Beating the drum for girls’ equality

Photo: Tania Cass/OxfamAUS

In the north west of India, on the border with Pakistan, lies the mostly desert region of Rajasthan – the largest single region in India. This is an area where traditions run deep and that can have a devastating effect on the local women and girls. But the drumbeat of change is growing louder thanks to a pioneering project being run with our partner agency Vikalp Sansthan.

Discrimination of girls begins even before they’re born — with women strongly encouraged to take sex determination tests and pressured to terminate their pregnancies if the baby is a girl. The statistics paint a gruesome picture with only 883 women for every 1,000 men in the region — and the gender ratio has been getting worse.

Education is key

Poverty and powerful cultural traditions are key factors contributing to the problem. The education of girls is given a lower priority with girls staying home to do household chores until they are married, often as children, further reducing their chances of escaping poverty.

In order to change these long-held traditions and give Rajasthani women and girls greater opportunities and equality, our partner agency Vikalp Sansthan has begun an innovative program. They are challenging the traditions of old by encouraging families to end the practice of child marriages, to educate both girls and boys equally, and to celebrate the birth of girls.

Now, more and more girls are continuing their studies and the boys are learning to have greater respect of women and girls and to stand up against child marriage. This is helping to ensure that the whole community is supportive of the changes.

As a powerful symbol of change, more and more families are now beating the thali plates, traditionally reserved for the birth of a boy, for their daughter’s birth too. Recently at an event organised by Vikalp Sansthan, the birth of 15 girls was celebrated in the village of Nosara. The thali plates were beaten loudly and children were given birthday cards, dolls and sweets.

Thanks to your continued support and the hard work of our partner agency Vikalp Sansthan, the drumbeat of equality is becoming louder and louder across Rajasthan.

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