With less than a month left for the end of a decade and the turn of a new one, patriarchy appears to still be prevalent in many places all over India. In most rural areas, daughters are considered to be a burden to the family and even raised to be ‘lesser’ than their male counterpart in terms of social status.
One man by the name Shyam Sundar Paliwal decided that it was time to put an end to this backdated mindset and foster healthy practice instead. He was the former leader of Piplantri, a small village in Rajasthan.
Paliwal came up with an initiative that has now turned into a tradition where for every girl born in the village, a total of 111 trees have to planted in the common grounds.
The inspiration behind this incredible effort came from the loss of his daughter Kiran while she was still young. It made him realize how a girl’s life is made less valuable just because of her gender and the societal stigma and expectation that comes with it.
It began in 2006, and since then, the birth of every girl is celebrated by nurturing mother nature with more plants. Village residents and parents are required to allocate a sum of Rs31,000 ($500) as a 20-year life fund for every girl child.
In addition to planting the trees and sourcing funds, parents have to sign a legal affidavit that pledges the assurance of education for their daughters and restricts them from being married off before they turn the legal age of 18.
Paliwal shares that each year, 60 girls are birthed in Piplantri. That goes on to tell that around 6000 trees are planted every year to welcome these angels to earth.
Not only does this program benefits daughters, it has also proven to be economically thriving for the small village. The myriad of trees planted all over the village is returning a booming revenue to its residents.
Mangoes, gooseberries and other local varieties are traded in the surrounding villages, which provides the main income for the 8,000 people residing in the village. The aloe vera planted around the trees as natural pesticides are also processed and sold for medicinal purposes.
Paliwal retired and the initiative was continued by the following leader, who had successfully planted 280,000 trees in 8 years. While many see daughters as liabilities, the people in Piplantri regard them as blessings they can sustain a living from.