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World population day in July provided a chance to reflect on the birth of the 7 billionth child - expected to be born on October 31, later this year. The state of Uttar Pradesh has been determined as the most likely place of birth for ‘Baby 7 Billion’, as it is the state with the highest birth-rate in India - the world's most rapidly growing nation.
Child rights organisation Plan will mark the occasion by celebrating the birth of a girl in Uttar Pradesh as world’s 7 billionth baby to highlight the issue of female foeticide in India. According to nation’s 2011 Census, there are now 7 million more boys than girls aged 0 to 6 years and the gap is growing. The ratio of girls to boys has dropped to an all time low since records began. Today, the national figure has fallen to an alarming 914 girls for every 1,000 boys. In some states like Punjab that ratio is as low as 846 girls to 1,000 boys.
Despite the Indian Government having enacted the law against using ultrasound technology for sex-selective abortions, continued practice is believed to be resulting in hundreds of thousands of female foetuses being terminated every year.
‘Because I am a Girl’ campaign, Plan’s global initiative to promote girls rights and empowerment, has recently been highlighting the disturbing and wide scale practice of female foeticide in India. Further, Plan India has launched ‘Let Girls Be Born’ campaign across six states to galvanise action to address the issue of female foeticide.
Despite its huge economic progress, conditions for girls in India still remain very challenging. Uttar Pradesh – India’s most populous state- has the highest infant mortality rate in the country, with almost 1 in 10 children dying before their 5th birthday. The situation is not much better in other states. Girls are at particular risk in the first few years due to preference for sons and gender discrimination. If a girl makes it past her difficult early childhood, she continues to face barriers such as early marriage, gender based violence, lack of access to an education, poor sexual and reproductive health and unfair burden of domestic work.
But we also know it doesn't have to be like this.
Through Plan’s experience in India and elsewhere in the world, we know that with even just a small amount of assistance or investment, girls can transform not only their own lives, but the welfare of their entire communities. In particular enabling girls to access education and gain greater opportunities and life choices has been proven as one of the most effective ways to combat poverty and injustice across the world.
Empowering girls to achieve their full potential and realise their full rights is not just a moral obligation, but the most powerful solution we know of to eliminate poverty and creating a better world for all. Let us work together to ensure that within the lifetime of this, the 7 billionth child, the practice of female foeticide is eradicated, and that girls as well as boys can realise their rights in societies that value their incredible potential. Girls’ rights are human rights.
*Deepali Sood is Director of Plan International’s global campaign ‘Because I am a Girl’. She was born in Hyderabad, India.