Sunil Jaglan – Selfie drive to save daughters

individualEarly last month, he floated a campaign by posting a selfie with his daughter. Jaglan from Haryana state had organised a Beti Bachao, Selfie Banao contest inviting men of the village to send selfies clicked with their daughters. The contest, now christened ‘Selfie With Daughter’, was a resounding success. The 33-year-old received thousands of selfies, not only from his village, but also from all over the country. His name was mentioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Mann Ki Baat speech on radio. Appreciating and endorsing Jaglan’s idea, Modi implored more people to post selfies to boost the pride of girls.

This was Jaglan’s 101st campaign. He has launched 100 schemes on women’s empowerment since he became a sarpanch (village head) in 2010. All his schemes have focused on creating awareness about women’s rights and many have his trademark creative twist.

What made you think of the ‘Selfie With Daughter’ campaign?

Ever since I became a sarpanch, every year on my birthday I initiate a campaign for women’s emancipation. But it’s a matter of chance that this one took the nation by storm. The thought behind it is to focus on saving the girl child. The message is important, but how to deliver it to reach the masses was equally vital. Since taking selfies is a craze among people, I thought of merging it with the idea. But I really had no clue it would go viral on social media in no time. We took out a lucky draw and the three chosen selfies were given a cash prize of Rs.2,100 (US$33), a trophy and a certificate each.

You seem to be fond of your two daughters. But how was the reaction of your family and the villagers when they were born?

My elder daughter, now aged three and the younger two-years-old were welcomed in the world with grand celebrations — at least as far as my family is concerned. My father, a government schoolteacher, never discriminated against my three sisters and we were all given good education. Brought up in the city, I was not very familiar with discrimination against the girl child. But when my elder daughter was born, I was surprised to see the hospital staff refusing the sweets being distributed by us. I was shocked when they wanted to know why I was celebrating the birth of a girl child. Again, as per the custom, when we celebrated her birth in the village after a week, the villagers thought that a baby boy was born. I decided then that something had to be done to change the mindsets.

Do you feel your campaign is working?

It definitely is. Bringing awareness is a gradual process. There is no potion in the world to change people’s mind. It happens with the time and with proper awareness campaigns.

What other campaigns have you launched before?

There have been several, including Dadi chahegi to poti aayegi (If the grandmother wishes, a grand daughter will come home). When I took over as sarpanch in 2010, the village had one of the worst sex ratios in the country. In fact, Haryana is among the bottom five states in terms of sex ratio and 12 of the total 21 districts in Haryana are among the worst 100 in the country. Our efforts have got good results in Bibipur. While in 2012, the ratio was 37 girls and 59 boys; in 2013 it was 51 girls and 45 boys. In 2014 it became 46 each, whereas this year it is 21 girls and 15 boys. Also, in 2012, our village held the first women-driven panchayat (council), wherein five states participated and a resolution was passed that those found indulging in female foeticide would be charged with murder.

So, how did you convince the village women about their rights?

One has to think of targeting people by making them see the positive aspects of any given situation. I would download movies on gender empowerment and play them for the village audience through a projector. The movies showed the life in modern societies, how aborting the girl child was akin to murder and how women themselves could make a difference to their lives. Next, we chose more women representatives in the village panchayat. This helped women to come forward and discuss their problems. That’s how we began educating women and sensitising them to the evils of female foeticide and other such issues.

In what way have you made a difference to the village?

It’s a mere coincidence that the village is called Bibipur (Women’s World). The fact that our small, but prosperous village has public spaces like Naari shakti sthal (Women’s power place), a road called Laado Marg and a lake known as Laado Sarovar dedicated to girls, as Laado is the affectionate term used in Haryana and Punjab for a little girl, it bears testimony to our efforts. The most important aspect that has come to the fore is that women know they can count on me to sort out any personal problem.

Can you relate any particular instance?

I remember, the Class 12 board examinations had just ended, when a girl from our village approached me. Her parents were persuading her to get married, but she said she wanted to study. She wanted me to interfere, but without her parents knowing of it. I went to their house and in a twisted way broached the subject. It took some time to first cajole them and then arm-twisting them to call off the wedding plans. At the end of it, they happily agreed to get the college forms for her. In another instance, an elderly woman came and told me that her daughter-in-law was contemplating sex-determination test. She had two daughters and was expecting her third child. We counselled her and after that she went in for a sterilisation surgery.

What’s your next slogan?

The village has unveiled a new campaign. Representatives of the village panchayat will visit households and put up boards bearing the name and email address of the daughter of the house along with the tagline, ‘Digital India with Laado’, replacing the names of the head of the family.