After last week’s post about female infanticide and foeticide in India I received some information via email (Marcus.roberts@mercatornet.com) about The Rhema Project. This NGO is on the ground in India and is seeking to change attitudes towards the Indian girl child.  In its own words:

“The mission of The Rhema Project is to eliminate female infanticide, sex determination feticide and other discriminations against the girl child in India by supporting and networking with organizations and indigenous groups. We strive to add value to female lives in India through the short-term rescue of unborn, newborn and the Indian girl child as well as long-term initiatives that include education, health and wellness, trade and micro-finance to help Indian women become truly valued by their culture.”

I suggest heading over to the website and having a look at the amazing work that The Rhema Project is doing. But for a brief taste, here is a project that The Rhema Project is currently involved in (as described by its director, Dan Blacketor):

“Our organization has been working in Tamil Nadu.  Two years ago we launched a very simple program that we refer to as our “Prenatal and Newborn Care” initiative.  Simply, the program identifies communities with a high rate of gendercide and;

1.  Begins to provide all pregnant woman a daily milk (1/2 liter) allotment.  Our indigenous staff simply begins to build relationships with the families.
2.  Each week the women receive vitamin supplements to help improve the health of mother and fetus.
3.  Once a month the group of women are taken to a clinic or hospital for an exam (not a ultrasound).  While returning to the village we take the women out to lunch at an Indian restaurant.  This demonstrates value to the pregnant woman as well as helps build community among the women.
4.  Once the baby is born we celebrate the birth of a girl with small gifts and a blessing.  We do not do this for boy babies since the family and community already celebrate his birth and life.
5.  Families with girl babies are allowed to continue to participate in the daily milk (1 liter) and vitamin allotment for an additional six months.
6.  We celebrate the girl babies first birth with a small gift to the baby and family.

Most times we precede this program with a community project that will benefit all.  Many times this is the drilling of a bore-well.  All have access.

What we have experienced is a reduction of mortality rates of girl babies by over 90% within 12 to 18 months after the program has been started.  Amazingly, nearly 80% of the birth families decide to keep their girl baby and raise her.  For those families unwilling or unable to care for a girl baby we simply identify a family that are willing to care for her and provide them a small monthly stipend to cover the additional costs of raising another child.

In several villages, the women of the village have actually taken over the responsibilities of this program and we have seen midwifes move from executioner to advocate for the girl babies born in the community.”

While we can pontificate all we like about the problems of the world (and I must admit I like it more than I should) people like those involved in The Rhema Project are the ones actually changing things. They are the ones who save lives, change attitudes and make this world a better place. They need and deserve our support. We should give it to them. May their project be a fruitful and successful one. As we (sometimes) say in New Zealand, “kia kaha!”

Marcus Roberts was two years out of law school when he decided that practising law was no longer for him. He therefore went back to university and did his LLM while tutoring. He now teaches contract and...