The Invisible Girl Project: Saving Lives in India

logo-igpIn a recent trip to South India, I visited one of Invisible Girl Project’s partners that rescues and cares for unwanted baby girls.  Rather than letting them be killed or trafficked, this home will take girls in, care for them, educate them, and teach them their inherent value…as human beings.  The home has been rescuing and caring for girls for years, raising them, and then providing college educations or trades for them, preparing them for a future. Invisible Girl Project has been supporting them for the past three years.

I always love to visit this place, this home for girls.  It is in the middle of lush Indian countryside, sprawled across 100 acres.  When I enter the front gate, the Director always welcomes me “home.”  I see familiar faces of little girls I met years ago and who remember my name.  I smile as I hear the singing and laughter as over 150 little girls play and get to act like little girls.  It does feel like “home” in so many ways for both my wife and me.

On this trip, I had time to spend with the Director and asked him if he would share some stories with me that I had not heard before in other visits…stories of some of the little girls who had been rescued and whose lives had been changed.  As we sat in his office, he reached into one of his file cabinets and handed me a yellowed piece of paper that had a picture of a baby girl at the top and the name printed in large letters, “Kousalya.”  Her story read as follows:

There was hush-talk of suspicion over a bag left at the gate of the baby home at 5 A.M.  The weather was chill, cooled by the drizzle.  When we went nearby, our hearts almost froze by the sight of the girl baby wrapped in rags and kept inside a nylon handbag.  It was divine providence that the stray dogs did not damage the bag with the human babe inside.  A note inside the bag read, ‘I am too weak and old to rear this child.’ Surely it is a gift of God for us to care for the gift of life of this baby.

Having heard a number of stories over the years about the little girls who had been saved, I had never had the chance to read the story of Kousalya.  In fact, I probably could not pick her out of the crowd of girls that normally swarmed me every time I visited.  No, Kousalya was not a name or a face I knew.  I asked the Director, “Is she here?”  He replied that she was indeed and that she was a little shyer than the other girls, but if I would like to meet her, he would introduce me.

We left his office and strolled the grounds to find her.  Encountering a number of girls who were running and playing, we eventually approached a quiet group of four little girls sitting on the ground.  As they sat reading and doing homework, the Director said, “Kousalya, please come here.”  She stood quickly, obeying.  He then said, “Kousalya, this is Brad uncle.”

She was beautiful, about 11 years old…Full of life and light in her eyes.  I smiled at her and asked, “Kousalya, how long have you lived here?”

She responded, “As long as I can remember.  I came when I was a little baby.  I am studying very well.  I have many friends.”

I smiled and thanked her. I then thought to myself, that Kousalya was given a chance that every girl—every person in India deserves.  She was rescued and has been cared for, unlike other girls in India, who are murdered as little babies.  She was thriving, unlike other little girls in India who are abandoned or neglected.  She was being educated and cared for, unlike other little girls in India who are seen as a commodity and are trafficked into brothels at such tender ages.

Yes.  She had a home, where they believed it was a “gift of God” to raise her.  A home.  And, seeing the tangible result of the rescue and care for Kousalya reminded me why my wife and I feel like it is “home” too.

While IGP’s partner organization is not the ultimate answer to ending gendercide in India, this organization is acting to save lives of girls, just like Kousalya, one girl at a time.  And, if one girl at a time learns that her life is valuable, just because she is a human being, then the Indian culture can begin to be changed, one child at a time.

Mother Teresa once said, “If I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.”  IGP supports Indian organizations that help save and transform the lives of little girls like Kousalya, one at a time.

The Invisible Girl Project is part of the It’s a Girl action campaign. Please consider donating to them through the It’s a Girl Causes campaign.



brad small

Brad McElya and his wife, Jill founded Invisible Girl Project (IGP) in 2009, while living in India.  Now a non-profit organization based in the U.S., IGP is a grassroots organization that supports Indian organizations that rescue vulnerable girls and care for them, transforming their lives, and teaching them their inherent value.  Brad and Jill regularly travel to India to visit IGP’s partners and support their organizational and financial needs.

The views expressed by guest contributors to the “It’s a Girl” blog represent the opinion of the individual author who contributes the content and should not be interpreted as being endorsed or approved by Shadowline Films. We feature these contributions to foster dialogue and exchange on gendercide and invite our readership to join the discussion.


Why I Founded Women’s Rights Without Frontiers

I first learned about China’s One Child Policy while working as a litigation attorney in the early nineties. My client was seeking political asylum after escaping from a Chinese government that had forcibly sterilized her. I was shocked to discover that her case was not unique and that under China’s coercive family planning policy, women are routinely dragged from their homes and made to have abortions. Because some of these procedures are so violent, the mothers often end up dying along with their unborn children.

