Women and Child Welfare Schemes in India

Women constitute 48% of the total population of the country. They suffer many disadvantages as compared to men in literary rates, labour participation rates and earnings. The development of women has been receiving attention of the Government of India from the First Plan. But it was treated as a subject of ‘welfare’ and clubbed together with the welfare of the disadvantaged groups like destitute, disabled, aged, etc. In 1953, the Central Social Welfare Board was set up which acts as an Apex Body at the Centre to promote voluntary action at various levels, especially at the grassroots, to take up welfare-related activities for women and children.

The Second to Fifth Plans continued this strategy, besides giving priority to women’s education, and launching measures to improve material and child health services, supplementary feeding for children and expectant and nursing mothers.

In the Sixth Plan there was a shift in the approach from ‘welfare’ to ‘development’ of women. The Sixth Plan adopted a multi-disciplinary approach with special emphasis on the three core sectors of health, education and employment.

The Seventh Plan stressed on raising their economic and social status and bringing them into the mainstream of national development. One of the significant step in this direction was to identify/promote the ‘Beneficiary Oriented Schemes’ in various developmental sector which extended direct benefits to women.

The strategy also included the generation of both skilled and unskilled employment through proper education and vocational training.

The Eighth Plan ensured that the benefits of development to women should flow from other development sectors and enable women to function as equal partners and participants in the development process.

The Ninth Plan made two important changes in the strategy of development of women. The first was the ‘Empowerment of Women’. Its aim was to create an enabling environment where women could freely exercise their rights both within and outside home, and are equal partners along with men.

The second was the convergence of existing services available in both women-specific and women-related sectors To this effect, a special strategy of ‘Women’s Component Plan’ was adopted through which not less than 30 per cent of funds/benefits now flow to women from all the general development sectors.

For social and economic development of women, the Centre has set up the Department of Women and Child Development which has been implementing the following schemes:

1. Swayamsidha:

Swayamsidha is an integrated scheme for the development and empowerment of women through self-help groups. It covers services, access to micro-credit and promotes micro-enterprises.

2. Swashakti Project:

Swashakti Project aims at increasing women’s access to resources for better quality of life through the use of time reduction devices, by providing health and education services and by imparting skills to women for income generating activities.

3. Child Development Services Scheme (CDS):

The scheme started in 1975 with the objective to give special coverage to slums in urban areas. The scheme also envisages delivery of an integrated package of services consisting of immunization, health check-ups, nutrition and health education and refreshment services to child and pregnant women.

4. Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women:

It provides new skills and knowledge to poor assetless women in agriculture, animal husbandry, dairying, fisheries, sericulture, handlooms, handicrafts and khadi and village industry sectors of employment.

5. Swavlamban:

This scheme provides training and skills to women to enable them to obtain employment or become self-employed. The trades in which training is imparted include computer programming, medical transcription, electronic assembling, electronics, radio and TV repairs, garment making, handloom weaving, handicrafts, secretarial practice, embroidery and community health.

6. Creche/Day Care Centres for the Children of Working and Ailing Mothers:

It aims at providing day care services to children (0-5 years) of parents whose income does not exceed Rs. 1,800 per month. The services include sleeping and day care facilities, recreation, supplementary nutrition, immunisation and medicine.

7. Hostels for Working Women:

Under this scheme, financial assistance is provided for construction and expansion of hostel buildings for working women. It also includes provisions for safe and affordable accommodation to working women (single or married), those getting training for employment and girl students studying in professional courses.

8. Swadhar:

This scheme provides integrated services to women without support from their families such as widows living at Vrindavan and Kashi; prisoners released from jail; survivors of natural calamities; women/girls rescued from brothels and other places; victims of sexual crimes, etc. The scheme includes such services as food, clothing, shelters, health care, counselling and legal aid and rehabilitation through education awareness, skill formation and behavioural training.

9. Rashtriya Mahila Kosh:

The National Credit Fund for Women is meant to facilitate credit support or micro-finance to poor women to start such income generating schemes as agriculture, dairying, shop-keeping, vending and handicrafts.

