SURKHET, Jan 18: ‘Bank account for daughters - lifelong security’, a much lauded initiative of Karnali Province, has now gone into implementation, with the provincial government releasing the required funds. In the first phase of the program, the government has transferred a total of Rs 38.4 million to the local levels. The social development ministry dispatched the money to 79 local level entities.
Chief Minister Mahendra Shahi had inaugurated the program on December 17, with the opening of bank accounts for two Dalit girls in Khadachakra Municipality which lies in his own home district. The provincial government has allocated Rs 70 million for the initiative for the current fiscal year.
Under the program, a bank account of Rs 1,000 is opened for each female newborn, and Rs 500 is added to the account every month for 20 years. By the time the child turns 20, she will have Rs 120,000 in her account, or nearly Rs 200,000 inclusive of interest.
The initiative has been launched against the background of a patriarchal social structure that continues to deprive females of equality. Preference for sons over daughters is so rampant that female feticides are reported in hospitals. Women’s social status is even more grim in the western regions of the country. Giving birth to many babies until one of them is finally a boy, child marriage, early motherhood, menstrual isolation of women in ‘chhapudi’ sheds and many such practices are seen as a huge challenge in women’s empowerment.
The bank account idea is expected to make a big difference for women, especially in poor and backward communities. The government estimates that at least 11,000 daughters will be born within this fiscal year in the province. The program does not apply to daughters born before the fiscal year.
According to Dal Rawal, minister for social development, the opening of bank accounts for newborn daughters is now in full swing. “We have sent the funds to all local levels,” he said. “This is expected to bring about a change in how daughters are viewed by their families,” he added.
One of the biggest aims of the initiative is to stop child marriages, according to Rawal. The conditions set for the the girls to claim the money in their accounts when they turn 20 are expected to address several problems related to girls.
If a girl marries before the age of 20 or does not complete secondary level education by then, she will not be eligible to claim the amount. He estimates that the provincial government will have to pay out Rs 1.4 billion under the program over the 20 years.