Screen Shot 2012-12-14 at 1.47.21 PM

Also, baby girls are selectively aborted, just because they are girls.  China has the worst gender ratio in the world:  120 boys born for every 100 girls born.  Girls are also abandoned at birth — left out to die.

I founded Women’s Rights Without Frontiers to fight this injustice and give people worldwide direct ways to help save lives in China. Our projects support mothers who are at risk of aborting or abandoning their baby girls and pregnant women without birth permits who are in hiding to escape forced abortions.  We are already saving lives!

Help us stop the violence and end the One Child Policy by making a contribution to our projects that are making a difference for girls in China. Together we can expose the brutality of China’s One Child policy, take a stand for these countless silenced women and girls, and save lives.

Donate to Women’s Right Without Frontiers


51 REggie

Reggie Littlejohn is Founder and President of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, an international coalition to expose and oppose forced abortion, gendercide and sexual slavery in China.  She also led the international effort to free blind activist Chen Guangcheng, who arrived in the United States on May 19, 2012.

An acclaimed international expert on China’s One Child Policy, she has testified six times at the United States Congress, twice at the European Parliament, and at the British and Irish Parliaments as well.  She was told that in 2008, she was the first person ever to address the European Parliament on the One Child Policy. This first Address at the European Parliament was included as a chapter in the book, Human Rights in China After the Olympic Games, (Human Rights Without Frontiers, 2009), available on

The views expressed by guest contributors to the “It’s a Girl” blog represent the opinion of the individual author who contributes the content and should not be interpreted as being endorsed or approved by Shadowline Films. We feature these contributions to foster dialogue and exchange on gendercide and invite our readership to join the discussion.

What Can Islam Offer to Combat Gendercide?

51 FK picWhen I first became familiar with the It’s a Girl documentary, a few Qur’anic verses came to mind:

When the sun is wrapped up [in darkness]

And when the stars fall, dispersing

[] And when the seas are filled with flame

And when the souls are paired with their bodies

And when the female infant [who was] buried alive it is questioned

For what crime she was killed?

…Then every person will know what (deeds) he has brought (of good or evil).[1]

These haunting verses are a reminder that in Islam, God holds humanity accountable for their actions in this world, including the egregious crime of female infanticide.  Here, the Qur’an describes God on the Day of Judgment, championing the innocent, the most vulnerable in society, by enabling her to testify as to how she was unjustly robbed of life.  Where we were when this happened? While it continues to happen today?

On October 6, 2012, Mercy Mission Canada’s Being ME (Muslimah[2] Empowered) held its annual women’s conference, entitled “Divine Liberation,” in Toronto, Canada.[3]  The conference focused on encouraging Muslim women to seek their better selves and obstacles they faced in their journey towards empowerment. Gendercide and gender preference were addressed as the conference hosted a screening and panel discussion of the It’s a Girl documentary to a crowd of over two thousand women of diverse ethnicities, ages and backgrounds.  After the screening, the panelist moderator asked: Was this relevant to the Muslim community? What can Islam offer to combat gendercide?

Islam outlines a comprehensive approach to changing societal attitudes towards raising daughters.  Islam unequivocally condemns female infanticide (and by extension, female feticide as it exists today), completely eradicating the practice prevalent in 6th century Arabia at the time of Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.)[4].  As discussed in It’s a Girl, economics is the driving force behind gendercide. God responds, “And kill not your children for fear of poverty. We provide for them and for you. Surely, such a killing is a great sin.”[5]

Islamic doctrine further emphasizes the importance of raising daughters so they feel valued as individuals.  To illustrate, the Qur’an criticizes the attitudes of parents who are disappointed in having female children and raise them accordingly: “When news is brought to one of them, of (the birth of) a female (child), his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain her in (sufferance) and contempt, or bury her in the dust?  Unquestionably, evil is what they decide![6]

Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.), more than once, discussed the rewards of raising daughters to shift the fundamental social construct in ancient Arabia — words that remain relevant today: “Whosoever has a daughter and does not bury her alive, does not insult/scorn her, and does not favor his/her son over her, God will admit him/her [parent] into Paradise.”[7] In another narration, he stated, “Whomsoever God has given two daughters and is kind towards them will have them as a reason for him/her to be admitted into Paradise.”[8]  Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) also stressed the importance of educating and being affectionate towards children, female and male alike.

Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) did not merely preach kind treatment towards daughters, but lived his life as testament to his words.  Muhammad raised five daughters with love, compassion & respect. In stark contrast to an ancient Arab culture where chauvinistic perceptions of manliness translated to stoicism towards children and contempt for girls, Muhammad’s unquestionable love and adoration for his daughters exemplifies the excellence of his character and consistency of his words.  Whenever his youngest daughter, Fatima, would enter a room, Muhammad would stand up and seat her in his place and they would speak closely to each other in hushed tones.  He once said, “Fatima is a part of me, and whoever saddens her has harmed me.”  Muhammad lost both his sons in infancy, and while he grieved as any parent would, he never once suggested being the father of five girls was a burden or something to be ashamed of.

Condemnation of female infanticide and gender preference and the counter- emphasis on the value of daughters in Islam are themes found throughout the Qur’an and recorded statements and practices of Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.).  However, the ideals of Islam do not always translate to reality, and many of the attitudes reflected in the It’s a Girl documentary remain relevant throughout the Muslim world today.

Being a part of humanity means Muslims should care about injustice, no matter where and to whom it happens.   Muhammad stated: “Whomsoever of you sees a evil action, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then hate it in his heart – and that is the weakest of faith.”  This exaltation is not qualified by issue, geography, time, or religion and is only characterized as one thing – working against injustice however it may occur.

As a community, there is need for introspection among Muslims to confront the disparity of treatment between the genders. Muslims are not immune from generations of ingrained cultural norms rife with patriarchy and paternalism where sons receive preferential treatment over daughters, are afforded more opportunities, and daughters are relegated to archaic and stereotypical roles historically suited to females.  As conference organizers, there was across the board consensus that the issue was relevant and touched each of us individually although we all came from ethnic backgrounds spanning the continents. A scan of the conference audience illustrated many attendees had personal experience with gender preference in their own families. Throughout my life, I have witnessed and heard similar threads of the same stories emerge –family members, friends, and their relatives, living in North America and our mother countries, who experienced pressure to have sons, who themselves wished only to sons first, who perceived raising daughters as a drain on family resources, and marital gift inequities.

In Islam, there is no such thing as dowry; there is a mandatory gift (mahr) the husband must give as agreed upon between husband & wife to fulfill the marital contract. The mahr is a measure of good will and given to the wife alone (not her family). However, many South Asian Muslims attach a gift exchange requirement between the bride and groom’s families, and often with the expectation that the bride’s family offer the groom and his family exorbitant gifts. The more eligible, educated, wealthier, and overall the better the personal resume of the groom, the more expensive and the longer the list of demands become upon the bride’s family.  The gifts are to be given not only to the groom, but to his immediate family and extended aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. as well. To place limits or give less than expected are signs of ill will, the bride’s family labeled as miserly, poor, or lower class and family politics ensue. These practices have no place in Islam, and yet they exist and effectively create the same burdens and economic pressures discussed in the It’s a Girl documentary.

It must be said that the above-mentioned is not always the rule and cannot be generalized to apply to all Muslims or South Asians or both.  By the same token, it cannot be ignored that these experiences are recognized and shared by many in our community.

Closer to home, North American Muslims may recognize or experience the effects of gender bias in their own cities.  Not far from where the Being Me conference was held, several hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), all located in areas with high concentrations of Asians, refuse to permit sex determination ultrasounds.[9]  In a 2012 Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) editorial, studies revealed sex selection “at higher parities if previous children were girls among Asians — that is people from India, China, Korea, Vietnam and Philippines.”[10] In other words, Asian families who already had daughters were more likely to have sons as second or third children than was the normal ratio in Canada. Similar studies in the United States have yielded similar results. Concerns may be further exacerbated by the popularity of privately owned ultrasound businesses in Canada that permit individuals to ascertain the fetus’ sex earlier than could be determined from their doctors and more significantly, during the period of elective abortion permitted in Canada.[11]

None of these reports identify the religion of the ethnic groups participating in female feticide so it unclear to what extent, if any, Asian Muslims contribute to in this heinous practice in North America.  More significantly however, is recognizing attitudes in the Muslim community which foster unequal treatment between sons & daughters, however they manifest themselves, and working towards thwarting the elements contributing to gendercide and gender preference.

The Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad’s legacy of social change outlines a blueprint for just and compassionate treatment of daughters and more generally, women for Muslims worldwide. As Muslims, we must also hold ourselves accountable as a community to reflect the Islamic paradigm of social change as illustrated in the Qur’an and life of Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.). As members of the global community faced with gendercide, we can do no less than oppose in our hearts, speak out with our voices, and change with our hands.


[1] Qur’an, Chapter 81, Verses 1-2, 6-9, 14.

[2] “Muslimah” – means “female Muslim.” The noun “Muslim” encompasses both males & females.

[3] For more details, see:

[4] In the Islamic tradition, the words “peace be upon him”, here abbreviated as “p.b.u.h.,” are to follow the name of Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.).

