“Munde Khet vich, Kudi ret visch… “- A boy is meant for the fields, a girl is for the sand.
So goes a saying, in many remote parts of Punjab. As I walked on the dusty road of Ratoke on a hot summer day, the grim reality of this saying hit me hard. The village of Ratoke, close to the Indo-Pak border, has an Average Sex Ratio of 840, far lower than the national average.
I met Manjit Kaur here at a decent shanty off the highway. Manjit a true bred Punjabi, has been working at the grass root level across the state. She has been interacting with the women folk of the villages, empowering them and to speak up against gender discrimination. “Women are the forefront of our society and family. When we empower them, we empower the generations to follow”, says Manjit
I asked Manjit, “Where are the missing girls? Why this skewed up sex ratio?”
“Selective terminations of pregnancy and female infanticide are still rampant in many villages. Though illegal, finding a doctor or a sonologist who’s willing to tell you the sex of the fetus is ridiculously easy. And those who find such procedures expensive, simply wait until the baby is born, and kill it, if it is a girl. In many other cases, female babies are more likely to be undernourished, resulting in disease and death. The underlying reason is basically that a girl is seen as a liability,” Manjit said.
The Prime Minister recently appealed to the country during his monthly radio address to share photos with the tag #SelfieWithDaughter — an attempt to recognize and celebrate the girl child as part of his Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (Save the Daughter, Educate the Daughter) campaign. Thousands of people across India (and several from various corners of the globe) flooded social media Sunday with selfies taken with their daughters in response to a call from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
As I walked across the tiny village, through the dozen odd pathways intersecting each other, I pondered over my day’s interaction with Manjit and the initiated selfie campaign. The sound of beating” dhols” catches my ears. It was coming from the courtyard of a sprawling home. The doors were open to guests. I peeked inside to notice a young mother holding her new born baby. There was merry and mirth in the air.
Something caught my eye though…. The baby was wrapped in pink. My heart felt light in an instant. No wrong guesses here. I knew the gender of the baby.
The efforts of people like Manjit had begun to show positive results!!!!