Vanishing Girls recently organized a two-day ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activists) workers’ sensitization program in Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan. An ASHA is a community health worker instituted by the Government of India. The role of ASHA workers has been instrumental in bringing the Sex Ratio at Birth in Jhunjhunu from 880 girls born per 1,000 boys (2014) to 943 girls per 1,000 boys (2018).
Amongst the 125 ASHA workers participating in this program, Babita stood out instantly to me! It was not just her towering statuesque height, she had a keenness in her eyes and her conversations that caught my attention. Elegantly draped in her blue ASHA sari, Babita actively participated in the program. Most of the ASHA ladies turned terribly shy when the camera zoomed in on them. But, Babita was different! She confidently approached me for a selfie and we got talking. What unfolded from that chat was a story of unceasing courage in the face of relentless challenges.
43-year-old Babita did not have an easy life. She was rejected by her own father from birth because she was born a girl and not a son as he had always prayed for! She was married off at the young age of 14. Through all this, her mother remained her strength. She fought for Babita’s education and made sure she went to primary school at least.
Babita worked as a seamstress initially but her passion to serve the women in her community made her join the ASHA initiative and become an ASHA worker. This initiative also gave her the opportunity to go back to school and clear her 12th standard exams, a lifelong dream of hers!
Babita has been an ASHA for over 13 years. She loves her job as it involves ensuring that pregnant women in her region get the right medical assistance and those little girls are born into this world. At the training, Babita was delighted to learn more about the PCPNDT Act (Prohibition of Sex Selection), saying this was the first time that someone had made things simple enough for her to understand! She was thankful to receive insights into the root causes of discrimination against the girl child and the result of the efforts done so far in improving the Child Sex Ratio.
Babita’s sincere efforts and dedication as an ASHA have been recognized and awarded by the local government. She recollects how the status of women used to be terribly low before. But, with initiatives such as the ASHA program and the Vanishing Girls campaign, the acceptance of little girls in Jhunjhunu is improving every day!
Anushree Bernard - Campaign Coordinator, Vanishing Girls