In a country where the privileged social status of boys is compelling, it is nice to know that some small villages are bucking the patriarchal tradition. In north east India, in the state of Rajahstan, female infanticide is a tradition. However, a community of 8000 inhabitants, the village of Piplantri, celebrates the birth of each girl child by planting 111 new trees as a sign of respect – an ecological act that promotes the worth of womanhood.
This tradition began when Kiran, the daughter of a former village chief, died at a young age. Deeply affected by her death, the father promised that henceforth the life of each young girl would be honored in the village. Since then 250,000 trees have been planted to celebrate the birth of each girl.
And the village has not stopped there: each time a girl is born, the citizens contribute some money to open a bank account which she will be able to access when she turns 20. By themselves, the citizens of Piplantri have thus pooled 21,000 rupees and collected an additional 10,000 from parents of the babies for a total of 31,000 rupees, or $463.
In addition, parents sign a legal document which guarantees that the girl will receive a good education, will not be married before the legal age of 18, and that they will take care of the trees planted in her honor. Villagers plant the trees as well as Aloe Vera plants which protect the trees against termites. As the Aloe Vera plants multiplied, people realized that they could provide a source of revenue for the village, which would allow them to put money aside for future births and provide growth for the community.
Explains Shyam Sundar Paliwal, former village chief: “Little by little we realized that Aloe could be treated and commercialized in various ways. We invited experts to come and train our women and now our community produces and sells Aloe products such as juice, jells, vinegar, and we even started a line of medicinal products. A win-win for the environment, women’s empowerment, and the economy.
In a country which tends to restrict women’s rights, this is a breath of fresh air and a pioneering accomplishment both for the village and for the planet.