Women and Child Development Ministry launches “Web- Wonder Women” Campaign

The Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India, has launched an online campaign, ‘ #www: Web- WonderWomen’. The Campaign aims to discover and celebrate the exceptional achievements of women, who have been driving positive agenda of social change via social media. Smt. Maneka Sanjay Gandhi, Union Minister for Women and Child Development; Mr. Colin Crowell, Global Head, Public Policy, Twitter; and Ms. Sohini Bhattacharya, President & CEO, Breakthrough, were present during the launch.

Through the campaign, the Ministry and the Campaign’s Partners aim to recognize the fortitude of Indian women stalwarts from across the globe who have used the power of social media to run positive & niche campaigns to steer a change in society. This Campaign will recognize and acknowledge the efforts of these meritorious Women.

At the launch, Smt. Maneka Sanjay Gandhi, Union Minister for Women and Child Development, said, “Indian women have always been enterprising and have created a positive impact on society with their hard work, experience, and knowledge. Women online, though niche, are a very powerful voice. #www: WebWonderWomen is a campaign to specially honor and encourage such voices that have in their own capacity driven a positive impact on social media platforms. The Ministry is glad to partner with Breakthrough and Twitter India on this.”

The Campaign invites Entries via Nominations from across the world, as per the laid out criteria. Nominations are now open till 31st January 2019. Indian-origin women, working or settled anywhere in the world, are eligible for nomination. The shortlisted entries will be open for public voting on Twitter and the finalists will be selected by a specialized panel of judges. Nominations have been invited to a large number of categories including Health, Media, Literature, Art, Sports, Environmental protection, fashion among others.

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Mahila Police Volunteers

The Ministry of Women and Child Development in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs has envisaged engagement of Mahila Police Volunteers (MPVs) in the States and Union Territories who will act as a link between police and community and help women in distress.

All Chief Secretaries of States/UTs have been requested to adopt this initiative in their respective States.

Haryana is the first state to adopt the initiative at Karnal and Mahindergarh District on a pilot basis under Nirbhaya Fund during the financial year 2016-2017. Further, the proposals of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh have also been approved for implementation of MPVs.

Originally conceived by the Union Ministry of Women & Child Development, Mahila Police Volunteer is a joint initiative with the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.

The Mahila Police Volunteers scheme envisages the creation of a link between the police authorities and the local communities in villages through police volunteers who will be women specially trained for this purpose.

Their primary job will be to keep an eye on situations where women in the village are harassed or their rights and entitlements are denied or their development is prevented.

In order to provide a link between police and community and facilitate women in distress, one Mahila Police Volunteer (MPV) is envisaged per Gram Panchayat across the country. MPV must be at least 21 years old and class 12th These will be selected through a laid out procedure from among the empowered, responsible, socially aware women who will facilitate police outreach on gender concerns.

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Dharmendra Pradhan launches Ujjwala sanitary napkin initiative

Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan launched the Ujjwala Sanitary Napkin initiative in Bhubaneswar, which will expand women’s access to hygiene products and provide them with employment opportunities in every district of the state.

The Central scheme will be a counter to the Odisha government’s Khushi scheme, in which sanitary napkins are provided free of cost to female students of government and government-aided schools in the state.

In the first phase of the Ujjwala Sanitary Napkin initiative, around 100 local manufacturing units will be set up by oil marketing companies at Common Service Centres (CSCs) across 93 blocks in all 30 districts of Odisha. CSCs are facilities set up to deliver the Central government’s e-services in rural and remote locations.

Key highlights of the scheme:

  • The mission, which forms part of the CSR initiative of OMCs in Odisha, is aimed to educate women on female hygiene and health, improve accessibility to low cost eco-friendly sanitary pads and boost rural employment and economy.
  • The three companies will set up 100 manufacturing units at the Common Service Centres (CSC) covering 93 Blocks across 30 districts of Odisha at an estimated cost of ₹2.94 crore.
  • At least 10 Ujjwala beneficiary women will get employment at each CSC. Each facility will have a capacity to produce 1,200-2,000 pads per day and will have a sterilisation room to ensure that the napkins are sterilised before they are packed for use by rural women.
  • The CSCs are also being provided with raw material, enough to make 45,000-50,000 pads. These napkins will be priced at ₹40 per pack, each containing eight pads.
  • The Ujjwala pads will be made of virgin wood pulp sheet, non-woven white sheet and a gel sheet which are all biodegradable in nature and will leave a minimal carbon footprint.
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Proposals of several states approved for implementation of Mahila Police Volunteer Scheme

The Ministry of Women and Child Development in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs has envisaged engagement of Mahila Police Volunteers (MPVs) in the States/UTs who will act as a link between police and community and help women in distress. All Chief Secretaries of States/UTs were requested to adopt this initiative in their respective States.  Haryana is the first state to adopt the initiative at Karnal and Mahindergarh District on a pilot basis under Nirbhaya Fund during the financial year 2016-2017. Further, the proposals of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh have also been approved for implementation of MPVs.

