Loved the story in the SMH this morning about the 200 plus girls in Mumbai, India, whose names mean “unwanted” and who have chosen new names for a fresh start in life.
An official renaming ceremony was held in which girls with names like Nakusa or Nakushi (unwanted in Hindi) changed their names to things like Ashmita, meaning “very tough” or Savitri, a Hindu goddess.
The girls were originally named by family members like their grandfathers or parents who were disappointed at having a girl. The enormous expense of marrying off girls (which involves a dowry, often quite sizeable) means that culturally giving birth to a boy is a much better option. This has resulted in a high ratio of abortion of female foetuses and poor treatment of daughters in many cases, including higher death rates.
The girls who were renamed in Mumbai now have a new sense of identity and self-worth. Education is the key to preventing such discrimination. When I visited India last year with Room to Read (www.roomtoread.org) and saw the wonderful work being done there to educate girls – and boys – about gender equality, it gave me hope that the world can one day truly become a place where all people are given an equal chance to realise their potential.
Hopefully the renaming of the girls in Mumbai will be another step in breaking the cycle of poverty and discrimination still experienced by women in so many parts of the world.