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If Goa Is The Best Indian State For Women, How Can Bihar Get There? A New Study Has Some Pointers

Posted: November 11, 2017

A first of its kind – The Gender Vulnerability Index (GVI) by Plan India brings forth some startling revelations about the status of women and girls across India!

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”. – Peter Drucker 

Everyone knows that the status of women and girls in India needs improvement, but do we have a common set of data and understanding that we can all use to work in this space?

With the aim of developing collective perspectives as well as generating consensus on the status of girls and women in India, Plan India has pioneered an assessment tool – The Gender Vulnerability Index (GVI) based on secondary research from the existing multiple sources in the field. The GVI was created using 170 different indicators of women and girls’ status, taken from different data sources such as the Census 2011, National Family Health Survey IV, Health Management Information System, District Information for School Education, Rapid Survey on Children, Annual Economic Survey, and the Annual Survey on Education report.

What the GVI does is create a landscape analysis of vulnerabilities of women and girls around the four dimensions of Education, Poverty, Health, and Protection. This snapshot data can then be used by policymakers, development experts as well as grassroot level workers!

Read on to understand what the GVI is and it promises to be a breakthrough in tracking national efforts for empowering women and young girls!

Plan for every child – Leave no girl behind

As the world moves ahead with the ambition of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, it is imperative that India reaches out to the most vulnerable and crucial segment of its populace – its children. Children (0-18years) constitute 39% of the 1.21 billion population of India and 19% of world’s population – the highest proportion in the world. For the realization of these ambitious, yet achievable goals, it is vital that no child is left behind – hence the focus on children in difficult circumstances and in particular girls.

Children are in especially difficult circumstances when their basic needs for food, shelter, education, medical care, protection, discrimination, and security are not met. While both boys are girls face such circumstances, gender inequality compounds all forms of exclusion. A girl born or forced into marginalization and exclusion is at further risk of abuse, neglect and exploitation.

This is the underlying rationale for Plan International’s (and Plan India’s) focus on #LeaveNoGirlBehind. (You can read more here about the various initiatives under this campaign, including the interesting ways in which young people’s voices have been included). 

From vicious cycle to virtuous cycle

Though the girl child comprises nearly half of the population under 18 years, girls in India face a multitude of issues at different ages. Plan India therefore follows a Lifecycle Approach to identify and work on the issues that a girl child faces – which unfortunately start even before her birth and continue even beyond her child’s birth. The Lifecycle approach is a Plan India framework which is rooted in the belief that the challenges women face along the lifecycle are unique, but their impact carries on throughout their life.

With the aim of replacing the ‘vicious cycle’ that the girls are exposed to with a ‘virtuous cycle’ and to ensure that the development is sustainable and carried to future generations, Plan’s Lifecycle approach incorporates issues and challenges relevant to the local context, eliminating static definitions of gender.

From Goa to Bihar…let’s take a look at GVI!

To cater to the ambitious target of reaching out to 10 million girls, Plan India’s consultations with experts revealed a larger need to identify and define vulnerability within its Lifecycle approach and capture it in a comprehensive and consolidated manner. The deliberations led to the development of the Gender Vulnerability Index (GVI) – the first of its kind in the country.

An accessible tool and a novel lens which can be used to realign and revisit priority areas, GVI is a multidimensional composite index developed using 170 indicators. These indicators are the most influential in determining and impacting vulnerability of girls and women across four major dimensions – Education, Health, Poverty and Protection.

