Small states occupied six of the top 10 positions on a new gender vulnerability index (GVI) that ranked states by women’s status on education, health, poverty and protection from birth to 18 years.

“Poor nutrition and education at birth can correspond to much more than just economic and health consequences in [a girl’s] future,” Plan India, the India chapter of Surrey, UK-based child rights advocacy Plan International, said in its first Gender Vulnerability Index Report.

“Most, if not all, of these challenges are hand in glove.”

The index scores go from zero to one, with a higher value indicating better performance. Goa (0.656), Kerala (0.634), Mizoram (0.627), Sikkim (0.613), Manipur (0.61) and Himachal Pradesh (0.604)--the top six small states on the overall GVI that used 170 indicators across the four dimensions--scored above 0.6. Of the 30 provinces ranked (29 states + Delhi), 16 scored above India’s average of 0.531.

Source: Plan India

Higher achievements in an area might have a multiplier effect in other areas, leading to overall reduction in vulnerability for girls, the report said.

Goa, where girls are least vulnerable overall, ranks first on protection, fifth on education, sixth on health and eighth on poverty.

Helped mainly by its second rank on the health index, Kerala comes second on the overall GVI. Mizoram, a close third on GVI, ranks second on the poverty index.

Overall performance, however, hides gender inequities in some areas.

Sikkim, fourth overall, and Punjab, eighth, score high on all dimensions except poverty, ranking 18th and 22nd, respectively.

Girls in Andhra Pradesh--12th overall--are relatively more vulnerable to violence--26th on protection--despite the state ranking fifth on both health and poverty.

At the bottom with a score of 0.410, Bihar is the worst for girls with the state coming in last on two (poverty and health) of the four dimensions.

As many as 39% girls were married before 18 years in Bihar--second highest after West Bengal (41%)--and 12.2% girls aged 15-19 were either mothers or pregnant, according to the report.

Yet Bihar, one of the poorest states, is ranked 27th and 25th on protection and education, one and five notches higher than Delhi, one of the richest regions.

Delhi spent the most on education as a share of total state spending in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Telangana, which spent the least as a share of total spending in both years, was ranked sixth on education.

Source: Reserve Bank of India

Karnataka, ranked seventh overall and among the top 10 on poverty and education, was 17th on protection. The highest proportion of girls and women who have ever experienced violence during a pregnancy are in Karnataka, the report said.

(Vivek is an analyst with IndiaSpend.)

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