Pune: From having a skewed sex ratio to celebrating the birth of girls, Bhalgaon and some of its adjoining villages in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra have gone through a transformational journey to emerge as agents of change.
These 20-odd villages in Gangapur tehsil witnessed their sex ratio improve by 29 per cent in a matter of two years – from 2015 to 2017 – under an initiative rolled out by a voluntary organisation called Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR).
The organisation’s efforts have earned praise from the government authorities, who termed the results as encouraging.
According to the WOTR, when it launched the project in 2015, the average child sex ratio in these villages was 863 girls per 1,000 boys, which improved to 1,113 girls per 1,000 boys in 2017.
Preetilata Gaikwad, lead, Women Empowerment at WOTR, who has been leading the project in five districts of the state, said that in the initial period, changing people’s perspective towards girl child was a big challenge.
“Bhalgaon and other villages in the cluster were chosen as sex determination tests and female foeticide were rampant in this region. When we started our work in 2015, people were reluctant to listen to us on the subject,” she said.
Although the name of the project was initially ‘Save the Girl Child’, it was changed to ‘Chance for Girls’ at the local level, and the organisation started reaching out to newly-weds and their families to underline the importance of a girl child.
“We encouraged the birth of every girl child in the community to be an occasion for celebration. Family photos were clicked along with the newly born baby girl, framed and then given to the family by felicitating them at a public event. This unique celebration turned out to be a source of happiness for many families in the cluster,” she said.
Rani Shaikh, one of the volunteers of the project, said some couples in the villages who underwent vasectomy after giving birth to one or two daughters were felicitated.
Sopan Jadhav, a resident of Hadiyabad, one of the 20 villages chosen for the project, said that local people were initially reluctant to listen to the volunteers.
“Earlier, the girl child ratio was abysmal in our village as people used to go for sex determination tests and abortions. But after the project, a positive change came over and the girl child ratio improved,” he added.
Aurangabad’s district health officer, Dr Sudhakar Shelke, said the results of the initiative were encouraging and created a positive social impact in the villages.
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