The Indian Village Celebrating The Girl Child With Eco-Feminism Project

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If you’ve ever seen the documentary ‘It’s a Girl’ you will be familiar with the phrase “girl child”. In countries like India and China whose populations are in the billions, and who are still largely dominated with patriarchal mindsets, being a girl is not necessarily an empowering thing.

In India, China and many other parts of the world today, girls are killed, aborted (sometimes forcibly) and abandoned simply because they are girls. The United Nations estimates as many as 200 million girls are missing in the world today because of this so-called “gendercide”.

Girls who survive infancy are often subject to neglect, and many grow up to face extreme violence and even death at the hands of their own husbands or other family members.

With the increasing amounts of news reports about women being raped, murdered and sexually assaulted in India, we get the message that girls are less valued than men in society. Sure, many things are changing thanks to progressive mindsets, empowering programs and initiatives to change attitudes and laws, but to make everyone in the world understand that women are equal and valued human beings isn’t going to be easy.

There are many creative initiatives and programs working to change perspectives in ways that politics and even the media cannot. Take for example the village of Piplantri in the state of Rajasthan, which has a population of approximately 8000 residents. They are blending feminism and environmentalism into a unique project being branded as “eco-feminism” by the media.

piplantri-eco-feminism-project

Every time a girl child is born, instead of playing into the typical attitude of looking at her as worthless as some do, they celebrate her birth by planting 111 trees. Over the past 6 years the village has planted over a quarter of a million trees. It sounds like trees and babies are unrelated, but they are not.

According to various articles, overpopulation is one of the biggest problems affecting the environment today. And in countries like India, and China which has a one-child policy unless the first child is a girl, the effort of the men and women planting trees to support their surrounding environment as their population increases is a rather bold statement to make. Instead of killing one life, why not plant many more in support and celebration of the girl who just entered the world?

On an average 60 girls are born here every year, according to the village’s former leader Shyam Sundar Paliwal, who was instrumental in starting this initiative in the memory of his daughter Kiran, who died a few years ago, reports The Hindu.

It’s not just about planting trees, this village has created an eco-system of teaching its members the value of a girl child. There is a village committee comprised of the school principal, local council members and local shelter organizations who work together to identify families who have female children and are unhappy about it.

They are unhappy because girls are seen as a financial burden, and it is easier to marry them off or just not have them in the first place. So the committee collects Rs. 21,000 (roughly $336 USD) from the village residents and Rs.10,000 ($160 USD) from the girl’s father and this sum of Rs. 31,000 is made into a fixed deposit for the girl, with a maturity period of 20 years.

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They band together to show the possibly compromised girl and her parents that this girl is worth saving and is valuable to the community. Wow! Imagine if every town in every city around the world where girls are considered less than equal implemented an initiative like this!

But wait, there’s more…

“We make these parents sign an affidavit promising that they would not marry her off before the legal age, send her to school regularly and take care of the trees planted in her name,” said former leader Mr. Paliwal.

Oh and the genius continues. To ensure the trees don’t get infested with termites, the residents have planted over 2.5 million aloevera plants around them (a natural termite repellant) and these have become a source of livelihood for women in the village. Although this works well for the people in their village. If you find that you have termites in your home, then getting an aloevera plant might not help you out very much. So instead, what you can do is call up someone like Termite Control Kansas City to help get rid of the problem. Now the people in the village obviously can’t do this, which is why to ensure that the trees don’t get infested they first use the aloevera plant to help the trees not get infested.

“Gradually, we realized that aloevera could be processed and marketed in a variety of ways. So we invited some experts and asked them to train our women. Now residents make and market aloevera products like juice, gel, pickle etc,” said. Mr. Paliwal.

With the village thriving in ways that are not commonly seen in the state of Rajasthan thanks to this wonderful eco-feminism initiative as well as the ban of alcohol and the cutting of trees, The Hindu reports Piplantri has hardly seen any crime over the past 7 or 8 years. Perhaps filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan should’ve based his 2004 utopian film ‘The Village’ on Piplantri.

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While they have made plenty of progress and are impressing people all over the world, Mr. Paliwal says they still have a long way to go when compared to other states.

“Rajasthan is quite backward in terms of village development compared to villages in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra etc. So we need to work hard towards creating more and more empowered villages,” he said.

The Huffington Post reports another village, Bhawrak in the Mirzapur District of Uttar Pradesh, is also tackling gender bias, counseling parents to keep their daughters in school and out of early marriage.

“The adolescent and girl child are being seen as a community that can be disposed of,” Unicef India head Georges Arsenault told India Today in December. “It’s a mindset that needs to be challenged and one way to address this is to raise our voice for change in social norms.”

This is the kind of news story that deserves to be shared over and over again in the hope that it goes viral and prompts other people around the world to think about how they can make a lasting change not only on their environment, but also in their community.

We are so encouraged to hear positive empowering news from a country where the dominant narrative has been negative and disempowering toward women. You can see more of what the eco-feminism pioneers of Piplantri are doing by going to Piplantri.com.

piplantri-eco-feminism-project

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Forget Marvel & DC, This Comic Book About India's Rape Problem Is Elevating Social Conscience

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