Association of International Marathons and Distance Races

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Opinion

30 November 2016, 1pm

Fun run with a message challenges female infanticide

On the shoulders of runners

by Dr Sandeep Kate

On 18 September 2016, over 4000 runners lined up at the start of the PNB MetLife Satara Hill Half Marathon in India. The challenge for these participants, apart from the distance, was the significant climb they faced. It makes the race one of the toughest half marathons in India.

Meanwhile another set of runners was gearing up at the start line of the Dhamaal Run [literally: ‘Fun run’]. Although they only had 3.5km to run they faced a very different kind of challenge.

Runners were lining up with their daughters perched on their shoulders or on their backs, waiting for the starting gun to go off. It was no mean task for the participants to run a hilly 3.5km route while carrying their daughters but these road warriors were not out to prove their strength or win any prizes. This was a run with a cause. They were running, while carrying their daughters, to send out a message.

“Beti Koi Bojh Nahi” is the message in Hindi (India’s major official language) — a slogan which translates as “The Girl Child is not a Burden but an Asset”.

India is making rapid strides as a nation on several fronts and we are working hard to progress from a developing nation to a developed one. Among the many challenges we still face is the issue of gender discrimination in our society. Discrimination against the girl child has been a part of the social set up in India for generations. Even today the girl child is treated as a burden in some sections of our society. While the boys are given preferential treatment and privileges the girls are often confined to their homes and given lesser opportunities.

It is of great concern that cases of female infanticide and foeticide (where the female foetus is aborted in the mother’s womb) are still reported. Even as initiatives undertaken by successive governments and several non-government organisations have started to show positive results, we still have a long way to go.

According to figures from the 2011 census there are just 918 girls per 1000 boys in India. This skewed gender ratio needs to be urgently corrected with affirmative action to ensure that India stays firmly on the path towards becoming a progressive and developed nation.

The Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (BBBP) scheme was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 22 January 2015 when he called upon the nation to unite for the eradication of female foeticide and invited suggestions from the citizens of India on the MyGov.in portal.

As organisers of the Satara Hill Half Marathon we chose “Run with your daughter” as a theme to support this cause. As a build up to the run, an online photo competition was also organised one month before the event, where participants were asked to post “Run-fies” (running selfies) with their daughters in a “Run-fie with your daughter” contest.

There were two competitions: one determined by responses on social media and one by a panel of experts. The winning photos were displayed both on the event’s homepage and in a gallery during the Expo one day before the main event. Huge crowds appreciated the creative photos of the winners.

The “Beti Koi Bojh Nahi” Run was flagged off by the popular Member of Parliament for Satara. The entire city turned out, lining the streets on both sides of the route, to cheer the participants. Many runners carried their young daughters on their shoulders for almost the entire distance. Others ran hand in hand with their daughters shouting “Beti Koi Bojh Nahi” and carrying posters and placards.

It was a satisfying feeling to be able to contribute towards an important cause and to help further the AIMS’ objective of using running events as a platform to promote important and socially relevant messages all over the world.

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