Lohadda: A village which identifies itself with its daughters

By Aas Mohammad Kaif, 

Lohadda, a village situated on the Budhana road along the Meerut-Muzaffarnagar highway, might have a population on only about 3,000, but this small village has left the biggest cities of India behind by raising the symbol of ‘women power’ in a land where females have always received a raw deal.

As one enters the village, a girl named Sundar is seen in charge of a general goods store, which belongs to her father Brijendra. The 17-year-old is shy but intelligent enough to understand the importance of her job and the store. This probably explains why Sundar did not talk to this reporter until she supplied the goods asked by a customer in her shop.

“The village girls are no less than the urban ones. We can also give better result to the society if someone shows trust in us,” says Sundar while commenting on the unique thing happening in her village.

The doors of about 700 houses in Lohadda village have been marked with the names of the daughters living in those houses. Doors or adjoining walls have been painted in red, yellow and blue with the slogan “mere gaanv ki yahi pahchaan, beti ko mila samman” (The respect to my daughter is the only identity of my village).Right after the slogan, the name of the girl and her father living in the particular house is written. For example, Tanvi D/o Sohanlal, Riya D/o Sandip Kumar, Yashmeen D/o Mohammad Shamim, or Shaheen D/o Umardeen, etc.

It is almost a ‘custom’ to write the name of the head of house — who is often a male — on the door or the nameplate, but by showcasing the names of hundreds of girls, the village has come up with a unique example.

The drive was initiated by the village head Satendra Pal who was elected as the village head in 2015. He told TwoCircles.net, “I am a father of two daughters. So I thought that the village should be known by the name of its daughters. Then we launched a campaign for the same.”

“We painted the wall and door of every house with the names of the daughters. The government helped us with Rs 10,000 rupees, while I contributed Rs 20,000 from my own pocket to get the work done,” added Pal, who tells that while the village has a lesser number of girls than boys, there are more girls going to the school when compared to boys.

Naaz, a post-graduate from Science, agrees to the fact regarding the higher enrolment among the girls. “There are more girls in regular studies here. About 50 girls of the village have finished their college, but boys have not crossed the halfway yet,” said Naz. “So the girls are achieving things, obviously they are getting the identity too,” she added.

Pooja, another post-graduate in English, believes that the days when boys used to take the family name forward are now a thing of the past. “I feel happy whenever I see my name with my father’s written on the door of my house. Even my brother liked it very much. There is no rule which says that only boys should do earn the respect of the family, now the girls are doing so very efficiently,” said Pooja.

The drive has sparked a new motivation within the rest of the girl students of the village. Girls are now dreaming of things which were considered as “urban” for a long time. Maybe it is this motivation, which pushes Anushka, an 11-year-old primary student, to say “I want to be a doctor” within a second of being asked what she wants to be when she grows up.

“My mother called me ‘Malkin’ (landlady) the day when my name was written on the house door,” says Dipanshi, a 13-year-old primary school student.

The village of Lohadda is filled with many such tales where the girls have decided to “take on the world” after their parents and neighbours put their trust in them. Be it 13-year-old Umra, who learns from her aunt the important of studies, or 8-year-old Ikra, who is considered to be “house monitor” by her father Afzal, the village Lohadda is blooming with a new tale.

The episode has also spread a sort of remorse or sadness in the families where there are no daughters, but on the other side, the whole village is celebrating what their daughters have been achieving. As Om Prakash, 56, tells, “It doesn’t matter anymore if it is a girl or a boy.”

Village residents show an example where there is not any discrimination in families between girl or a boy. Dharmendra Kumar, Sub-district Magistrate at Khatauli, has embraced the drive and claimed the work to be ‘outstanding’.

According to village head Satendra Pal, few nearby villages like Satedhi or Sikandarpur have also adopted the same model by engraving the names of the daughters at house doors.