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The word Anganwadi means "courtyard shelter" in Indian languages. They were started by the Indian government in 1975 as part of the Integrated Child Development Services program to combat child hunger and malnutrition.
A typical Anganwadi centre provides basic health care in Indian villages. It is a part of the Indian public health care system. Basic health care activities include contraceptive counseling and supply, nutrition education and supplementation, as well as pre-school activities. The centres may be used as depots for oral rehydration salts, basic medicines and contraceptives.
As many as 13.3 lakh (a lakh is 100,000) Anganwadi and mini-Anganwadi centres (AWCs/mini-AWCs) are operational out of 13.7 lakh sanctioned AWCs/mini-AWCs, as of 31 January2013. These centres provide supplementary nutrition, non-formal pre-school education, nutrition and health education, immunization, health check-up and referral services of which later three services are provided in convergence with public health systems.
The basic job of Anganwadi workers is extremely important and needs to be carried out in the most efficient manner possible. They need to provide care for newborn babies and ensure that all children below the age of 6 are immunized. They are expected to provide antenatal care for pregnant women and ensuring that they are immunized against tetanus. In addition to this they provide post-natal care to nursing mothers.
Since they primarily focus on poor and malnourished groups, they provide supplementary nutrition to children below the age of 6 and nursing and pregnant women. They ensure that regular health and medical check-ups for women 15- to 49-years-old take place and that all women and children have access to these check-ups. They work toward providing pre-school education to children who are between 3 and 5 years old.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development has laid down guidelines for the responsibilities of Anganwadi workers (AWW). These include showing community support and active participation in executing this programme, to conduct regular quick surveys of all families, organize pre-school activities, provide health and nutrition education to families especially pregnant women on how to breastfeed, etc., motivating families to adopt family planning, educating parents about child growth and development, assist in the implementation and execution of Kishori Shakti Yojana (KSY) to educate teenage girls and parents by organizing social awareness programmes etc., identify disabilities in children, and so on.
Every 40 to 65 Anganwadi workers are supervised by one Mukhya Sevika. They provide on-the-job training.
In addition to performing the responsibilities with the Anganwadi workers, they have other duties such as keeping track of who are benefiting from the programme from low economic status — specifically those who belong to the malnourished category; guide the Anganwadi workers in assessing the age and weight of children and how to plot their weights; demonstrate effective methods, for example, in providing health and nutrition education to mothers; and maintain statistics of Anganwadis and the workers to determine what can be improved. The Mukhya Sevika then reports to the Child development Projects Officer (CDPO).
India is a country suffering from overpopulation, malnourishment, poverty and high infant mortality rates. To counter the health and mortality issues there is a great need for medical and health care experts. Unfortunately India has a shortage of skilled professionals. Therefore, through the Anganwadi system, the country is trying to meet its goal of enhanced health facilities that are affordable and accessible for local populations.
In many ways an Anganwadi worker is better equipped than a physician in reaching out to the rural population. Since the worker lives with the people she is in a better position to identify the cause of health problems and hence counter them. She has a very good insight of the health status in her region. Secondly though Anganwadi workers are not as skilled or qualified as professionals they have better social skills thus making it easier to interact with the people. Moreover, since these workers are from the village, they are trusted which makes it easier for them to help the people. Last but not the least, Anganwadi workers are well aware of the ways of the people, are comfortable with the language, know the rural folk personally etc. This makes it very easy for them to figure out the problems being faced by the people and ensure that they are solved.
Challenges and solutions
There have been public policy discussions over whether to make Anganwadis universally available to all eligible children and mothers. This would require significant increases in budgetary allocation and a rise in Anganwadis centers to over 16 lakh.
Anganwadis are staffed by officers and their helpers, who are typically women from poor families. The workers do not have permanent jobs with comprehensive retirement benefits like other government staff. Worker protests (by the All India Anganwadi Workers Federation) and public debates on this topic are ongoing. There are periodic reports of corruption and crimes against women in some Anganwadi centers. There are legal and societal issues when Anganwadi-serviced children fall sick or die.
In announcing the 2008-2009 budget, Indian Finance Minister P Chidambaram stated that salaries would be increased for Anganwadi workers to Rs 1500 per month and helpers to Rs 750 per month. In March 2008 there was debate about whether packaged foods (such as biscuits) should become part of the food served. Detractors, including Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen, disagreed saying it will become the only food consumed by the children. Options for increasing partnership with the private sector are continuing.
In a major initiative, the centre is set to digitise the work of Anganwadis starting with 27 most-backward districts in Uttar Pradesh: Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. Anganwadis will be provided with tablet computers to record data that will be integrated with the health ministry which is involved in carrying out immunisation, health check-ups, and nutrition education under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS).
Integration with other official schemes
The Integrated Child Development Services (India) Scheme did not have provision for construction of AWC buildings as this was envisaged to be provided by the community except for the North Eastern States. For them, financial support was provided for construction of AWC buildings since 2001-02 at a unit cost of Rs.175,000.
As part of the strengthening and restructuring the ICDS Scheme, the government approved a provision of construction of 200,000 Anganwadi centre buildings at a cost of Rs. 450,000 per unit during XII Plan period in a phased manner with cost sharing ratio of 75:25 between centre and states (other than the NER, where it will be at 90:10).
Further, construction of AWC has been notified as a permissible activity under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA). The construction of AWC buildings can be taken up in convergence with MNREGA.
The Anganwadi is functioning as indicated by a collection of reports by the leading daily newspaper, The Times of India. To quote from the first report,
"Two children of an anganwadi centre in Angul district died in a freak accident on Friday. They drowned in a rainwater-filled pit dug near their anganwadi centre. The children are Priyanka Dash (3) and Monalisa Naik (4) of Tentulihata village within Banarapala police limits, 20 km from here. The incident comes two months after seven children of an anganwadi centre were killed in Nayagarh district when rain-soaked brick wall of the centre fell on them while they were having their mid-day meals."
In a desperate attempt to improve the poor state of governance of the Anganvadi scheme in his budget speech for the financial year 2011-12, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee increased the salary for Anganwadi workers to Rs 3000 per month and helpers to Rs 1500 per month — about one tenth of the salary of government office assistant.
UNICEF and the UN Millennium Development Goals of reducing infant mortality and improving maternal care are the impetus for increasing focus on the Anganwadis.
Workers and helpers are expected to be trained per WHO standards.
- National Population Policy 2000, National Commission on Population website. Accessed February 13, 2008
- "The Anganwadi Workers of India". Health Opine. 3 March 2011. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
- "Anganwadi Centres". Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
- Official website
- Anganwadi Information - http://healthopine.com/healthcare-infrastructure/the-anganwadi-workers-of-india-connecting-for-health-at-the-grassroots