In many parts of the world, the birth of a baby girl is considered a burden to the family, but one former village leader, Shyam Sundar Paliwal has transformed the birth of a baby girl into a celebration. After the loss of his daughter, he wanted to do something in her memory to improve his village.
There were three changes he wanted to make. The village, Piplantri in Rajasthan India, was suffering from devasting deforestation, caused by marble mining companies, which led to lack of water. The girls in the village were often considered a burden to the family due to the dowry that is traditionally given to the groom’s family upon married. Also, many of the girls were being married as young as 15, denying them the opportunity to an education.
Paliwal’s platform would be defined by three words, water, daughters and trees.
In 2006, after meeting with his council members and gaining communal support, Paliwal launched his initiative.
To celebrate the birth of every baby girl, 111 trees would be planted in her honour. The family would be responsible for caring for the trees and then they would given to the girl when she grew up. Every baby girl would be given a “20-year trust” fund, two-thirds raised collectively by the villagers and one-third by the family. The family would be required to sign an affidavit and take a pledge to agree to eliminate infanticide, to provide their daughter with an education and to not arrange a marriage for their daughter until after the legal age of 18.
To date more than 300,000 trees have been planted, which has transformed their village into a lush, green, oasis and has increased the water level to sustainability. Another opportunity presented itself as aloe vera plants were planted to combat termites. The village has now planted 3 million aloe vera plants and the aloe-based products are now a source of income to the families.
With a guaranteed trust fund, which matures over the 20 years, families are no longer burdened with the expense of a dowry. With the requirement to eliminate illegal marriage arrangements, girls are receiving an education and now new schools have been built for the increased number of students. The trust fund is presented to the girls at the age of 20 and many plan to use it for post-secondary education.
Piplantri is truly a success story and Paliwal’s initiative has become a model for several other villages in Rajasthan and beyond. While no longer the village leader, Paliwal has become a sought-after public speaker and now travels the country implementing his initiative and improving the lives of girls and women in other rural villages.
Piplantri is one of many cultural immersive stops and a memorable highlight on our Wonders of Northern India tours. We look forward to returning in a post-COVID safe environment.