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Apr 16 2014

India can be a dangerous place to be a girl

Students on their way to school in Suryapet, India.

Students on their way to school in Suryapet, India.


Unbound believes in empowering women. Our mothers groups began in India and now help women around the world gain vital financial support, education and confidence. We encourage all efforts in India to keep women and girls safe so that they may continue to drive positive change in their communities. Help us.


By Dan Pearson, director of international programs at Unbound

India can be a dangerous place to be a girl.

Rape, abuse, dowry customs, child labor and infanticide are part of a tragic legacy in this country that is also full of bright minds and a rich cultural heritage.

The savage gang rape of a young woman unfortunate enough to ride the wrong bus in New Delhi 18 months ago took women’s rights to the streets where thousands marched on the presidential palace.

India’s important national elections being held over the next few weeks will tell us whether the outcry will lead to any significant change.

I hope so. But I have my doubts.

Yes, all of the main political parties announced big plans to make India safer for women, or at least outlaw the harshest forms of brutality against them. But what happens after the elections will tell the story.

Whichever party wins the election will be under pressure to improve a lagging economy and deal with government corruption. My fear is that all the rhetoric regarding women’s rights will fade away with little or no significant action.

Even if bold new laws are passed, it could be generations before the effects take root in the complicated caste systems, rural areas and impoverished communities.

At Unbound (formerly known as CFCA) we don’t want to wait for that.

In 2008 we began working in Suryapet, a marginalized community outside of Hyderabad.

We found that many families in the community were selling their baby girls to adoption centers because they simply could not afford to raise them. When the government learned of this practice and began to crack down, families stopped selling their baby girls, but some also stopped feeding them. Several baby girls starved to death. The remedy was even worse than the original problem.

The approach our organization takes in India is to work with individual women and families, giving them the regular financial and social support they will need for what looks to be a long journey toward gender justice. We challenge cultural norms by encouraging families to educate their girl children, and we help mothers to become an organized force in the community so that they can become the primary agents of the changes they wish to see.

Once they had been organized into small groups, the mothers of Suryapet created solutions to safety issues and helped each other launch small businesses with microloans. Today the mothers in our program are not only keeping their daughters safe and healthy but also sending them to school.

Two girls in Suryapet walk together to school.

Two girls in Suryapet walk together to school.

Husbands and fathers change their views when they begin to discover the economic potential of their wives and daughters. Their views change even more when they discover the political clout of women who have become an organized force in the community. The boys of Suryapet are now being raised in a community atmosphere that values the dignity of all people.

Unbound sponsors nearly 30,000 children in India today, creating this same type of impact on thousands of families and communities. By no means would we say we have this problem all figured out, but we’re encouraged by the impact of these courageous women.

A grass-roots approach to gender justice will change the story for many girls in India, regardless of the outcome of the current elections.

Dan Pearson, director of international programs at Unbound

Dan Pearson, director of international programs at Unbound

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58 thoughts on “India can be a dangerous place to be a girl”

  1. I hope the plight of these young women/girls in India will improve.

  2. I have sponsored girls in India for many years through a wonderful Charity called Children Incorporated, They write wonderful letters,

    1. Thanks, Penny, for your comment. We love hearing about others doing good things for children around the world. We certainly hope you’ll be a sponsor through us someday as well.
      -Jordan Kimbrell, Unbound writer/editor

  3. Wonderful article.How great is the work that Unbound does, and thanks to all the workers for all you do! Sheila

  4. I sure hope the project accomplishes great things in India. Even the US is lagging behind in gender equality. Children continue to be sexually assaulted, sold by their parents on Craigslist and women continue to be abused and sexually assaulted. We need Gloria Steinem back to start another Women’s Movement. Will the world ever wake up to the fact that women deserve the same benefits as men and this includes pay for doing the same job. We are living in a world full of not only terrorism, but hate and murder seems to be the way a lot of people choose to solve problems. Wake up world before it is too late.

