In 2011, an Indian census revealed something startling: Across the country, there were 7 million more boys than girls under the age of six. The reason? In all likelihood, rampant sex-selective abortion. Many Indian parents prefer to have a boy, thanks in part to the hefty dowries traditionally required to marry a daughter off. Males are seen as an asset to the family; females as a burden.
But what if baby girls were celebrated, and communities used them as an occasion to take actions that improve the quality of life for all? That’s the premise behind an innovative strategy the eco-village of Piplantri in Rajasthan, India is using to encourage parents to keep baby girls. To ensure her financial stability, the village and parents sets up an interest-accruing trust that cannot be opened before a girl’s 20th birthday. And when she’s born, 111 trees are planted in her honor.
The tradition began over a decade ago, and today, Piplantri has planted over a million trees as a result—rosewood, guava, fig trees, and more. Villagers say they’re improving air quality and helping restore proper rainfall in a region that’s been ecologically damaged by one of the world’s largest marble mining operations. They’re also supporting a small aloe economy, according to reporting by the The Hindu in 2013. (Per The Hindu, villagers first planted aloevera to help keep termites away from the trees, before realizing it could be processed and sold. Win-win!)
Most importantly, the entire tradition is helping to de-stigmatize female births.
“Before the belief used to be that if you had a daughter, you wouldn’t be happy,” Nanubai Paliwal, a mother of three who lives in the village, told Earther in Hindi. “Now there’s no difference between our sons and daughters.”
That’s something I think we can all celebrate.