Can you guess why the Prime Minister of India urged his people to share selfies earlier this month? It might seem strange, but the #selfiewithdaughter trend is part of the nation’s efforts to celebrate daughters in a country where they’re often valued less than sons – so much so that many girls are neglected or even aborted because of their sex. Here’s how ActionAid are celebrating girls in India.
The #selfiewithdaughter trend backed by PM Narendra Modi invited parents to be proud of their daughters, to celebrate them in a country that is much more used to celebrating its sons. It was amazing to see so many take it up, because the bias against daughters has very real consequences.
In 2011, for every 1,000 boys recorded born in India, there were only 919 girls. Nationally, there are 60 million women missing from India’s population. That's nearly the entire population of the UK.
One of the major causes of this is sex-selective abortion. It’s illegal in India, but conviction rates are very low at about 2%. So when the law isn’t enough, how do you solve a problem that is costing the lives of thousands of women every day?
Celebrating India’s daughters
"Yes, we had a baby girl and I must be the happiest person on this planet today."
Nandini, a young mother in her twenties, was speaking from a ‘Beti Utsav’ ('celebration of daughters') festival in Dwarka, New Delhi. Around her, people were dancing, singing songs and giving out sweets in celebration of her baby girl and others born in the neighbourhood.
When a family has a son in India, these huge celebrations are normal. As part of their work to stop sex-selective abortion, ActionAid India want to make it normal to celebrate daughters, too.
And it’s working. We talked to Padma* from our partner organisation Action India. She told us about a woman who’d taken her daughter-in-law to do a sex-selection test with the aim of aborting the baby if it was a girl, but changed her mind after talking to Action India:
"She dissuaded her daughter-in-law and son from going ahead with the abortion. She fought with them, explained with love and said that she will not allow sex-selective abortion as long as she lives."
You can stand with them
Countries all over the world have national plans to end violence against women – but with one in three women facing violence in their lifetimes, we need to do more.
The UN are due to agree a target on ending violence against women this September – this is a big chance for governments to put real effort into the struggle against violence, and we’re campaigning to make sure they don’t waste it.
Just like the women leading the Beti Utsav celebrations, fearless women all over the world have been standing up against violence for decades. We’re standing with them – and we hope you will too.
*Padma is an alias, as we cannot use her real name for security reasons