    1. I don’t know if one considers this an ad that snuck in as an article, but either way I am glad if it raises awareness of the plight of large groups within half our planet’s population. I contribute to the Global Fund for Women because it emphasizes education and proper health care for females in countries with a tradition of such violence and political oppression. Many good people are making an effort by changing laws, but until they are reinforced little will actually change. Friends were shocked to learn that “bride burning” still happens and that “honor killings” are now being transferred to newer countries because people who still believe in such barbarism are immigrating with them. Even if one has absollutely not one ounce of compassion or supports basic human rights, why would a society hold itself back by stifling the creativity and intelligence of individuals who can contribute in so many other ways beyond their biology? If we look at countries with the most overt and cruel practices against women, children, and any demographic in general, just how well are they doing economically? Spending all of one’s time keeping others in submission through fear and domination has a tendency to keep one in the stone age.

      1. Hey whose in charge – don’t know if you were referring to my message or your response, but believe me neither is an ad. I appreciate what you are doing. Wish I could contribute to a number of causes, but live paycheck to paycheck – only get social security and with the great raise of 1.2% I got this year, it doesn’t cover much of my monthly bills.

        1. Pat, Finn,
          I have so much compassion for your position! I haven’t had a raise in years and I am capped out for my pay anyway. We all do what we can. My monthly charities are only more of a token gesture to let them know I support them. You probably do a lot and not even realize it because you obviously care about the plights of those who suffer. Your intgreity alone is probably a great model for others to follow, so please don’t ever feel “less than.”
          I was definitely referring to you, in a positive way, because I agree with you in that it seems a lot of gender equality that was gained has recently been challenged or overtly crushed. So much for the “modern era.”

        2. If you don’t mind my asking, what field are you in – it sounds like you must be in a nonprofit field or do some kind of teaching. If not, you have been born with genes that are much more caring than a lot of individuals in the world today. Sad to say, but the US is going down the tubes very quickly and it is not just women’s issues, but just about every thing you can think of from women and girls, no gun control policies to speak of, people being killed, kids being molested by the clergy and it being wiped under the carpet through $$$ and no prison time. I could go on and on, but just wanted to say thank you for your kind words and I am very sure you have a very caring attitude towards all as well as towards all the problems the world is facing today. I wish you happiness and hopefully a raise soon.

  5. Thank you for this article + … The treatment of ‘women’, beginning at birth, through their young years ( as these beautiful girls are ), throughout their years, is not only a product of a long history of religious and cultural ‘norms’ and beliefs ~~ but also a deeply ingrained, criminal ‘allowance’ by those in ‘authority’ at all levels of ‘government ! This Country, the largest ‘democracy’, still is one rife with extreme poverty and a common disregard for life — especially for girls and women. If ‘Western’ corporations with branches in India; Governments; Media would speak out on this issue — contribute financially to your cause ( and others in similar Countries with this criminal, inhumane ‘record’..ie: trafficking of young girls in Cambodia; Nepal; Thailand; Africa ) we might see, at the very least, a powerful movement resulting in the desperately needed changes long overdue for ‘Half the Sky’ ~~ I applaud all you do !

  6. India is best place to educate and empower girls. Request all to sponsor at least one girl based on merit to finance their education. Talk to as many as you can on how to defend themselves by acting as DURGA or KALI if occasion arises. Slow but steady will win the race.. Do not expect magic.

  7. Thank you for the article. More organization like Unbound are needed on the field in India. We, at Canning Durbadal, try to do our bit — albeit at a very small scale. And thank you again for what you do and have done for women and girls in India.

  8. Deeds, not words. Lofty rhetoric and sympathy does not help people, sponsorship does. If you want to help these people, sign up for CFCA/Unbound. It will only set you back $30/month, but that goes a long way to help a poor child, as Unbound stretches the donor dollars and is highly rates by Charity Navigator. I sponsor one boy in Phillipines, one girl in Guatemala and an elderly lady in El Salvador. Deeds. Not words. See what you can do to help, even if only a one-time small donation! It’s a great organization! I have been a donor since 2000.

  9. Education needs to be a DAILY chore among the poor and uneducated! There is a great need for community canvassing-community reeducation among the most rural people. The fight against female mutilation in some countries has been nearly eliminated because of DAILY reeducation programs among the most rural people, who were still involved in those traditional practices.

    1. The way every shooting in US is on the front pages of Indian newspapers, Indians ‘know’ that USA is a dangerous plave at any age.

  10. can be dangerous! It was, it is and it will be always be dangerous for aspiring girls and women. The day india succeds is the day when girsla nd women fear no men.

  11. Are you doing conversions in the name of social justice? If you are a genuine NGO work towards uplifting humanity not spreading religion.

