From the humble efforts of attempting to gather women for a ‘chopaal’ in the Biblipur village of Haryana, the Selfie with Daughter campaign has snowballed into a pan India movement that recently gained recognition from Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 100th episode of Mann Ki Baat. Commemorating common heroes like Haryana’s Sunil Jaglan, he focussed on how these impactful efforts have scaled gender empowerment in the country.
The movement’s roots go back to 2012 when Sunil Jaglan had his first daughter, Nandini, and the nurses refused to accept a token amount on the birth of a girl. Recognising the disappointment he had to face on such a buoyant occasion, he stood adamant to organise a ‘Chaathi’ for his daughter, a celebration that was typically restricted to the birth of boys in the village. Heading the panchayat of Biblipur, Sunil started organising more female centric community meetings. While initially there was hardly any participation from the women, through the course of months, the meetings started to last up to 4 hours at a stretch, with women of all ages expressing grief and concern about the issues they faced.
“There were no discussions on gender topics when I was growing up. If a boy talked to a girl, he would have to give a party. I realised patriarchy existed everywhere around me. I understood this was wrong only after my daughter was born and I started asking questions that I had never asked before,” says Sunil. As the Sarpanch, he organised runs for females and gifted them jars of ghee. He visited houses carrying celebratory cakes on the birth of a daughter. By 2013, he was able to considerably alter the emotional reaction displayed by the villagers on the birth of a girl.
In order to provide more financial authority to the women in the village, Sunil promoted them to plan the use of a large chunk of expenses in the village. He provided community screens and laptops for the women to be encouraged to entertain themselves. He asked them to play any Haryanvi music and even managed to get them to write songs that didn’t reflect objectifying lyrics.
“LYRICS OF THE SONG”
It was on 9th June 2015, at the backdrop of the song ‘Selfie Le Le Re’ from Bajrangi Bhaijaan when Sunil took a selfie with Nandini. He invited people to post a selfie with their daughters on social media platforms. Another version of the campaign in Hindi was "Beti Bachao-Selfie Banao". Three selfies were awarded on 19th June 2015. “My tablet had crashed from all the selfies I received from all over the country,” Sunil exclaimed. In a span of days, the campaign reached the attention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who praised the campaign for its vision of female empowerment. Terming this as a ‘Silent Revolution’ against age-old patriarchy, he mentioned the campaign during his visit to America and the UK the same year.
The immense contribution and love for the campaign provoked Sunil to take this a step further. He launched Selfie with Daughter Online Museum website on 9 June 2016 which was inaugurated by then president (late) Pranab Mukherjee. Under the umbrella of ‘Selfie With Daughter’, Sunil Jaglan introduced many drives that aimed to sensitise people against gender discrimination as well as enable the underprivileged girls to attain education. In 2017, classes about sex ratio sensitization in the schools were started. "Selfie with Daughter Classes" in Rashtrapati Bhavan were also initiated. In 2018, a website was launched where all the information about the rights of women were made easily accessible to the youth.
Every year since 2015, three winners of the ‘Selfie With Daughter’ have been awarded on 9th June. Having been awarded by the former President Pranab Mukerjee, the campaign diversified its reach to eradicate various socially stigmatised issues. In June 2019, they launched "Selfie with Daughter for Single Women" and recently, on 19th May, 2023 a new sub-campaign was launched for physically challenged girls. A signature campaign for single daughters was also introduced on 19th May 2020. With other drives like ‘Gaali Bandh’, ‘Period chart monitor’, ‘Daughter’s name plate’ and ‘Laddo Go Online’, the campaign became viral during the lockdown. It was commended and adopted by countries like Nepal and Canada.
Mewat, a district in Haryana, had recorded one of the lowest sex ratio for girls earlier this year. With a team of over 500 volunteers to distribute emergency kits for women when they start their periods, they worked for opening 8 colleges and schools in the district. “In villages, I observed that boys are sent for coaching even if they don’t have the calibre and parents hesitate to spend money on the education of girls,” says Sunil. Under the ‘One Book-One Smile’ campaign that he initiated, many all-women libraries are being promoted, for carrying competitive-exams level books to educate the girls in villages and help them prepare for entrance exams. Having focussed on an all-round development for empowering girls, Sunil has already carved many plans to help the cause further.
A selfie with daughter is more than just a picture, it is an illustration of a smile of a girl. It embodies her happiness and unconditional love. It is a reflection of the bliss of her birth, health, independence and her rights. It celebrates the life of a girl at a glance and symbolises the pride of parents for having birthed a blessing in the family. ‘Selfie with Daughter’ campaign completes a journey of 8 years today. i.e. 9th June 2023.