Under the scheme, the Mahila Police volunteer is required to mobilize the community to form Mahila and ShishuRakshak Dals (MASRD) to act as community watch groups. As the scheme is at the nascent stage of operationalisation at the field level, no impact assessment on MPVs scheme has been done so far.

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The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016

Surrogacy is an arrangement whereby an intending couple commissions a surrogate mother to carry their child.

The intending couple must be Indian citizens and married for at least five years with at least one of them being infertile.  The surrogate mother has to be a close relative who has been married and has had a child of her own.

No payment other than reasonable medical expenses can be made to the surrogate mother. The surrogate child will be deemed to be the biological child of the intending couple.

Central and state governments will appoint appropriate authorities to grant eligibility certificates to the intending couple and the surrogate mother.  These authorities will also regulate surrogacy clinics.

Undertaking surrogacy for a fee, advertising it or exploiting the surrogate mother will be punishable with imprisonment for 10 years and a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh.

Key Issues and Analysis

  • The Bill permits surrogacy only for couples who cannot conceive a child.  This procedure is not allowed in case of any other medical conditions which could prevent a woman from giving birth to a child.
  • The Bill specifies eligibility conditions that need to be fulfilled by the intending couple in order to commission surrogacy.  Further, it allows additional conditions to be prescribed by regulations.  This may be an excessive delegation of legislative powers.
  • The surrogate mother and the intending couple need eligibility certificates from the appropriate authority.  The Bill does not specify a time limit within which such certificates will be granted.   It also does not specify an appeal process in case the application is rejected.
  • The surrogate mother must be a ‘close relative’ of the intending couple.  The Bill does not define the term ‘close relative’.  Further, the surrogate mother (a close relative) may donate her own egg for the pregnancy.  This may lead to negative health consequences for the surrogate baby.
  • For an abortion, in addition to complying with the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, the approval of the appropriate authority and the consent of the surrogate mother is required.  The Bill does not specify a time limit for granting such approval.  Further, the intending couple has no say in the consent to abort.
  • Definition of ‘infertility’ restricted to failure to conceive
  • Under the Bill, ‘infertility’ is a condition that has to be proven by an intending couple, in order to be eligible to commission a surrogacy procedure.  The Bill defines infertility as the inability to conceive after five years of unprotected coitus or other medical condition preventing a couple from conception.  This definition does not cover all cases in which a couple is unable to bear a child.
  • For example, there may be medical conditions where the woman may conceive but is unable to carry a child through the period of the pregnancy, i.e., the period of nine months following the conception.  This includes cases where an intending mother may be able to conceive a child but may have multiple miscarriages that result in her inability to bear a child.  There are also other medical conditions like multiple fibroids in the uterus, hypertension, and diabetes that affect successful pregnancies.[6]  Such persons will not be covered under the definition of ‘infertility’ proposed in the Bill and therefore will not be eligible to undertake altruistic surrogacy.
  • In other countries like Netherlands, South Africa and Greece, to be eligible for altruistic surrogacy, the medical conditions that permit altruistic surrogacy are broader (for a detailed comparison, see Table 1, page 6).  These include, in addition to the inability to conceive, other medical conditions that affect the intending mother’s ability to give birth.
  •  ‘Close relative’ not defined
  • The Bill specifies various conditions that need to be fulfilled by a surrogate mother in order to be eligible for a surrogacy procedure.  Upon fulfilling these conditions, the surrogate mother may obtain an eligibility certificate from the appropriate authority.  One of the conditions to be proved is that the surrogate mother is a ‘close relative’ of the intending couple who commission the surrogacy.  However, the Bill does not specify who will be a ‘close relative’.
  • Some other laws define terms such as ‘relative’ or ‘near relative’.  For example, the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act, 1994 specifies that a living donor has to be a ‘near relative’.  It defines a ‘near relative’ to include spouse, son, daughter, father, mother, brother or sister.  The Companies Act, 2013 defines a ‘relative’ as (i) members of a Hindu Undivided Family; (ii) husband and wife; or (iii) other relations prescribed under the Act.
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Centre drafts child protection policy

A code of conduct for employees of all organisations and a declaration signed by them agreeing to ensure the safety of children are some of the provisions included in the Centre’s draft national child protection policy, prepared on the prodding of the Supreme Court in the wake of the Muzaffarpur shelter abuse case.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development has placed the draft policy on its website and invited comments from stakeholders until January 4. This will be the first policy dedicated to the protection of children, an area that until now was only a part of the broader National Child Policy, 2013.

