India faces serious crises of having an all time low Child Sex Ratio (CSR) 0-6 Years) since 1961. As per the census data 2011, CSR has further dropped to 914 as against 927 girls per 1000 boys recoded in 2001 census. Gujarat state is among the states having lowest sex ratio. The CSR is 886 as per 2011 census. Sixteen out of 26 districts in Gujarat have CSR below 900, the lowest being Surat (836). The districts with low sex ratio is Mehsana (845), Gandhinagar (847), and Ahmedabad (859). The data suggest that saving the Girl Child issue needs to be addressed as a State emergency in Gujarat.
Ahmedabad City, a hub for vibrant industrial, educational activities presents a dismal scenario in caring its daughters. The Child Sex Ratio of Ahmedabad city is 825 girls per 1000 boys!! Some of the wards, especially having CSR below 825 need special attention looking at the frightening social implications of missing girls. Looking into the prevalent emergent issue of declining sex ratio in the state of Gujarat and other Northern West region of our country, CHETNA with support of National Mission for Empowerment of Women (NMEW) under Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India has initiated a Project namely, When will the sun rise for daughters in India?? Enabling individual and community action towards “Preventing Sex selection” in Ahmedabad City, in Gujarat state.
The project aims to create an enabling environment for public dialogue and convergent action for reducing gender biased sex selection in Ahmedabad city, Gujarat state; through mobilising support from elected representatives (Member of Parliament (MP), Members of Legislative Assembly (MLA), Municipal Counsellors) in Ahmedabad to facilitate community mobilisation on the issue of gender biased sex selection and socio-economic and cultural notions affecting the practice.
Elected leaders, the peoples’ representative can play a positive role in mobilising communities on various issues. In view of this fact MPs and MLAs are being sensitised and oriented to the issue of gender biased sex selection and declining sex ratio so that the momentum created by the Beti Bachao, Beti Vadaho Abhiyan (Save the Girl Child, Welcome the Girl Child Campaign) of the Government of Gujarat is continued to achieve positive results towards gender just society.
CHETNA through this project strives to sustained interaction and dialogue with MLAs, MPs and Municipal Counsellors, especially the Counsellors of the wards having child sex ratio below 850 on the issue of gender discrimination and its impact on lives of girls and women, with special focus on gender biased sex selection. It is envisaged that these representatives will then facilitate/organise community awareness; through integrating the issue in their work, speeches and motivate the youth, women and other community members, such as the Jati Panch etc. in their constituencies to discuss and take positive action towards curbing the gender biased sex selection, thus eventually improving the sex ratio and status of girls and women in the society. Our major objective is also to sensitise, mobilize and enable community, especially youth (NSS Volunteers and Neharu Yuvak Kendra Sangathan) to take action against sex selection. CHETNA also interacts with media to provide due coverage to the issue and portray positive image of girls and women.
CHETNA has developed information sheets and sensitisation, information, education and communication material which will be useful for the elected members in designing their interaction and education with community and public discourses. We also plan to document case stories of positive action.
A Garba book on Girls- Dikari na Ovarana (Our daughters, Our Pride-Blessing daughters, respecting women, let us celebrate the festival of worshiping goddess Durga for her strengths and victory over evil forces in the society)
In Gujarat state the festival of Navaratri (Nine nights) is celebrated to worship Goddesses- the symbol of strength- the Victory over evil forces. CHETNA took this opportunity to create awareness and inspire people to value the Girl Child. Folk songs are the cultural representation of people’s values and so we have selected the folk songs (known as Garbas) and woven the issues concerning girl child by changing the lyrics in the popular folk songs. Ms. Minakshi Patel, Mayor, Ahmedabad has forwarded the booklet titled “Dikari na Ovarana”, which means welcome the girl child with hearty blessings. These garbas can be sung with dance during festivals, cultural programmes; both at training programmes/workshops as well as family and community functions like weddings and festivals. Dikari na garbas have been recorded and the CD along with the booklet is being disseminated widely among political leaders, NGOs and community. Please visit the link to see the booklet.
Harnessing the Youth Power
Realising the potential of youth in addressing the social issues, on September 12, 2014 CHETNA, in collaboration with the Women Development Cell (WDC) and National Service Scheme (NSS) organized two youth seminars at C. U. Shah Commerce College and C.U. Shah Science College, Ashram Road, Ahmedabad. The aim was to create an awareness and sensitivity about the declining sex ratio in the Ahmedabad City and socio-cultural reasons behind gender biased sex selection. Total number of students (Including NSS volunteers) who actively participated in this awareness programme was 150 students from Commerce discipline and 144 students from science discipline. Also 12 faculty members including NSS Coordinator from the college actively participated in the programme. Please visit the link to see the report.
Interacting with community
CHETNA organized a public awareness programme on October 8, 2014 i.e. on “Sharad Poonam” day at Himalaya Mall, Drive In Road, Ahmedabad from 4:00-7.00 pm. The main objective of the event was to reach out to general public and sensitize them about the issue of Gender Discrimination and Impact of gender biased sex selection and as a result Missing Girls in the Society under “Valuing The Girl Child Campaign”. The event was inaugurated by Ms. Kusumben Joshi; Chairperson (Recreational Committee-Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation), Dr. Amar Vyas; Founder-The Young Citizen of India Charitable Trust and Ms. Minaxi Shukla- Additional Director-CHETNA.
CHETNA team initiated the event with the music and lyrics of garba’s (Welcoming songs for the Girl child which is beautifully weaved in the famous folk songs) especially written to “bless and welcome the Girl child”. Through games such as musical chair on the same garba tunes to sensitise the public on the issue of “‘gender discrimination”; sex determination and that girls have equal right to avail quality food, education and development opportunities like a male child in the families. People who were present there related their personal lives with the serious prevalent issue and shared that they will stop gender discrimination inside and outside their homes. We also took the signatures of the participants and gathered public on the three written statements on a chart paper to fight with this issue. The statements were as follows:
At the end of the day when CHETNA team had a look at all the three charts we found that 60% of the participants committed that “I/We will stop the practice of gender biased sex selection. It is possible form me/us” whereas 40% committed that “I/We will try to stop the practice of gender-biased sex selection”. There was no signature on the chart saying “It is not possible for me/us”.
About 500 people; individuals and families directly participated and expressed keen interest, sought information and data to know about this issue. Many came forward offering their help and expertise in supporting the cause. The programme concluded with people curiously joining in taking an oath to contribute towards creating conducive environment where daughters are welcomed and valued.
We hope our endeavors will increase more and more public awareness in time to come and we urge media to take urgent actions to make our city safe for the girl child to survive. Please visit the link to see the report.
Pro-active support from Media
Media (Print and Electronic) has crucial role to play to generate awareness and sensitivity among the key stakeholders on issues concerning girls and women. They could reach out to masses through key messages and case stories in newspapers, (In English and local language both) Television shows, radio programmes, megazines and through other possible outlets.
We are thankful to media for their active participation and due coverage of events/activities through press releases in various local newspapers about the campaign related activities undertaken by CHETNA in Ahmedabad city.
One way in which our partners and other key stakeholders can help to support this effort is by working with the local media to help and inform the general public about the heniuos practice of sex determination and could raise concern on declining sex ratio in Gujarat and in country as a whole.