In Sikar district, nestled between Jaipur district on one side, and by the state of Haryana on the other, when a baby boy is born, the announcement is made by putting up white curtains on the window. “Red curtains are reserved for girls,” says Om Prakash Bairwa, sarpanch of Lalpura village in nearby Dausa district. “Maybe it is an indication of the troubles they perceive will fall on them with the birth of a girl.”
In nearby villages, sometimes a public announcement greets a boy’s birth. And in some others, houses with a baby boy is marked with a swastika sign on the head. In these rural areas, a girl child is somewhat unwelcome. With a sex-ratio of 888 as per the 2011 census, it is amongst the worst in the country.
“There has been a 21-point decline in the sex ratio since 2001, when it was 909,” informs Rakhee Badhwar, Rajasthan programme manager of the Centre for Advocacy and Research (CAFR). Badhwar has been working as part of a three-year programme in six districts in Rajasthan, along with JRD Tata trust, 180 gram panchayats. For the first time, in the months between March,2014 to April, 2015, 30 gram panchayats have registered the births of 1620 girls, and 1460 boys.
This is unprecedented, given that mothers birthing girls are sometimes thrown away by in-laws. “During my visit to a village hospital, I found a woman lying alone with her child. Her brother-in-law, who was the only one to turn up left after the girl was born. We tried to send her to her husband’s home, but they turned her away. She was somehow accepted by her family,” says Sarla Gupta, former sarpanch of Dausa and longtime anganwadi worker.
In the time since the project started since 2012 involving 180 gram panchayats to reach out to over 21,000, 2721 grassroots workers have worked on various facets of birth rights of these women. They have organised 547 events to raise consciousness of the importance of the girl child and the elements of the MTP and PCPNDT laws, have held 184 balika janmotsav celebrations to mark the birth of baby girls, and passed 540 resolutions. The project has reached out to around 5600 pregnant women.