[5] Qur’an, Chapter 17, Verse 31.

[6] Qur’an, Chapter 16, Verses 58-59.

[7] Abu Dawood

[8] Bukhari #1352, Muslim #2629

[9] Yang, Jennifer,“Six GTA hospitals won’t reveal fetal sex during ultrasound,”–six-gta-hospitals-won-t-reveal-fetal-sex-during-ultrasound

[10] Kale, Rajendra, “It’s a girl – could be a death sentence.”

[11] Sawa, Timothy and Pieper, Annie Burns,“ Fetal gender testing offered at private clinics: Raises fears that gender selection is happening in Canada.”

51 FK picMs. Fasiha Khan was a member of the Being ME conference’s Program committee tasked with developing and implementing the lectures and workshops for the conference.  After learning about the It’s a Girl documentary, she introduced it to conference organizers, the launch pad from which the Being ME conference hosted its screening of the documentary at the conference.  The Being ME second annual women’s conference, entitled “Divine Liberation,” focused on Muslim women’s empowerment through the Islamic paradigm.  The conference was held on October 6, 2012 with over 3,000 attendees.

Fasiha Khan is an attorney with a family law background in divorce, custody and domestic violence. She grew up in Maryland, where she was an active member of the Muslim community, developing programs for Muslim youth, speaking on issues related to Muslim women’s rights and volunteering to advocate for domestic violence survivors. She is married to a fantastic man who is very supportive of her work.

The views expressed by guest contributors to the “It’s a Girl” blog represent the opinion of the individual author who contributes the content and should not be interpreted as being endorsed or approved by Shadowline Films. We feature these contributions to foster dialogue and exchange on gendercide and invite our readership to join the discussion.


Why ‘It’s a Girl’ is a Different Kind of Film

are women human rita.banerjiWhen I started The 50 Million Missing Campaign on India’s female genocide, in 2006, I had two goals. One, was to raise global awareness about this massive, human rights atrocity in India, for many didn’t and still don’t know.  The other goal was to build a grassroots, public momentum that will demand official accountability and action, of the kind that all genocides warrant.
Over the last few years I’ve given countless interviews.  As a writer, I am well aware of how critical the role of the media is in communicating with the public, and I am very indebted for their help in putting out the word both about our campaign and the issue of India’s female gendercide.
Yet, I also have to say, that sometimes there are ways in which the media has presented this issue that I find deeply despairing.  It’s almost like they end up further dehumanizing this human rights catastrophe!  I am always shaken up by questions that use phrases like“the dropping sex ratio,” or “the shortage of women in India”  “Shortage” is a word used when we discuss ‘things’ –‘resources’ — like food, land and water, things that we use! Not human beings!
Perhaps it is this view of women as use-based commodities by the media, which also makes it attempt to rationalize this genocide – as if there’s actually a legitimate explanation for it. Or they patronize this bizarre idea that economic incentives should be given to people to not kill girls and women!!
Would we try to rationalize any other human genocide? Would we think giving economic incentives to Europe or to Rawanda or Bosnia would have stopped the genocides there? Would we speak of the Jewish genocide as the “dropping Jewish ratio” or as a “shortage of Jews” in Europe?  So why do they does the media dehumanize the girls and women of India this way? 1.8 million girls born between 1985-2005 were battered to death before they turned 6 years old. 106,000 young women were burnt to death in just one year. 1 woman is killed every 5 minutes, as millions of women are abused and brutally forced through multiple, back-to-back abortions to rid girls! Click here for news reports of the kind of violence that women in India face every day!
Last year, I asked a documentary film maker from Europe, who was interviewing me, why reporters consistently chose to ignore my remarks that the annihilation of women increases as you go up the economic and education ladder in India.  Look at any other genocide: it is the powerful that have played the biggest roles! She said, because their audience (in Europe) wouldn’t like to hear it or understand it!!
The media sets the tone for how the public thinks, acts and reacts. If the media itself views women as ‘sexual’ or ‘reproductive’ resources for men to use, it makes the work of campaigns like mine that much more difficult.
Sometimes, when I give an interview, it feels like, they’ve already got the plot and vision of “a story” in their head and I’m just required to plug in the numbers.  And so I was pleasantly surprised when the ‘It’s a Girl’ team showed up at my door (on the dot of the appointed time, I should add, even though they were coming from the other end of the world), with a copy of my book ‘Sex and Power,’ pages and passages duly marked for further discussion, along with tons of questions.  I realized they had come to talk and understand!!  Even after they returned to the U.S., they continued to email me and communicate about the development of the presentation of their film.
I recently saw the full version of the film, and it finally put my mind to ease.  ‘It’s a Girl’ is not just another media story on India’s ‘falling sex ratio.’ It is an ideological challenge to a global humanity to open its eyes to a human rights atrocity on a historically unprecedented scale.  It is also a call for the world to finally recognize that women are human.
Amnesty International has officially nominated this film for their 2012 Reel Film Festival on films that deal with the critical human rights issues of our times.  The film has also been nominated for the 2012 International Human Rights Film festival in Vienna.
Finally! The women of India have a voice in the world to protest the wrong done to us, and most of all to remind the world that we are HUMAN and that members of the global community need to take a stand and speak up!
If you are reading this, please, where ever you are, stand up and be counted. Sign this petition and add your voice to the momentum telling the Leaders of the world to stop the female genocide in India.


