The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programme was conceived by the Government of India many decades ago as a massive community-based outreach programme. The programme is seen as an opportunity where women in the community can be empowered to act so that they can improve their own situation as well as that of their children.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has been supporting the ICDS. Recognising that along with nutrition supplement support, a comprehensive approach to human resource development is essential for strengthening ICDS, the WFP in collaboration with state departments set in motion various initiatives in different states. In Rajasthan, the work started with an action research undertaken in 1990-92 in four districts (Udaipur, Chittorgarh, Dungarpur and Banswara).
This study which has been documented in a booklet entitled, “Starting Right”, revealed the barriers to community participation and the existing childcare practices in the four southern districts of Rajasthan. The second phase of intervention was initiated in 1994, in the district of Banswara. Conducted as a campaign, this phase had the twin objective of early initiation of complementary feeding and increasing community participation in ICDS. The emphasis was on building the trust and faith between service providers and the women in the community so that together they could commit their efforts to change the situation at the village level. This experience has been documented in the booklet titled “Shared Commitment”.
During these years, the Department of Women and Child Development, the WFP and the team from New Concept Information Systems worked together to facilitate the participatory processes in the district. In the third phase of the project (1997-2002), the emphasis was on getting the district officials to think, plan and act on the critical issue of child survival. The idea was to get the district to widely propagate the concept of the healthy child – Hajo Soru in Vagdi (the local dialect). This experience was documented in a publication called “Towards Hajo Soru”.
Communication is a vital factor in promoting holistic child development that needs to be integrated at all levels in child development planning and delivery system. Realising the positive impact that the literacy campaign had in the district, the district officials decided to use the campaign approach to take the concept of Hajo Soru to every corner of the district. As Banswara has a rich local folklore and media, it was decided to spread the message of Hajo Soru through Jan Jagran Jathas (people’s awareness campaigns). The Jatha’s experience was documented in a publication titled “Jan Jagran Jatha – A District Initiative for Communicating the Vision of a Healthy Child”.
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