India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to social media this past weekend to draw attention to his administration’s efforts to decrease female infanticide in India, posting the following on his Twitter feed:
I urge all of you, share a #SelfieWithDaughter. Also share a tagline that will encourage ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (save the daughter, educate the daughter)’ : PM @narendramodi
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) June 28, 2015
It went viral, with people all over the world sharing photos of their daughters. The attention is incredible, but will it really alter the entrenched patriarchy of many Indians?
Maneka Gandhi (India’s Minister of Women & Child Development) told news channel NDTV in an April 2015 interview.
“’You have 2,000 girls who are killed in the womb every day, some are born and have pillows on their faces choking them.”
The effort by the Modi administration is, “attempting to curb the issue through its Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (Save the Daughter, Educate the Daughter) initiative launched in January (of 2015), which aims to better enforce laws against prenatal sex determination and ensure access to education for girls.”
The social media aspect of the campaign comes weeks after PM Modi was skewered on social media for mentioning the gender of Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina as a possible deterrent to her effectiveness as leader: “I am happy that Bangladesh Prime Minister, despite being a woman, has declared zero tolerance for terrorism.”
Is Prime Minister Modi’s comment indicative of the patriarchal society which he is a product of? Can he successfully lead an initiative if his own mindset is influenced by the patriarchy he’s attempting to eliminate?
The social media aspect of the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign has brought international attention to Modi’s efforts which can only bring more pressure to the administration to ensure its success. But, the more long-lasting efforts of the campaign are being implemented at the local level; focusing on “prevention of gender biased sex selective elimination, enduring survival and protection of the girl child, and ensuring education and participation of the girl child.”
This admirable and much-needed initiative will be arduous and lengthy. The world is watching to see if Modi will be successful in changing the entrenched mindset of India’s society.