Melinda Gates and Bill Gates called on the Union Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Sanjay Gandhi in New Delhi on September 19. During the meeting, the minister explained the recent initiatives of the ministry related to National Mission on Nutrition and the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ scheme. Maneka Gandhi said that though a lot of work is being done by different wings of the government on the malnutrition front, the real time monitoring of children and their nutritional status continues to remain a major area of concern. The minister also laid stress on the training of Anganwadi workers and helpers (AWWs and AWHs) which are currently 25 lakh women. These women play a critical role in providing nutritional services to the pregnant and lactating mothers as well as children upto the age of six years, she added.
The minister explained that under the National Nutrition Mission, efforts are being made to integrate the efforts of different ministries in a project mode where training of ground level workers as well as extensive use of IT and instruments will form the backbone of the Mission. She requested Bill Gates to assist in developing the IT solution for such a large format programme like setting up a Central Monitoring Unit to collect, record and analyse data. It was also discussed that the child by child data can be made available to AWWs through low cost IT instruments like tablets or mobile phones.
Melinda Gates showed special interest in the programme for adolescent girls. The minister described the efforts being made to restructure the SABLA scheme of the ministry to target out- of- school adolescent girls. In the restructured programme, the existing school infrastructure will be used to impart basic life skills and health and nutrition learning to the out of school adolescent girls besides providing them the hot cooked meal, she said. The ministry of Women and Child Development has proposed to integrate the restructured SABLA scheme with ministry of HRD.
The minister also gave the details of the newly launched ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ scheme and stated that the efforts of the ministry will be to have the pregnancy registered in the 1st trimester itself so that further progress could be monitored. Bill Gates stated that this could also be taken up into the IT backbone in the nutrition mission as the basic vehicle of delivery of services will be the Anganwadis itself.
Melinda Gates and Bill Gates assured that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will be able to assist the Ministry in the areas of training and technical requirements for the National Mission on Nutrition as well as the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ scheme.’