    1. Thank you for your question, Arun. Here at Unbound, we work with people of all faith traditions. We are not out to convert. You can read more about our work here. Thanks again for your question – Jordan Kimbrell, Unbound writer/editor

  12. THIS IS ABSOLUTILY CORRECT. INDIA IS NOT THE ONLY COUNTRY.
    THERE ARE BAD PEOPLE IN EVERY COUNTRY. GIRLS ARE IN DANGER IN EVERY
    COUNTRY IF THEY DO NOT KNOW HOW TO TAKE CARE OF THEMSELF.IT
    HAPPENS WITH YOUNG BOYS ALSO LIKE IT HAPPENNED IN CHURCHES
    ALL OVER THE COUNTRIES.YOUNG BOYS ARE RAPED ALSO

    1. This is very true.. Exploitation and abuse happens everywhere.. It is just how media is controlled and exposed… Moreover, young boys are equally abused and molested everywhere in India. But plights of Indian boys are accepted in the society. They are raised to bear all pains silently and not reveal just to show that they are strong and it is ok… Noboby cares if they are concerned with their modesty and emotional feelings in case of sexual abuse…As a mother I feel bad that my son has to bear this without any law in place to protect him. I am also afraid that his internal suppressed feeling of injustice leads him to slow death or danger of not growing up properly.

    1. Thank you so much for your question, Toni. The girls in this photo are not married. The bindi can be symbolic of many things in the Indian culture, but is not exclusive to married women. It is even common for men to wear bindis.

      Thanks again for your question,
      Jordan Kimbrell, Unbound writer/editor

  13. INDIA IS NOT THE ONLY DANGEROUS PLACE. EVERY COUNTRY IS.
    OTHER COUNTRIES EVEN BOYS ARE MOLESTED SO IT IS PARENTS
    DUTY TO SAFE GAURD THE KIDS. I TAUGHT MY KIDS THE MARSHAL
    ARTS SO THAT THEY COULD FIGHT FOR THEM SELF.MORE OVER
    TAKE CARE OF YOUR KIDS YOUR SELF. I SAY DO NOT DEPEND
    ON ANY BODY. FATHER AND MOTHER BOTH HAVE TO TAKE OF
    KIDS. SOME TIME LUCK ALSO PLAYS THE PART.

    1. it is the level that make sit so bad… The blame lies in the attitude of the government, the police and the judicial system (all of which are corrupt). [edited per Unbound blog policy.]

    2. red dot bindi on a woman’s forehead doesn’t mean a person is married. it is a (H)Indu tradition every person follows, to
      show the important thing(Centre for Divine Power, present in pitutary gland, which is the cause for life in living beings) in our body.

  14. Well i hope something can change the course of time!! I’ve grown so livid over what is going on in these countries that treat women and girls like a piece of rubbish!!! Until that day comes women and girls will continue to be treated as such i guess until women explode with pride and power! I’m sick of the abuse!! Sick! I’ll believe it when i see it… Till then, women will continue to be door mats and inanimate objects to be used and abused!

  15. its sad young women are circumcised against their will not only in foreign countries but also here in America. the rotten judges in America allow young girls and young women to have NO sayso in the matter of their own bodies. parents are allowed to make the decision for their girls to be circumcised(pierced)… [edited per Unbound blog policy.]

  16. Thank you for shedding light on this tragic plight of these poor children, I watched a special on Netflix about the women in India aborting and killing their babies if they were girls, one woman had killed 7 girls and buried them in the back yard,We had a priest from unbound visit our parish last year and I am sponsoring a Girl named Sweety, let us all jump in and help these women to empower themselves with education and resources they lack,and lots of prayers

  17. Wow what a story, I am from India was adopted by a loving family in the states many years ago. I would be one of these girls if I were still in India. Now I work with the homeless in Milwaukee WI.

    So for all of you who help with resources to the Indian kids..Thank You!

  18. It’s only dangerous to be a girl in India if you DON’T want to be gang-raped and hanged by the local police. It’s not all bad, though…sometimes these girls just get a crazy beating…, instead of being murdered. Just remember, everyone…just because they don’t share our values…it doesn’t make them any less civilized. We must offer the Third World the same level of respect as we do our First World friends… [edited per Unbound blog policy.]

