we on track? Are we off track? Are we getting the right resources? It is also an issue of actually deploying all possible resources.

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