Rita Banerji an author and gender activist, and the founder of The 50 Million Missing Campaign to end India’s female genocide. Her book ‘Sex and Power: Defining History Shaping Societies,‘ is a historical and social look at how the relationship between gender and power in India has led to the ongoing female gendercide. Her website is She blogs at Rebellions in my Space and tweets at @Rita_Banerji


The views expressed by guest contributors to the “It’s a Girl” blog represent the opinion of the individual author who contributes the content and should not be interpreted as being endorsed or approved by Shadowline Films. We feature these contributions to foster dialogue and exchange on gendercide and invite our readership to join the discussion.

President Hu Jintao’s Chance To End The One Child Policy and Gendercide

The contrast with the American presidential election campaign could not

be greater but this week the Chinese Communist Party made its once in a decade transfer of power to a new Politburo of one-party State appointees. President Hu Jintao is expected to hand over the reins of power in March.

Before he leaves office there is one last question which President Hu should address – and which would earn him widespread respect and admiration: it is a brutal and discriminatory policy [the One-Child Policy] which for 32 years has tarnished the reputation of a great country and which has left a trail of misery.

Last month, the United Nations commemorated its International Day of the Girl: highlighting the 100 million girls who are the victims of domestic violence, compulsory veiling, the sex trade, trafficking, bonded labour, forced marriages, genital mutilation, and sexual abuse. In China – and elsewhere – that discrimination begins even before birth, when the three most dangerous and deadly words which can be uttered are the words “It’s a girl”.

Thirty two years ago, China passed a law which institutionalised the routine killing of little girls, merely because of their sex. It’s a policy which shamefully has been indirectly aided and abetted by British taxpayers money.

Centuries-old tradition, combined with government-enforced birth control policies, have had horrifying and devastating consequences.

But while China is by far the leader in this appalling trend, it’s by no means alone.  India, with its history of deadly discrimination against girls and women, is rapidly catching up. Today there are now markedly more males than females in India than there were in the early 1990s, and various regions are facing serious and growing gender imbalances.

One United Nations expert estimates that gendercide has cost the lives of around two hundred million women and girls worldwide over the past thirty years. It has also led to violence against citizens and sometimes to the murder of those who don’t comply with the policy.

Gendercide is also on the rise globally. As an international predilection for sex-selective abortion grows, so more and more women and girls are losing their lives or simply “missing”, the result of sterilization or other means. Western Asia, in particular, is a region of growing concern. And in February of this year undercover journalists discovered sex selection abortions taking place in the UK.
Many Chinese people have been urging Hu Jintao to abandon the one child policy and there are signs that the protests are having their effect.  One man in particular has done more than anyone to force open the debate about gendercide. In April of this year the blind self taught lawyer, Chen Guangcheng, who spent four years in prison for opposing the policy, escaped house arrest, finding safe passage to the United States.

We can learn much from his example. Chen’s bravery and heroism has inspired many Chinese dissidents and campaigners around the world. He has seen what sighted people have failed to see; spoken out when those of us with free speech have failed to do so.

In a recent interview, Chen said he was confident reform will come to China, but stressed that if everyone made an effort to build a more just and civil society, then it would come faster. Here’s one thing each of us can do:

A brilliant new hour-long film, entitled “It’s A Girl” was recently premiered at Westminster at a meeting which I chaired. The film conveys a simple yet powerful message:  that the words “It’s a girl” – usually proclaimed with such joy and celebration – are deadly for large populations of the world.

It is available to be seen in parishes and in small groups in people’s homes or in colleges.  Anyone wishing to show the film should contact


Excerpts used with the author’s permission. (Full text) 

Picture 1:  From the It’s a Girl screening at British Parliament  Lord Alton with Reggie Littlejohn, President of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, Andrew Brown and Evan Grae-Davis

Picture 2: Chinese President Hu Jintao © New York Times

davidDavid Alton was a Member of the House of Commons of the British Parliament for 18 years. Today he is Lord Alton of Liverpool, a Catholic member of the British House of Lords where he sits as an Independent. He is Professor of Citizenship at Liverpool John Moores University and author of eight books.