    1. Are you saying that these girls/women are asking to be gang raped or hanged? “It’s only dangerous to be a girl in India if you DON’T want to be gang raped and hanged by local police.”-What a sick statement to make! None of these girls and women want to be brutally gang raped or hanged. So many bright girls and women who aspire to be something great are the likely targets to these abhorring crimes taking place against them….are you saying that girls and women alike shouldn’t be allowed to do something more with their lives and continually live as they are because if they do so otherwise, they are asking to be targeted? You sir are sick and despicable to even say things such as “DON’T want to be gang raped,” whatever the **** that is supposed to mean.

        1. JT – it was defiant who made the comment, not Mimi32. She was responding to his comment.

        2. JTC: Hmmm…really now? This piece of technology can sense sarcasm in a person’s comment? Wow that’s very astonishing, quite remarkable really. Even if Defiant’s comment is sarcastic, it is a sick and derogatory statement to make about women and girls in general. So please excuse me if I cannot sense sarcasm through a written response on my computer.

    2. Defiant: I suppose it is okay for a man to beat his wife even in the US.
      Well, I have news for you: Killing anyone is wrong. People who kill belong in jail for life. And, beating anyone is wrong no matter where you reside or what your warped values may be. God help you with your comments that plainly show your hatred of women. How many have you abused in your lifetime. Don’t say none because I worked with family violence victims for over 10 years and know a violator when I see them or hear what they have to say.

  19. This … is getting ridiculous already. I have a friend, who has told me that it says in the Bible that the human heart is “deceitfully wicked” and sinful, and “not one person” on Earth is truly good. I am beginning to agree, as I see more and more of what goes on, on this crazy planet. [edited per Unbound blog policy.]

  20. Women should organize and go on strike (no cooking, cleaning, sex, etc. Then maybe the government will pass some laws and enforce them.

  21. United States makes it look like injustice and violence against happen only in India or in underdeveloped countries. This world view is Eurocentric, biased and prejudiced. USA has discriminated its own people. It has taken over 200 years for this country to elect a black man as president. Native Americans live in dire poverty. When female fetuses are aborted, its wrong because its happening in India because girls are undervalued. What about the abortions in USA. Millions happen every year. Give India her time. It has only been 67 years since Indian independence, so there will be lots of social problems and it will be solved in due time.

  22. George–

    I don’t think a women’s strike would work in this situation. If a woman refuses to cook or clean, she may have a husband who beats her into compliance. A woman who refuses sex will probably just get raped. Abusers do not negotiate.

  23. HI there unbound. it is great news to hear of the progress being made in Suryapet. If in the future you are in need of voluntary ambassadors to the state of Gujarat please reach out to me as I would be delighted to assist in these positive endeavors.

  24. I am very happy many young girls and women are being helped. Let’s teach them equality without making them into men.

    I would sponsor groups that help young boys and young men as there doesn’t seem to be a voice for them.

  25. I never heard of unbound org. before.. I do know our little Wisconsin Lutheran synod
    is sending missionary’s to India. I read about there work in forward in Christ magazine from time to time. its not do to ignorance that peoples of all countries hurt each other.. every one has a knowledge of what is right or wrong..
    any one who does violence to another person knows in there heart its wrong..

    any way its nice to hear about unbound .org

    I am interested in learning more about unbound.org

  26. This is a big exploitation of one or two incidents happened in India to hijack many generous minds around the world that want to share their fortune with a big mind. This model is observed for years, and the way they do is, work with few individuals locally who share big chunk of this collected money and provide pictures and letters from kids portraying they are helping them. But the end result is, kids are in unofficial jail where they need to follow these few individual’s rules and orders and have to stay away from their parents, and culture. They are not allowed to participate in any family and community events. And will be threatened if they do not follow their orders. They have rest of their lives so miserable, because they cannot share their pains with anyone and just act like they are living ok. My sincere request to so many helping minds, please do all due diligence before sharing your hard earned money.

  27. I would like to sponsor a young girl, I would like to show my teenage son how a pen pal letter works, and contribute to this cause.
    Thank You

    1. Bonnie,
      Thanks for your interest. Many of our sponsors use the relationship built with their sponsored friends as a teaching tool for their own children. Click here to sign up online. We’ll also have someone from our Sponsor Services department contact you about getting started.
      Thanks again,
      Jordan Kimbrell, writer/editor

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