Is eco-feminism relevant in 2015? Before you answer, consider life as a woman in present-day India. You receive far less schooling than your male counterparts. You live in fear of how your family could disown you if you were raped. You are born with a dowry sum across your forehead. It’s 2015, and reports of India’s female infanticide are rife in the global media. According to a recent UN report, boys are twice as likely to survive until their fifth birthday as girls.
These uncomfortable truths are finally receiving attention and prompting much-needed change in parts of the country. Authorities in the Punjab district of Hoshiarpur recently announced a new scheme in a bid to improve the region’s sex ratio, which dips to 650 girls for every 1,000 boys in some villages. A gift box filled with baby oils, jewellery and dresses will be delivered to each newborn girl and her mother. However, this attempt to sweeten an unlucky ticket in the country’s birth lottery does not tackle the polarising ideologies that underline India’s gender inequality crisis.
However, a small and remote village in India’s Rajasthan State might have the answer; one that also helps to solve the increasing disrepair that our Earth is falling in to thanks to global warming. Despite inhabiting an area inundated with traditional doctrines, the village of Piplantri has a radical philosophy of its own, and it’s called the Yogana Hadhi Kiran initiative. The village of Piplantri plant 111 trees for every girl who is born, and contributes a dowry sum to each newborn female, providing a form of social security for the poorest families. The dowry is locked until a girl turns 18, which in turn helps to actively prevent child marriage.
Since Yogana Hadhi Kiran began several years ago, more than 285,000 trees have been planted. Piplantri reaps the ecological benefits, and many women earn a living by developing gel products derived from the aloe vera by-products. It takes a village to raise a child, it seems, especially a girl born into a hostile, male-dominated world.
This is ecofeminism in action: women and nature thriving together. To be more specific, the concept of ecofeminism recognises the two pillars of a patriarchal society as the exploitation of women and the destruction of nature. The grassroots movement was founded in the 1970s, but now the debate is back on the table. From summer blockbuster Mad Max’s interpretation of violent oppression in terms of females and nature, to Indian philosopher Vandana Shiva’s global activism, it is time to take a fresh look at what this means for modern culture. As long as female birth stigma exists, eco-feminism will be relevant.
We should let the community of Piplantri be an inspiration for the fight for gender inequality and ecological growth. After all, a baby girl should be a celebration, not a burden. However, I long for the day when there are trees being planted for both baby boys and girls, because no human life is valued any less than another.
Words: Trudie Carter
Images source: www.piplantri.com