Typically, in Asian cultures the birth of a girl is considered an unfortunate responsibility because of the dowry system that places a financial burden on parents. For this reason, daughters are not celebrated like sons. But in a village in India, residents honor the birth of a daughter with a unique ritual: they plant one hundred and eleven fruit trees.
The number 111 in Indian culture is believed to lead to success, and this is exactly the sentiment on which the practice was founded. Through this tradition, the people of Piplantri (Rajasthan) fight historical prejudice against their daughters and improve their homeland environment at the same time.
Former village leader Shyam Sundar Palawal began the practice in 2006 in order to honor the death of his daughter Kiran.
Wanting to ensure better future protection and assistance for the girls in the village, he launched a program that would not only improve the local environment, but also raise funds for the girls’ families. This noble custom has now lasted for over a decade.
In order to ensure the future of young women, the villagers gather together 30,000 rupees for each of them, to be set aside as a fund for the next twenty years. The girl’s parents then return the gesture by signing an oath that the daughter will not marry until she is 18 years old and has received an education.
These incredible actions are not just a hope for the future of gender equality in India. Planting fruit trees has ensured the availability of resources for the expanding population of the village. With 60-65 girls born every year, Piplantri has already planted 350,000 trees.
From a man’s compassion, over a quarter of a million trees are bearing fruit and hundreds of girls have become independent and self-sufficient.