In many parts of the world, the deadliest words are, “it’s a girl.” Abortion and infanticide are common when those words are heard. If the girl manages to live, she is considered a burden and/or a slave.
Villages like Piplantri in Rajasthan state of India have a story quite different from the more popular, abused and ill-treated ‘India’s daughter’.
Here, every time a girl child is born, 111 trees are planted in celebration and taken care of.
Additionally, the villages set aside money for each girl, which becomes available to her at the age of 20. Parents agree to educate their daughters, and not to marry them off prior to India’s legal age.
Shyam Sundar Paliwal began the practice in 2007, after losing his daugter.
The impact on the villages has been great. Besides enjoying lush greenery, the trees have become a source of jobs, reduced crime and most importantly, changed the attitude towards girls and the vision of women in the region, which have been traditionally negative.
Rajasthan is a state like many others in India with a skewed sex ratio showing 928 women for every 1000 men in the 2011 census, thanks to a bias for the male child.
Midwives and sex-determination centres have in the past aided the practice of female [infanticide] but things are changing with social initiatives seeing village heads taking a tough stance.
The caste system in India, while officially outlawed, still creates a dim future for girls. Many are left with little education and forced into early marriage. The tree planting initiative is helping to change this.