In a country where the birth of a boy child is celebrated and that of a girl child is looked down upon, a tiny village of Dharhara in Bhagalpur district of Bihar is planting ten mango trees whenever a girl child is born.
Parents sell the fruits of these trees every year and the profits earned are used to fund girl’s marriage and education expenses. They are like their fixed deposits.
“One medium-sized orchard of mango trees is valued at around Rs 2 lakh every season,” says Shyam Sunder Singh, a villager who married off his three daughters by selling fruits of trees that he had planted at the time of their birth.
The dowry practice is widespread in Bihar. There is a price tag to a bridegroom depending on his profession, caste and social status. This is also the reason why Bihar, along with Uttar Pradesh, continues to report highest dowry deaths in India.
However, girls born in Dharhara are fortunate. Because of the tree-planting tradition, people in Dharhara stopped considering girl child as a burden. In fact, over a period of time, their attitudes have changed and they now love their girl children.
An Aljazeera news story reports that while women in other places face “life-long discrimination, marital abuse and sexual harassment”, girls in this village do not witness these evils.
Sekhar Kumar, the Superintendent of Police in Naugachia block under which the village falls, says that he has not come across any incident of violence against women in the village during his tenure.
The outcome of this tradition is best found if we compare the sex ratios. The district Bhagalpur, under which the village comes, has a sex ratio of 879 per 1000 males, while the sex ratio in Dharhara stands at 957.
In 2010, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar declared Dharhara as a model village and praised the village’s unique way of addressing two problems – genders sensitization and environment conservation – at one go.
Today almost a third of the 1200-acre area of Dharhara village is covered by trees, mostly of mango and litchi. The villagers have lost the count. But as more and more trees come up, the villagers are at peace that future of their daughters is only getting more secure.