10/11/2018, 18.15
INDIA
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For Christians and activists, all children have the same value, even in India

Today is International Day of the Girl Child.  Male-to-female ratio is 1,000 to 918 in India. Associations target education as the way to make girls and women independent and able to support their families. Love, charity and development projects can turn lives around.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Thousands of unwanted girls in India have had a second chance in life thanks to Christian and international associations that care for them and fight against infanticide and selective abortion.

One of those of girls is Jyothi, who was welcomed by a leper colony in Nalgonda (Telangana) established by PIME missionaries, and today is a famous television presenter. Another one is Lalita, who struggled to give birth to a third daughter just to see her die of malnutrition. Then there are Latha, Deepa and Jamila, daughters of a young mother who took her own life because she could not bear the burden of giving birth to three little girls, who now live with their grandmother.

For PIME regional superior Fr Rayarala Vijay Kumar, every child has “equal value, even in India. They are not a financial loss to families,” he told AsiaNews.

Today is International Day of the Girl Child. In India the traditional notion of girls as a burden on society is still prevalent among poor families.

"When a baby girl is born, people worry,” Fr Kumar said. “Parents pay for their education and their dowry to the family of the future husband. And in the end, the girls don’t even put to good use the education they received because they don’t do paid work after marriage.”

In recent years, the country has produced 21 million "unwanted" girls as families try to have boys. About 63 million were never born because of selective abortions. Although banned, the practice still takes place. As a result, according to the 2011 census, the male-to-female ratio was 1,000 to 918.

To counter gender discrimination, PIME has set up a programme of distance adoptions in India. Centred in Andhra Pradesh, it sponsors the education of about 7,000, both boys and girls, via 13 projects.

"The goal,” according to Fr Kumar, “is to have them study, providing them with an education up to Grade 10. This way they can start to work and become financially independent. As adults, they will be able to support their family.”

Invisible Girl Project is another association that helps unwanted girls and mothers abandoned by their husbands. The NGO was established in North Carolina in 2009 and co-operates with six Indian partners.

President Jill McElya reports that in 2018 "social workers saved 132 vulnerable girls at risk of death or trafficking”.

In all, the organisation helped 823 girls through various development projects. One of these is the "Donate a cow" fundraiser.

"Although cows are sacred in India, they can be milked and the milk sold,” she said. “The animal can cost up to US$ 1,000: we donate it to families, so that they can use the proceeds from the sale of milk to pay for the school.”

One of the families that received financial this way is that of Latha, Deepa and Jamila (not their real names). "Theirs is a harrowing story," said McElya.

“Their mother Prena was forced to have children in order to get the much-desired male. After the birth of a third daughter, she came under extreme pressure; in despair, she set herself on fire. Her daughters now live with their grandmother Padma, who can support them thanks to the cow donated by the NGO.”

A third development project is "#VanishingGirls", by a Christian NGO, Alliance Defending Freedom India (ADF India). Since its started two years ago, it has helped 15,000 people.

The association promotes reconciliation in families to prevent husbands from abandoning their wives. For project coordinator, Anushree Bernard, all children are precious. We must eliminate foeticide through education.

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