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A doctor on a mission to save girl child

In India, according to Economic Survey Report 2017 - 18 , more than 63 millions girls were killed in the last 10 years, beside this the Lancet Medical Journal 2018 says that gender bias killed 2.40 million girls in the 0-5 age group in the previous decade, and all these deaths were "avoidable, but parents were simply not interested in saving them as they were girls".

"A big challenge for a few gynecologists in India is to tell families about girl childbirth

The Indian doctor fighting to change attitudes towards girl child

Pune-based Dr. Ganesh Rakh's unique 'Save Girl Child' initiative that involves over 200,000 private doctors, 12000 NGOs and 2 million volunteers from India and other foreign countries are contributing their efforts for saving the girl child. Today this movement is a big success on an international level but Interestingly, when he first launched the campaign in his Medicare Hospital, Pune, on January 3, 2012, with a determination "to deliver female child absolutely free of cost", he was considered as a 'Mad Doctor' by society.

Please tell us about your childhood and family background

My father was a porter (heavy loads handler), and my mother worked as domestic help for other families. My family of five members lived on a limited income of 40$ a month.

I have grown up in poverty; none in my family was educated until I became a doctor. When I was a child, I wanted to become a wrestler, but my mother was afraid that if I became a wrestler, I would eat up all the food in the house, and others have to starve. She also said that I would end up as a porter like my father. Instead, I should study and get a proper job.

I wasn't getting that serious, thus once in my school holiday, she sent me to work as a potter with my dad for one month. To lift the load and to carry it to different places. The porters were paid a pittance for their labour and were expected to work in awful and harsh conditions. I was horrified with the thought of continuing that job for the rest of my life. I decided to concentrate on my studies and become a doctor so that I could change my family's destiny. I pursued my studies while doing part-time jobs. Though I secured scholarships all through my academic career, I was also doing part-time jobs to support my family and study

I finished my graduation in medicine in 2000, and I started my practice in 2002. Until 2007, I used to visit patients' homes. Then I started my own hospital by taking a loan of $ 100,000.

Why you thought of starting a mission of “Save The Girl child Movement" ?

When I began practicing in my own hospital, I realized families gave sweets when a boy was born, but families left the hospital angry when a girl was born, demanding a discount from me for the ill-fortune 'I had forced upon them.' I also heard the stories of babies killed before birth once their gender was illegally identified. I listened to husbands talk about taking pills to ensure they had only boys. How they visited tantriks and godmen and conducted various rituals to make sure no girl was born in the family.

The real shock to me was when my daughter was born, that people in my surroundings started solacing me. To change this pitiable picture and to transform the mindset of people, I decided to start the 'Save the Girl Child' campaign.

Tell us about your mission and your experiences?

In 2012, I started Save the Girl Child campaign. We decided If a girl child is born in my hospital, all the fees will be waived off. Just as families celebrated the birth of a baby boy, we will make sure our hospital celebrates the birth of every girl with sweets, cakes, flowers, and lighting candles.

My family was taken aback and was doubtful about how we would repay the debts as I had taken $100,000 loan for building my hospital. Even my wife was worried about how she could run the house if I never made any money.

But I was clear. “For me, the cause is more important than the cost. For each regular delivery, we happily bear a loss of around $ 150 and around Rs $500 for complicated cases, which is waived off if a female child is born, irrespective of the financial status of the patient.

I had my own doubts at the beginning, but I remembered my aged father telling me to go ahead with the good work I planned. He even told me he would go back to work as a porter if needed to make ends meet at the house.

We could perform these deliveries for free by recovering the costs from our outpatient consultation fees or delivery charges from boy babies. The profits may be thin, but the smiles are definitely broad on everyone’s faces. The best part is, I see the positive change in this dimension from society.

The success of the mission

Eight years before, we launched our mission. Now over 200,000 private doctors, 12000 NGOs, and 2 million volunteers from India and other foreign countries are contributing their efforts to saving the girl child.

This has already resulted in a positive transformation in the attitude of many, especially the poor and middle-class sections of society who previously were not prepared to even pay the medical bills if a female child was born.

"The biggest appreciation came when international doctors requested us to launch a similar 'Save Girl Child' campaign in different countries. In February, we kick started it in Zambia, and soon we are going to the USA, Canada, Middle East, Nepal, and other countries,"

The groups and activists committed to ignite the spark in Zambia and carry the torch of 'Save Girl Child' in other African nations like the Congo, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria to eventually cover the entire continent in phases.

In the past over seven years, My Medicare Hospital has conducted free deliveries of around 1,750 female children

What is your dream?

I want to work till we get rid of these gender biases and welcome every princess on this planet with a happy heart.

This story is supported by

Amar Deshmukh, Pune, India

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