Gift Milk: An initiative for girl students of Sikkim
In a National Family Health Survey conducted in 2020, it was found that child malnutrition has increased across various states in the nation. Despite most states having a specific program for nutrition, especially for children, many have failed to actually produce successful results. The statistics determine that Sikkim is one of the states which has improved the state of nutritional impoverishment of under 5 children.
In a meeting of the ICMR and the Ministry of Health and Welfare conducted in 2017 on state-level trends on the burden of malnutrition and indicative factors (1990-17) predicted that Sikkim was one of the states projected to achieve their targets in bringing down low birth weight and child stunting by 2022-30 if the course continued. This makes all the more sense for Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang and the Dairy Board of Sikkim to push forward the 'Gift Milk' initiative.
On February 09 (Tuesday), the CM launched the ‘Gift Milk’ initiative for girl students of government schools in Sikkim. He stressed the importance of proper nutrition for the younger generation as they're at a growing age. especially among the younger generations for the foundation of a healthier mind and body.
The event was held at Samman Bhawan, organized by the Sikkim Co-operative Milk Producers Union Limited sponsored by National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) and National Highway & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL).
The CM expressed his gratitude to those who made the Gift a Milk initiative possible and mentioned that there has been an increase in milk production over the last year. The 'Gift Milk' initiative for girl students of government schools in the state would allow for more than 1500 beneficiaries to receive 200 ml of milk per day, giving them the necessary nutritional supplements that would help in the physical and mental growth.
The Managing Director of the Sikkim Cooperative Milk Union A/ B. Karki, on being asked why the initiative was rolled out only for girl children explained that as per the census, women are more prone to malnourishment than men. "Since it is a program sponsored by NDDB, their plan is to start with girls students of government schools first and then move ahead to other groups", says Karki.
In a survey report by , it states that:
"In the last decade, there has been progress across all underlying determinants of nutrition in Sikkim (Figure 4). The proportion of literate women increased from 72.3 percent in 2006 to 86.6 percent in 2016, and the proportion of women with more than 10 years of education increased from 22.5 percent to 40.7 percent. Underage marriage among girls declined from 30.1 percent to 14.5 percent. Households with an improved drinking water source increased from 77.6 percent to 97.6 percent, and household access to electricity increased from 92.2 percent to 99.4 percent. The state has made progress in sanitation in the last decade, with an increase in households using improved sanitation facility from 60.7 percent to 88.2 percent and a decline in open defecation rates from 11 percent to 4.4 percent."
The interesting thing to note here is that as more women are educated, there is a decrease in malnutrition statistics. Over the years, knowledge about food and health which have been spearheaded by various departments in the state via awareness camps and other programmes has directly impacted Sikkim's place in the list of undernourished states. This correlates to a study conducted by Project Drawdown, a global nonprofit organization founded in 2014 which works to eradicate and form policies to halt climate change, which listed 'educating girl children' as one of the ways in which one could improve the health of the planet.
This novel idea states that if countries take steps to increase universal education and family planning, it would lead to a massive reduction in emissions by 2050. When women become educated and more aware of the politics surrounding their bodies, health and environment amongst other things, they become more conscious about building a family. It doesn't take much to figure out that less people lead to less consumption.
Therefore, the state government's decision to start with women could mean more green spaces for Sikkim to look forward to in the future. It is pertinent to remember that the biggest environmental activists in India have been women and the most underrated contributors in the field of science, art, religion, economics, media have also been women. The idea of 'Gift Milk' might seem rather small and insignificant at a glance but if implemented well, and with more focus on helping women understand the need for a stronger, healthier body, this initiative could be what saves the future in the long run.