There was much excitement among the Himalayan Haat ladies during the last few weeks. A close relative of two of our ladies was going to have a baby. She already has a daughter, so “obviously” it was going to be a boy. The little child was expecting a little “bhulla” and not a “bhulli” as everyone confidently proclaimed the arrival of a boy – based on the shape of the pregnant women’s tummy, the way she waddled, her cravings.
And then she went into labour. When we called to ask if everything was ok with the mom and baby, the dry voice of her brother-in-law said, ‘Ladki hui.’ So typical.
I find it so ironical and SO sad when women are unhappy about baby girls being born. Soon after my daughter Zarah was born, village ladies poured in to meet her. 70% of our visitors said, “now all she needs is a little “bhulla” to play with.” I had barely recovered from the delivery and another baby was the last thing on my mind – but I noticed how they all specified my future baby’s gender.
In fact, the trend and expected thing here is to keep having kids (if they’re girls) until they get a boy. Large families – 5, 6 or 4 girls followed by a boy is the norm. It’s certainly not easy for the parents to provide for such large families but social pressure dictates otherwise.
Gender biases are not only a rural phenomenon. I’ve known of well- educated urban families who have been disappointed with the arrival of a girl child. What can you and I do change these ancient mindsets? Let’s educate, empower, encourage girls and women around us. Let’s remind them and each other that girls can do ANYTHING boys can. We can top our class, get good jobs, be entrepreneurs, run our homes, look after our parents. We can’t expect a change overnight but we can hope for small steps in that direction.