10. Welfare of Street Children:

With the objective of weaning away street children from a life of deprivation and vagrancy and rehabilitating them, An Integrated Programme for Street Children is being implemented with a wide range of initiatives like 24 hour drop-in shelters, night shelters, nutrition, healthcare, sanitation, hygiene, safe drinking water, education, recreational facilities and protection against abuse and exploitation.

Currently, 190 organisations have been operating in 22 states benefiting 1.58 lakh street children. The special initiative of the Child-line Service, a toll free telephone service is available to children in distress which responds to the emergency needs of the children and provides referral service. This facility is now operating in 34 cities.

Ministry of Women and Child Development:


The Department of Women and Child Development was set up in the year 1985 as a part of the Ministry of Human Resource Development to give the much needed impetus to the holistic development of women and children. With effect from 30.01.2006, the Department has been upgraded to a Ministry.


The broad mandate of the Ministry is to have holistic development of Women and Children. As a nodal Ministry for the advancement of women and children, the Ministry formulates plans, policies and programmes; enacts/ amends legislation, guides and coordinates the efforts of both governmental and non-governmental organisations working in the field of Women and Child Development. Besides, playing its nodal role, the Ministry implements certain innovative programmes for women and children. These programmes cover welfare and support services, training for employment and income generation, awareness generation and gender sensitization. These programmes play a supplementary and complementary role to the other general developmental programmes in the sectors of health, education, rural development etc. All these efforts are directed to ensure that women are empowered both economically and socially and thus become equal partners in national development along with men.

Policy Initiatives

For the holistic development of the child, the Ministry has been implementing the world’s largest and most unique and outreach programme of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)providing a package of services comprising supplementary nutrition, immunization, health checkup and referral services, pre-school non-formal education. There is effective coordination and monitoring of various sectoral programmes. Most of the programmes of the Ministry are run through non-governmental organisations. Efforts are made to have more effective involvement of NGOs.  The major policy initiatives undertaken by the Ministry in the recent past include universalisation of ICDS and Kishori Shakti Yojana, launching a nutrition programme for adolescent girls, establishment of the Commission for protection of Child Rights and enactment of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.


The Ministry has 6 autonomous organisations viz.

Working under its aegis, NIPCCD and RMK are societies registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. CSWB is a charitable company registered under section 25 of the Indian Companies Act, 1956. These organisations are fully funded by the Govt. of India and they assist the Department in its functions including implementation of some programmes/schemes. The National Commission for Women was constituted as a national apex statutory body in 1992 for protecting and safeguarding the rights of women. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights which is a national level apex statutory body constituted in the March 2007 for protecting and safe guarding the rights of children.

Subjects Allocated to the Ministry:

  • Welfare of the family.
  • Women and Child Welfare and Coordination of activities of other Ministries and Organisation in connection with this subject.
  • References from the United Nations Organizations relating to traffic in Women and Children
  • Care of pre-school children including pre-primary education
  • National Nutrition Policy, national Plan of Action for Nutrition and National Nutrition Mission.
  • Charitable and religious endowments pertaining to subjects allocated to this Department
  • Promotion and development of voluntary effort on the subjects allocated to this Department
  • Implementation of
    • Immoral Traffic in Women and Girl Act. 1956 (as amended upto 1986) .
    • The Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986 (60 of 1986).
    • The Dowry Prohibition Act. 1961 (28 of 1961)
    • The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987 (3 of 1988), excluding the administration of criminal justice in regard to offences under these Acts.
  • Implementation of the Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Food (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 1992 (41 of 1992).
  • Coordination of activities of Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE)
  • Planning, Research, Evaluation, Monitoring, Project Formulations, Statistics and Training relating to the welfare and development of women and children, including development of gender sensitive data base.
    • United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
    • Central Social Welfare Board (CSWB)
    • National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development (NIPCCD)
    • Food and Nutrition Board Food and Nutrition Board (FNB)
    • Development and popularization of subsidiary and protective foods.
    • Nutrition extension.

Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equity:

  • National Commission for Women
  • Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK)
  • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 (56 of 2000)
  • Probation of Juvenile offenders
  • Issues relating to adoption, Central Adoption Resource Agency and Child Help Line (Childline)
  • The Children Act, 1960 (60 of 1960)
  • The Child Marriage – Restraint Act, 1929 (19 of 1929).