Having successfully completed the initial Meri Shakti, Meri Beti (“My Strength, My Daughter”) project in Delhi, CSR’s research department initiated a similar project in the two Haryana districts with the lowest sex ratios. This second phase of Meri Shakti, Meri Beti took place from May 2009 to April 2010 in collaboration with and thanks to support from Women Power Connect (WPC).
Despite gains made by women in fields such as politics, business, athletics and entertainment, India has witnessed a rapid depletion in girl children, with the sex ratio of children under the age of 6 declining sharply in the past several decades. As calculated during the 2001 National Census, the states and union territories showing the largest drop in child sex ratio are: Punjab (-82), Haryana (-59), Himachal Pradesh (-54), Chandigarh (-54), Gujarat (-50) and Delhi (-50). Kurukshetra district (Haryana) has 770 girls per 1,000 boys; Ambala district (Haryana) performs only marginally better at 784 girls per 1,000 boys.
Early research indicates that sex ratios vary according to birth order of girl children, with a sharp decline in the sex ratio from the first to the fourth child. While parents may accept a girl child as their first, they subsequently prefer sons – suggesting that couples will continue to have children, and thus larger and larger families, until producing a son. Due to son preference, poverty and a proliferation of manual labour jobs largely unavailable to women, practices of Sex Determination and Sex Selection (female foeticide) have flourished in certain areas of India.
The second phase of Meri Shakti, Meri Beti was implemented in Kurukshetra and Ambala districts of Haryana state, with one urban area and one rural area from each district selected as the intervention area. As a participatory project, Meri Shakti, Meri Beti involved direct input from and cooperation of both the social public (households, female and male community members and NGO participants) and the medical sector (stakeholders such as doctors, nurses and government hospitals).
Scheduled activities included the following:
- Four (4) capacity building training sessions for field motivators, network partners and stakeholders, covering effective implementation of the PC & PNDT Act
- Ten (10) meetings with community watch groups of 30-35 individuals in each rural and urban project area
- Four (4) expert group meetings, highlighting the need to combat the declining sex ratio and measures for effective implementation of the PC & PNDT Act
- Four (4) interface advocacy workshops with community and district expert groups (CDPO, CMO, legal experts) on combating the declining sex ratio and sex determination and sex selection (female foeticide)
- Seventy-two (72) community outreach programs conducted through motivators to generate awareness
- A sex determination and sex selection (female foeticide) public campaign involving youth (two schools, two colleges and one university in each district)
Medical audits in both Ambala and Kurukshetra districts provided additional insight. Field motivators vigilantly monitored pregnancy registration and birth records within the project, while CSR team members periodically sampled similar data to determine possible cases of sex-selective abortions.