The views expressed by guest contributors to the “It’s a Girl” blog represent the opinion of the individual author who contributes the content and should not be interpreted as being endorsed or approved by Shadowline Films. We feature these contributions to foster dialogue and exchange on gendercide and invite our readership to join the discussion.


Introducing The Gendercide Awareness Project

blue on blackSo many people have never heard about gendercide. Perhaps they know dimly that baby girls are aborted in China, but they have no idea of the scale and scope of the problem. It extends far beyond China, and the numbers are staggering!

Like Evan Grae Davis and the team at It’s A Girl, we at the newly created GENDERCIDE AWARENESS PROJECT are committed to creating awareness and inspiring action. The film was a wonderful way to begin – to demonstrate just how serious this problem is.  Last Wednesday, we showed the film to a sell-out crowd of almost 200 people. Viewers reacted with dismay at the scale of the problem, all while complimenting the film itself. They found it informative, moving, and powerful!  Kudos to the team that made it!

The screening helped propel the GENDERCIDE AWARENESS PROJECT toward its goal for 2015 – the creation of a visually powerful art installation with a strong “take action” platform. We are collecting almost 12,000 pairs of handmade baby booties, each pair representing 10,000 missing women in the world. The booties will be displayed in a long, winding corridor as shown.  The purpose is for visitors to experience the sheer scale of this silent atrocity.

Afterward, visitors will learn how to take action by:

1) Supporting women’s education, microfinance, and maternal healthcare  in the developing world

2) By supporting organizations that rescue girls from abortion or abandonment in countries such as China and India.

The exhibit opens in Dallas in 2015; it will travel across the country and hopefully abroad afterward.

yellow on blackDo you know how to knit or sew? Please give a gift of your time and send us some baby booties – any type at all is fine! Or send a donation that will help us to purchase baby booties from women overseas. We are working with reputable nonprofits to commission baby booties from women’s sewing groups in the developing world. A gift of $10 will buy almost three pairs of booties. The women will receive fairly paid work, and we can showcase their beautiful and ethnically diverse handiwork! Please see to learn more and donate.

Thank you for your compassion and concern!


“A better world for women is a better world for all.”

About the Gendercide Awareness Project Team: 

51 2964226Beverly Hill, President and Founder, works as a sculptor in Dallas, Texas, specializing in figurative bronze, clay murals, and, more recently, cast glass. Her work appears in private collections throughout the country. Prior to that, she taught History of Science and Renaissance/Reformation History at the University of Iowa and the University of Massachusetts in Boston. Beverly founded the Gendercide Awareness Project, an endeavor which uses both her academic and artistic skills. Beverly is the artistic director for the Gendercide Awareness Project; she also oversees research, text for the website, and communications. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, skiing, and being with her family.


Screen Shot 2012-10-22 at 5.59.41 PMValarie Truelove, VP Marketing & Communications, concentrates full-time on helping to build out and grow the Gendercide Awareness Project. Her focuses include online development, social media creation and marketing, and fundraising.



Screen Shot 2012-10-22 at 6.00.12 PMJune Chow, VP Outreach, handles the publicity and marketing for Gendap and serve as liaison to the fashion and arts communities. She will direct the drive to gather the thousands of baby booties needed to create the powerful visual and visceral experience that will be embodied by the GendAP art installation.




The views expressed by guest contributors to the “It’s a Girl” blog represent the opinion of the individual author who contributes the content and should not be interpreted as being endorsed or approved by Shadowline Films. We feature these contributions to foster dialogue and exchange on gendercide and invite our readership to join the discussion.

What if I was Maria?

confident with mom rita.banerji
As founder of The 50 Million Missing, a campaign on female gendercide in India, I am often asked by individuals if there is anything they can do to make a difference.

And my response is, “Yes, you can! Just be responsible for what YOU say, and what YOU do.”

Let me explain with Maria’s story.

old friends

Maria del Nevo who recently passed away in June 2012, was a British woman who in the 90’s had lived and worked in Pakistan.  Her account of her experiences there are included in a selection of letters from various women, published under the title ‘Letters from the Edge.’  However, this is not a story about a westerner encountering a facet of the South Asian culture.  Maria’s story is applicable to anyone who sees themselves as standing on the edge of the female gendercide. Not participating in it, but witnessing the cultural dynamics that propel it, and feeling helpless.  Maria’s story therefore applies equally to Indians (or Pakistanis) who would never demand a dowry or support female infanticide or feticide.   But they would still respond the same way that Maria did if they visited the house Maria did in this story!

