The West Bengal government in collaboration with UNICEF will form child-friendly sanghas’ (clusters), comprising members of self-help groups, to curb child marriage and teenage pregnancy in the state, which is the highest in the country.
To stop these twin menaces, the state government and UNICEF have planned, as a pilot project, to form 110 child-friendly sanghas’ in the next six months in 87 blocks in all 23 districts of the state.
West Bengal is at the top in cases of child marriage and teenage pregnancy, according to a National Family Health Survey report.
As per the data available, after the National Family Health Survey-5 was conducted in 2019-20, a total 41.6 per cent of women aged between 20 and 24 years were married off while they were teenagers, and 16.4 per cent of girls in their teens became mothers, the report said.
In the first phase of the programme, the members of the sanghas’ would pledge not to get their children married off under age, Goel said.
The project will also look into improving the health of children and mothers as 70.8 per cent of adolescent girls are anaemic in the state.
UNICEF will provide technical support through training and development of tools and SRLM will mobilise the members.