Every culture has its own traditions surrounding the birth of a child. While we celebrate newborn girls by sending pink dresses and dolls, in the village of Piplantri in Rajasthan, India, they celebrate by planting 111 trees every time a little girl is born.
In most Indian villages, the birth of a daughter was historically considered a burden for a family. Rural villages operate on the dowry system which contributes to the high cost of marriage for households with daughters. As a result, daughters were often regarded as lesser than their male counterparts and many were married before they reached the age of 18; few received a proper education.
The tradition of planting trees to welcome the birth of female children in Piplantri seems to completely reject historical constraints, fostering hope that attitudes towards women can change.
This amazing custom was started by former village leader Shyam Sundar Paliwal to honor his daughter who passed away when she was young. Village members band together to raise a sort of “trust” for the girl when a girl is born. The parents contribute one-third of the sum of Rupees 31,000, equivalent to $450, and the money is set aside as a 20-year fund for the girl. This ensures that she will never be considered a financial burden for her parents.
In return for this trust, the parents sign a legal affidavit that states that the daughter will only be married after she reaches the age of 18 and has received a proper education. The affidavit states that the 111 trees must be taken care of as well. It’s a clever little catch, but the practice of planting trees in conjunction with the birth of a child actually works to ensure that the local environment will be able to support the ever growing population.
Not only does this beautiful tradition foster a deep appreciation for females in the village, but it also instills a remarkable sense of environmental stewardship. The trees become a symbol for the baby girl and the villagers work just as hard to protect the trees from termites, by planting Aloe Vera, as they do the girls from all the hardships of life.
Seeing the intimate connection between the social health and environmental health of the village, Paliwal’s tradition has created a truly sustainable future for community members.
Over the course of the past six years, a quarter of a million trees have been planted in Piplantri. Villagers credit the harmony that this tradition has brought to their community with the dramatic drop in crime. Not to mention their renewed adoration of little girls.
When we see the connection between social issues and look to their environmental roots, we can find unique and incredible solutions to the world’s modern problems. You might not think that something as insignificant as a sapling could change the world, but remember, that sapling will one day grow into an enormous tree.