“It is also my daughter’s birthday today,” Sunil Jaglan, the father who started the popular Selfie with Daughter campaign, said while speaking to Express Parenting on the occasion of National Girl Child Day. Jaglan left his job as a teacher to become the sarpanch and has dedicated himself to the cause of girl children and women empowerment in the country. His village Bibipur in Haryana is now serving as a model for many other villages to improve the status of their women.
Here are excerpts from the brief tete-a-tete:
What motivated you in your endeavour towards improving the condition of women in your village?
When my daughter was born on January 24, 2012, I handed Rs 2000 to the nurse as a gift, which she refused. All because a girl was born. For the first time, I became aware of the poor sex ratio in my village. That’s what inspired me to start the awareness campaigns for girls. I took the initiative to organise a forum for women for the first time in our village, where they talked about female foeticide and gender discrimination. This was followed by several other efforts to create a model village that focuses on women empowerment, from establishing libraries and schools and conducting seminars for women to putting their nameplates on houses.
The Selfie with Daughter campaign was started in 2015, when I posted a picture of myself with my daughter. The campaign was widely recognised not just by netizens but also Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former President Pranab Mukherjee.
Tell us about how you are raising your daughters Nandini and Yashika.
Four days ago, my daughter Nandini called me to say that it was the birthday of one of her classmates, who did not get a birthday cake. She asked me to get one for her. It’s so satisfying to see that my daughters are picking up the right values from the environment they are growing up in. They are always encouraged to share their feelings and thoughts with us.
She also once asked me why she could not sit with her male classmates in school. Boys and girls in her class are made to sit separately. It’s not always easy to explain to a child why we have such rules. So, I requested the school principal to let students in her class sit together because these rules can only create further discrimination among school children, and then in future.
Nandini is seven years old and she already has a fair understanding of good touch and bad touch. We don’t really need to protect girls. What’s more important is to sensitise them about their rights while making them aware of the reality of society. And no matter what field they find their passion in, they must be encouraged to pursue it. Don’t force them to live your aspirations, help them dream and choose what they want to do.
Girls continue to be raised differently from boys in our society. Your message for parents…
Women have been oppressed since time immemorial and they continue to struggle for their rights. For the past four years, people have been telling me to get my sister Ritu married; she is 32 years old. My sister, who is currently preparing for a government job, does not want to consider marriage as of now. And that’s her decision, which needs to be respected.
To parents, I would like to say that they should let their girls live life on their own terms. They should be given every opportunity to fulfill their desires. Most importantly, they should be educated and given the required exposure.