“Even if a woman is involved in a road accident, people blame her. They will say the accident is because of her poor driving skills,” said Ishita Uppal, 16, who is Haryana government’s ambassador against female foeticide.
For five-and-a-half years, Ishita has been delivering lecturers at schools, colleges and village gatherings against female foeticide. On Sunday, Chandigarh-based NGO Yuvsatta will honour her with the ‘Star Girl’ award for her efforts to save the girl child. “I read a news story about a father killing his daughter as he did not have money for her marriage. That moved me. I thought I must do something,” said Ishita. “To bring change someone has to take the initiative. You just cannot blame people for ills of society.”
From delivering a lecture when she was just 11 to becoming a veteran in speaking at public events, Ishita has addressed 90 gatherings so far.
The first time she spoke at a function in Chandigarh, which was organised to break the practice of celebrating Lohri on the birth of a boy in the family; this one was organised one for newly born girls.
Ishita target audience are young girls: “Youth are our future. I tell girls that they have proven themselves in every sphere of life. We have to start giving due respect to women. For boys, we administer a separate oath that they give respect to girls and treat their wives well.”
Her father, Captain DK Uppal, and mother Meena Kumari are supportive. Ishita is their only child. “She was 9 when she started questioning the practice of favouring male child while watching TV. We explained to her that lot of people do not want a male child as they want to extend their family lineage, they do not want to spend on dowry and for support in old age,” said Capt Uppal. “She said she wanted to go to people and tell them that girls are not inferior. In the eyes of Nature, both boys and girls are same. I told her it was not easy. She advised me to meet Haryana chief minister.”
In 2009, Capt Uppal met CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who extended his support for a campaign. On November 19, 2009, Hooda flagged off Ishita’s camapign, which covered districts in Punjab and Haryana. In Haryana, she addressed 35 gatherings, participated in roads shows at schools and colleges, and visited anganwadi centres and villages with low sex ratio.
In June 2010, her parents formed an NGO, Jagriti Mission Ishita Foundation, to further step up awareness programmes against female foeticide.
Ishita now wants to extend her work to domestic violence, violence against children and environment protection. “I want to do more. But financially, support is little. The government says a lot of things, but there’s not much to show. Programmes started for the girl child have little implementation on ground. They are not overseen properly,” said Ishita.
She also is perturbed over incidents of female foetuses being abandoned and baby girls being murdered or left to die: “I want to have a house where I can keep baby girls rejected by their families. So when they grow up and do wonders, I can show them to their families.” Asked if she has faced any kind of discrimination in her life, Ishita says, “I am a kind of person who will never tolerate it. I have not come across discrimination so far.”
QUEEN OF THE UNHEARD
1) Addressed 90 gatherings and administered oath to 1.5 lakh people against female foeticide
2) Covered about 8,000 km in her drive against the social ill
3) Awarded by 36 organisations