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Mukhyamatri Kanya Utthan Yojana: Bihar’s Step Towards Revolutionizing Women’s Education

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This post is a part of Kaksha Crisis, a campaign supported by Malala Fund to demand for dialogue around the provisions in the New Education Policy 2020. Click here to find out more.

Having recorded a double-digit fiscal growth rate, from 4.2% to 10.5% in the year of 2019-20, Bihar is strutting ahead to augment its rate of female literacy, since the year 2018, with the implementation of Mukhyamantri Kanya Utthan Yojana and an associated scheme called Mukhyamantri Balika Cycle Yojana, under the Nitish Kumar government.

From the polls to the pathshalas, the turnout of women candidates has only been on a promising rise since 2018-19. This new cash transfer scheme of Mukhyamantri Kanya Utthan Yojana, loosely translating to ‘CM Girl Uplifting Scheme’, has opened the door to a new and safe reality for the female students who, so far, has been the torch-bearers to a legacy of embedded generational women oppression and torture.

In the opinion of the article, what essentially differentiates this Yojana from the previous educational policies for women, such as the Mukyamantri Akshar Anchal Yojana (2009) and the Mukyamantri Balika Poshak Yojana (2008), is its intrinsic potential to necessitate the completion of the adult education in the girls – upon the clearance of the Intermediate level, a monetary aid of ₹10,000 will be provided to the girl child as an encouragement for enrollment into colleges and upon completion of graduation, a reward amount of ₹25,000 shall be given, suitably working as a preventive measure against the possibility of dropping-out.

Therefore, from birth to the age of 21, girls receive a total sum of ₹54,100 – the largest sum transferred to help their independent transition into adult life. Interestingly, Bihar, a staunch believer of hereditary conventions opposing women emancipation and modernization tendencies, presents this exemplary scheme whereby girls’ pursuit of adult education will, indeed, challenge the existing rigidity of cultural norms.

This Yojana also innovatively promotes awareness about reproductive health amongst women through mechanisms of education. By ensuring education to the girl child, a chain reaction sets off. Improving literacy leads to delayed age of marriage, fewer and healthier children, and a reduction in poverty.

State Health Minister Mangal Pandey told PTI that the scheme that provides an incentive for completing immunization within two years of birth would help maintain the good health of girls. This Mukhyamantri Yojana of 2018 institutionalized the rebellion against age-old gender norms with determined attempts to improve female literacy, which will translate into better health outcomes in the short run and poverty alleviation in the long run.

In an interview conducted by UNICEF (India), Anisha, an 18-year-old BA (Hons) student in Geography says that “[This program] is proving to be a great initiative for some of the girls who want to get higher education without being pressurized by their family to drop out for an early marriage.

Another feature is the scheme of the Bicycle Yojana. This represents the formulation of a concrete action plan required to effectuate the Girl Uplifting Scheme, predominantly because by providing free transportation to those female students in need, one actualizes their access to such policies and education. This characteristic proves instrumental, especially when the girl lacks a support system regarding cooperation from her family and friends to pursue schooling.

As the scheme aims to target a wider base, in efforts to include as many female students in Bihar as possible, a family can enrol up to two girl children. Thus, it steadily accelerates towards its goal of providing 1.6 crore girls with welfare benefits every year.

The Nitish Kumar government has also launched a counterpart policy of Vidyarthi Protsahan Yojana (2021), wherein the Cabinet released a total of ₹34 crores from the Bihar Contingency Fund to pay incentives and allowances to the marginalized students specifically. Yet, this Kanya Utthan Yojana proves to be a detour of sorts. It has no limitations based on caste, income or even religion, thus making the program truly universal.

Evidential accounts of several prospering female students are a burning testament to Bihar’s bold vision of transforming an entire generation of girls through universal access to basic services, from birth to adolescence, translating into the success of this scheme. This is a paradigmatic shift in Bihar’s attitude towards women empowerment, reviving hope in the possibilities of having an institutionally guaranteed provision of higher education for girls in India.

The author is a Kaksha Correspondent as a part of writers’ training program under Kaksha Crisis.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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