Key provisions and highlights of the draft policy:

Application of the policy: The policy will apply to all Institutions and organisations including corporate and media houses the government or private sector.

As per the policy, all organisations must have a code of conduct based on zero tolerance of child abuse and exploitation.

The policy requires organisations to lay down that employees don’t use language or behaviour that is inappropriate, harassing, abusive, sexually provocative, demeaning or culturally inappropriate.

Institutions should also designate a staff member to ensure that procedures are in place to ensure the protection of children as well as to report any abuse.

Any individual who suspects physical, sexual or emotional abuse must report it to the helpline number 1098 or police or a child welfare committee.

Unlike the national child policy 2013, the latest draft doesn’t talk about children who may need additional Special Protection measures.

Left out: It also doesn’t include provisions for protecting those affected by migration, communal or sectarian violence or children forced into begging or who are in conflict with the law and those infected with HIV/AIDS.

The draft talks about organisations laying a code of conduct, but it doesn’t explain what is acceptable behaviour such as the conduct of teachers in schools.

The Policy should address four aspects- creating awareness, prevention, reporting and responding. The draft needs to go into all these aspects, especially reporting structure involving various nodal bodies and monitoring mechanism for implementation of the guidelines.

The policymakers should take the opportunity to go beyond the role of Institutions and look at the role of individuals.

The norms should be designed in such a way that organisations can customise the policies according to the nature of their work.

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Special Report: J&J knew for decades that asbestos lurked in its Baby Powder

An executive at Johnson & Johnson said the main ingredient in its best-selling baby powder could potentially be contaminated by asbestos, the dangerous mineral that can cause cancer. He recommended to senior staff in 1971 that the company “upgrade” its quality control of talc.

Talc is a mineral in clay mined from underground deposits. It’s the softest mineral known to man and that makes it useful in a wide range of consumer and industrial products.

Asbestos is also found underground, and veins of it can often be found in talc deposits, leading to a risk of cross-contamination, geologists say.

Asbestos is a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals, which all have in common their eponymous asbestiform habit: i.e., long (roughly 1:20 aspect ratio), thin fibrous crystals, with each visible fibre composed of millions of microscopic “fibrils” that can be released by abrasion and other processes.

They are commonly known by their colours, as blue asbestos, brown asbestos, white asbestos, and green asbestos.

Uses and applications:

Manufacturers and builders use asbestos for its desirable physical properties. Some of those properties are sound absorption, average tensile strength, affordability, and resistance to fire, heat, and electricity. It was used in such applications as electrical insulation for hotplate wiring and in building insulation.

When asbestos is used for its resistance to fire or heat, the fibres are often mixed with cement or woven into fabric or mats. These desirable properties led to asbestos being used very widely.

Inhalation of asbestos fibres can cause serious and fatal illnesses including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis (a type of pneumoconiosis).

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Every third child is malnourished, finds Global Nutrition Report 2018

We may be in the United Nations Decade of Nutrition but every country is affected by malnutrition, highlights the Global Nutrition Report 2018 released Thursday. About a third of the world’s children suffer some form of malnutrition.

According to the report, we have never been better equipped to fight malnutrition, yet the current burden is “unacceptably high”. Of 141 countries, 41 (28 per cent) are affected by all three forms of malnutrition—stunting among children, anaemia and obesity among women. A whopping 124 countries (88 per cent) suffers from at least two forms.

The Global Nutrition Report was conceived following the first Nutrition for Growth Initiative Summit (N4G) in 2013 as a mechanism for tracking the commitments made by 100 stakeholders spanning governments, aid donors, civil society, the UN and businesses.

Highlights of the report:

Global burden of malnutrition “remains unacceptably high and progress unacceptably slow”. Under-nutrition accounts for around 45% of deaths among children under five in low- and middle-income countries.

Overweight and obesity has led to around 4 million deaths and 120 million healthy years of life lost across the globe, with around 38.9% adults found to be overweight.

Among children under five years of age, 150.8 million are stunted, 50.5 million are wasted and 38.3 million are overweight; while 20 million babies are born underweight each year, it says.

The impact of malnutrition on global economy is close to US$3.5 trillion per year, with obesity alone costing US$500 billion per year.

A major section of the study looks at the quality, nutrient content and type of food consumed across the globe. The results suggest a disparity between developed and emerging markets, says the report.

The report says that regardless of wealth, school-age children, adolescents and adults are consuming too many refined grains, sugary foods and drinks, and not enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

India holds almost a third (31%) of the global burden for stunting, the prevalence of which differs from state to state. As per the UNICEF, stunting, or low height for age, is caused by long-term insufficient nutrient intake and frequent infections.

Stunting varies greatly from district to district (12.4% to 65.1%), with 239 of 604 districts accounting for stunting levels above 40%. The differences between districts were a result of multiple factors, including gender, education, economic status, health, hygiene, and other demographic factors.