While living in Pakistan, Maria was invited for a few days as a house-guest to a friend’s home.  It was a joint family, and Rani, the daughter-in-law, was expecting her first child.  Maria explains that  Rani was very anxious about the sex of her unborn child.  She says, “[Rani] is always frightened her husband won’t come back to her one day. She thinks if she gives him all boys, he is tied to her and she will  gain more respect from him and his family.”

Eventually Rani’s worst fears were realized and she gave birth to a girl.  However, the baby did not survive and the labor took a toll on Rani’s health.  For the next two days, she lay in the hospital bleeding.  Rani’s husband and in-laws however did not visit her for the birth of the child, or upon receiving news of her death and Rani’s critical condition.  Instead the entire family stayed home, and tried to entertain their house-guest Maria by renting Hollywood videos to watch, which they presumed she would enjoy.

Maria however, could hardly watch the videos, and felt extremely uncomfortable with the whole situation.  Even later, when Rani returned home, the family isolated her in a room.  No one talked to her or tried to comfort her, and they also warned Maria to stay away since they believed Rani carried ‘bad luck.’ Maria complied with their wishes, and explains it like this: “Although I thought this strange, I didn’t feel my questioning would be appreciated…I was the family’s guest and I didn’t wish to offend them by blatantly acting against their wishes.”

What Maria felt and did is what most in her situation would do, whether they are visiting westerners, or whether they are Indians, visiting friends and relatives, who perhaps themselves wouldn’t do what Rani’s family did to her.

A majority of people, like Maria, will stay quiet, won’t object, and will do nothing – because they don’t want to offend.

But ask this: Who do they not wish to offend? Rani’s family that is abusive towards her? Or Rani, the victimized woman?

Ask this: Why are we more concerned about hurting the feelings of the more powerful and oppressive party? Why are we not worried about hurting the feelings of the weaker and oppressed party – women like Rani?

Maria struggled with her conscience and realized the hypocrisy of her own reasoning.  She says, “The family’s behavior and superstition made me angry. Rani had no comfort, no love, no husband by her side….”  Rani did not even receive Maria’s comfort and support. Not a hug. Not a kind word. Not even a smile.

So why didn’t Maria make that little gesture towards Rani?  And so what if she did offend Rani’s family by doing that?  The worst thing that could have happened is they would be offended.  They would withdraw their friendship and hospitality.  Is that that a big sacrifice to make?

Maria’s small gesture of compassion may not have changed the course of Rani’s life, but in that moment of darkness, wouldn’t there be just a little respite for her?  Something she would cherish for long?  Isn’t that something that we would each want for ourselves if we were in Rani’s place and everything seemed hopeless?

Maria finally comes to term with her choice.  In her words, in the darkness that was Rani’s life “I had stayed on the side of the majority.”

Please sign the It’s a Girl and 50 Million Missing joint petition on for a Global Mandate for Official Action to Stop Female Gendercide in India. 


Rita Banerji an author and gender activist, and the founder of The 50 Million Missing Campaign to end India’s female genocide. Her book ‘Sex and Power: Defining History Shaping Societies,‘ is a historical and social look at how the relationship between gender and power in India has led to the ongoing female gendercide. Her website is She blogs at Rebellions in my Space and tweets at @Rita_Banerji

The views expressed by guest contributors to the “It’s a Girl” blog represent the opinion of the individual author who contributes the content and should not be interpreted as being endorsed or approved by Shadowline Films. We feature these contributions to foster dialogue and exchange on gendercide and invite our readership to join the discussion.

The Root Causes of Gendercide

Throughout my journey directing It’s a Girl, and particularly now that the film is complete, I am frequently asked– and have often asked myself– what are the root causes of gendercide? I have thought a lot about it and continue to explore deeper, searching for the roots underlying son-preference culture and the devaluation of women around the world.

Although this is an extremely complicated matter, and, as an outsider my perspective is limited, here are some thoughts about one possible cause coming out of human nature.

As I look around me every day, it seems the fundamental questions that drive each of us are, do I matter? do I fit in? do I belong? do I have worth? does my life have meaning? am I valued by those around me?

They seem to be the eternal questions of life: why am I here and how can I find meaning in this world?

In an ideal world, every child that is born, whether boy or girl, is taught from the first day of their life that they are wanted. Valued. That they were born into the family they were meant to, and that they belong– regardless of gender or performance.

Because the family so often fails to instill this sense of value and belonging, our social fabric has been slowly woven over centuries by insecure people desperate to prove their worth by creating class distinctions and lines that separate based on status, wealth, ethnicity, religion, gender, education, pedigree– even geography.