The index aims at comprehensively capturing and tracking national efforts in empowering girls and young women as well as creating a safe, equitable and supportive environment for them to learn, lead, decide and thrive. It is a step to identify the vulnerabilities faced by girls and women in order to contribute to a developmental dialogue for gender-sensitive solutions and gender transformation.

gvi-snapshot

GVI in its capacity of a great assessment tool, promises to be a breakthrough in understanding the situation of different states in India and ranking them in various dimensions. Here is a quick snapshot of some of the GVI 2017 findings:

  • Goa emerges as the state where girls are least vulnerable. With a GVI of 0.656, Goa ranks 1st in terms of protection, 5th in education and 6th for health and survival and 8th on poverty.
  • Kerala ranks second, with a GVI of 0.634 attributed to the excellent achievements in the Health dimension. Mizoram ranks third, closely with Kerala at 0.627.
  • Bihar’s performance is extremely dismal. Girls and women are the most vulnerable in this Indian state and their position is acute. With the lowest GVI of 0.410, they are the unhealthiest and the poorest; Education is ranked the lowest and protection is unsatisfactory.
  • Startling of all is the performance of Delhi, ranked 28th in GVI (GVI 0.436) just two notches up from the bottom! Delhi fares very badly in the education dimension which is the poorest amongst the 30 states. The protection dimension ranks poorly as well.

The GVI scores and the state-wide ranks derived based on their performance brings forth some interesting facts around the dynamics between various dimensions:

  • Higher achievements in one dimension such as Education or Health can lead to stronger performances in another.
  • Improvements in one dimension may have a multiplier effect.
  • Gender equality is truly multidimensional and poverty alleviation interventions must work in parallel with gender empowerment.
  • State wide disparities are clearly immense, more so at the level of dimensions.

Exploring the Protection Dimension

To understand how various indicators within each dimension impact others and the overall position of the state, here is a deep dive into the major factors for the Protection dimension.

Girls and women, for every year of their lives, are exposed to specific forms of gender based discrimination which disempower them and widen the gender divide. From child marriage n to violent crimes against women and children, protection is one of the most complex aspects and in order to allow for children and women to flourish, improvements in their personal well being by protecting their rights is necessary.

Protection and safety of girls and women are therefore at the heart of Plan India’s Lifecycle approach.

  • 26 critical and relevant indicators under violence, youth protection, justice and crime have been used to construct the protection index in the GVI.
  • Postulated using some very critical indicators, the GVI for protection stands as one of the highest among all four dimensions at 0.630 but there are severe regional imbalances in the protection of women. (The next two bullet points highlight the same)
  • Nationally, the figure for crime against women stands at 53.9% but in states like Assam and Delhi this rate crosses 140%.
  • While the incidence of child marriage is over 40% in West Bengal, in Punjab it’s less than 8%.
  • The top five states with high performance on Protection GVI are Goa, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Tripura. However the data for J&K should be read with the caveat that unlike other states there is a larger scope for collecting data on some of the key protection parameters.
  • However, in spite of achieving relatively outcomes for gender equality, Tripura and Punjab still report high rates of violence against women, showing that we have a long way to go.
  • In the context of youth protection, Tripura (one of the states with top GVI on protection) has the adolescent pregnancies at the highest.
  • Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh. Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal rank the lowest in the GVI’s protection dimension.
  • Spousal violence is alarmingly high in India. Andhra Pradesh has some of the highest rates of spousal violence in the country followed by Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
  • The child sex ratio is a challenge across India.
  • West Bengal has the highest rates of adolescent pregnancies while Delhi is at the lowest.

Harnessing the Power of GVI – The Roadmap ahead

GVI with its data and analysis on various states has come out as a powerful tool divulging the vulnerabilities at the state and national level. To take it to the next level and convert the GVI findings into tangible solutions at the grass roots level, it is imperative that regional priorities and variations in social, economic and cultural constructs are also taken into consideration.

For actualizing this, Plan India intends to work with local youth to validate the GVI and adapt the conclusions as per the local context.

Adding the self-stated validation by girls and young people to the composite index makes it complete both in quantitative and qualitative terms, thus making GVI an excellent tool to be used for advocacy as well as by policy makers for gauging the performance of various gender related flagship initiatives by the Government of India and other relevant stakeholders.

Long-term initiatives like developing the Gender Vulnerability Index (GVI) and using it to support the work of grassroots organisations, takes enormous time and resources. This kind of work needs the support of every individual who believes in gender equality! Show your commitment by learning more , and contributing a donation in any measure.

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