India is the country with the largest number of children who are stunted at 46.6 million, followed by Nigeria (13.9 million) and Pakistan (10.7 million). The urban prevalence of stunting on average 19.2% compared with 26.8% in rural areas.

While wasting, or low weight for height, affects a greater proportion of rural children than urban. India again tops the list with the most number of wasted children at 25.5 million, followed by Nigeria (3.4 million) and Indonesia (3.3 million).

India is also among the countries with more than a million children who are overweight. As part of the report, a case study in Rajasthan found that key areas of infant and young child feeding and micronutrient supplementation were underfunded.

Way ahead- need of the hour- suggestions by the report:

·         Break down silos between malnutrition in all its forms.

·         Prioritise and invest in the data needed and capacity to use it.

·         Scale up financing for nutrition – diversify and innovate to build on past progress.

·         Galvanise action on healthy diets – engage across countries to address this universal problem.

·         Make and deliver better commitments to end malnutrition in all its forms – an ambitious, transformative approach will be required to meet global nutrition targets.

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International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 25 November

Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, stigma, and shame surrounding it.

To raise awareness about violence against women and girls, end violence against women. It also seeks to show that prevention is possible against the violence of women.

Theme and its significance: “Orange the World: #HearMeToo”. It aims to reinforce UNiTE Campaign’s commitment to creating a world free from violence for all women and girls and reaching out to most marginalized people including migrants, refugees, indigenous peoples, minorities and populations affected by natural disasters and conflicts.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was instituted by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in December 1999.

This day is commemorated in memory of Mirabal sisters who were three political activists from the Dominican Republic. They were brutally assassinated during the Rafael Trujillo dictatorship (1930-1961) in 1960.

Why we must eliminate violence against women?

Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today, remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, stigma, and shame surrounding it.

In general terms, it manifests itself in physical, sexual and psychological forms, encompassing:

  • Intimate partner violence (battering, psychological abuse, marital rape, femicide).
  • Sexual violence and harassment (rape, forced sexual acts, unwanted sexual advances, child sexual abuse, forced marriage, street harassment, stalking, cyber- harassment).
  • Human trafficking (slavery, sexual exploitation).
  • Female genital mutilation.
  • Child marriage.

The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women issued by the UN General Assembly in 1993, defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

Alarming Figures:

1 in 3 women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most frequently by an intimate partner.

Only 52% of women married or in a union freely make their own decisions about sexual relations, contraceptive use, and health care.

Worldwide, almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday; while 200 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM).

1 in 2 women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family in 2012; while only 1 out of 20 men were killed under similar circumstances.

71% of all human trafficking victims worldwide are women and girls, and 3 out of 4 of these women and girls are sexually exploited.

Violence against women is as serious a cause of death and incapacity among women of reproductive age as cancer, and a greater cause of ill health than traffic accidents and malaria combined.

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Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana: Modi govt transfers over Rs 1,600 crore to 48.5 lakh mothers under PMMVY

The government has transferred over Rs 1,600 crore to eligible mothers under Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana through direct benefit transfer, Centre for Digital Financial Inclusion (CDFI) that uses technology for financial inclusion said. “Rs 16,04,66,63,000 transferred through direct benefit transfer to 48.5 lakh women,”

CDFI is a non-profit organization. It had conceptualized, designed and implemented the PMMVY-CAS (Common Application Software) System through which disbursements were made.

Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) is a maternity benefit rechristened from erstwhile Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY). The IGMSY was launched in 2010.

The scheme is a conditional cash transfer scheme for pregnant and lactating women of 19 years of age or above for first live birth.

It provides partial wage compensation to women for wage-loss during childbirth and childcare and to provide conditions for a safe delivery and good nutrition and feeding practices.

The maternity benefits under Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) are available to all Pregnant Women & Lactating Mothers (PW&LM) except those in regular employment with the Central Government or State Government or Public Sector Undertaking or those who are in receipt of similar benefits under any law for the time being in force.

The scheme is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme under which cost-sharing ratio between the Centre and the States & UTs with Legislature is 60:40 while for the North-Eastern States & three Himalayan States; it is 90:10. It is 100% Central assistance for Union Territories without Legislature.

Under-nutrition continues to adversely affect the majority of women in India. In India, every third woman is undernourished and every second woman is anaemic. An undernourished mother almost inevitably gives birth to a low birth weight baby. When poor nutrition starts in-utero, it extends throughout the life cycle since the changes are largely irreversible.

Owing to economic and social distress many women continue to work to earn a living for their family right up to the last days of their pregnancy. Furthermore, they resume working soon after childbirth, even though their bodies might not permit it, thus preventing their bodies from fully recovering on one hand, and also impeding their ability to exclusively breastfeed their young infant in the first six months.

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