What’s in a name? Everything, for girls in India’s Maharashthra state who recently got new names in an unprecedented ceremony that allowed them to shed a label with a bad meaning.
More than 220 girls in the district of Satara received the new names after being labeled “Nakusa” – unwanted – by families desperately wanting a male child.
Bhagvan Pawar, the district health officer who organized the renaming ceremony, told CNN Monday that he started working on the project one year ago and that he saw it as an obligation to help restore some self-esteem to the young girls.
"The parents, they don't want a female, they want a male child," he said. "But we did this to help them (the girls). We are trying to get them beyond this."
Video of the girls, as posted on Youtube, showed long lines of women and girls holding placards in support of the initiative.
Social mores about the enormous expense heaped upon families who have to marry off girls is just one reason they are seen as unwanted, Pawar said. Also contributing to the negativity are the census numbers that show the district’s sex ratio is about 980 females per 1,000 males, according to the Wall Street Journal.
At the renaming ceremony, the girls were allowed a name of their choosing, Pawar said - and they're doing well now. "Most of them are in school," he said. “We have scheduled 30-minute follow-ups with them,” Pawar said. “They are good now. They are very happy with their new names.”