Although there are healthy expressions of enterprise and desire for success, and not all motives to succeed are rooted in insecurity and need for worth, human nature is inclined towards one-upmanship.

Here in the U.S. you see the signs of this eternal struggle in the business world, sports and the entertainment industry. The malls are full of products designed to appeal to our need to be accepted and acquire status. The fashion industry sets standards for young women, determining what they must look like to be considered beautiful. Music and pop culture is steeped with subliminal messages to our young people that their value and social status is being measured by complex standards of appearance and behavior.

Every nation and culture have their distinctions.

For instance, the caste system in India is designed to endow value (or lack thereof) within the context of the larger community. To be born into an upper caste automatically assigns a level of value and belonging with which one can identify. The tragedy of the system is that in order for upper caste members to be assigned value, there must be lower castes to whom less value is assigned. Which means to be born into a lower caste automatically dooms one to be a nobody for the rest of one’s life, regardless of how hard they work, how intelligent they are, or what they accomplish in life.

Women have historically been the losers in this centuries-old battle for worth. For centuries women have been subjugated by patriarchal cultures and social structures that place their destiny and identity in the hands of their fathers, brothers and husbands– even clergy, employers and governmental officials who make laws that determine whether women can vote, own land, or live as independent persons.

Women in India are subject to additional standards of value. A son is born an automatic asset to his family. A daughter is born as a burden to her family– a deficit doomed to carry off a large part of her family’s wealth as dowry when she marries. She spends her childhood doing her best to offset the losses to her family by working very hard: cleaning, doing laundry, cooking, working in the fields. And even a girl born to a wealthy family who receives a good education is still subject to the rules of marriage.

Once married, an Indian women’s value to her new family is directly determined by how much dowry she brings and whether she bears her husband a son. What kind of identity message does a woman receive when she is married off in an arranged marriage, about which she has no choice, into a family of strangers who may abuse her and neglect her based on how satisfied they are with her dowry or whether she bears them a son? And throughout her life, the forces that determine her destiny are completely outside of her control. She has no influence over the value of her dowry. And it is a biological fact the the man contributes the chromosomes that determine whether she will bear a son or a daughter. Yet she is held responsible– often with her life, for matters completely outside her control.

The injustice of gendercide is the culmination of gender oppression dating back practically to the beginning of time and it is no wonder that women are saying no more. The clarion call of the feminist movement is that women have inherent value that transcends what is assigned them by the men in their lives! This call is echoing around the world and beginning to resonate among many women in India. Yet for the new generations of girls to become culture-changers, they need the support of the international community. Those brave enough to resist the system and demand equality put themselves at great risk.

Rita Banerji is one of the few Indian women risking making her voice heard. As an authoractivist and one of the experts featured in It’s a Girl, Miss Banerji holds nothing back when exposing the roots of gendercide in India. She said, “ …the misogyny that promotes the objectification of women, treating them like usable and disposable objects, has such deeply pervasive cultural and historical roots, that it sometimes seems impossible to surmount. It permeates every corner of society.”

Miss Banerji has created a petiton demanding that the Government of India, The OHCHR, The UNICEF, The UNIFEM, The UNFPA, CEDAW, The EU and The G8 take immediate and effective action to halt gendercide in India. If you are as angry as I am at this ongoing and growing, systematic devaluation and violence against women in India, you can join me and Rita in signing this petition here.




Originally posted on Evan Grae Davis’ personal blog at

From the Aral Sea disaster in Eastern Europe to poverty in Africa to social transformation among tribal groups of South America, “It’s a Girl” director Evan Grae Davis has traveled the globe with camera in hand for 16 years. Evan has dedicated his career to advocating for social justice through writing and directing short documentaries and educational videos championing the cause of the poor and exploited. Evan draws from his experience and passion as he lends leadership to Shadowline Films, a team of filmmakers who share a common concern for the critical issues of our time. It’s a Girl is his first feature-length documentary. 


Missing Girls in China

Chinese Family - Image by Matt512In China, millions of female conceptions are aborted by prospective parents, creating a problem of ‘missing girls.’ In spite of China’s rapid development, the sex ratio at birth is as high today as it has ever been, with roughly 118 boys born for every 100 girls. A basic question that needs to be answered before real progress can be made is why parents choose to abort daughters.  A glib answer like “because the Chinese prefer sons” is both misleading and insufficient.

One factor is that Chinese parents actually do prefer to have at least one son. Among parents with two sons, the third child in the family is more likely to be female than male – 61% of third children after sons are female, suggesting there are “missing boys”. So to some extent, Chinese parents do value girls and in fact prefer them to sons under certain circumstances – specifically, when their need for having one son has been met.

Another key issue is whether the son preference in China is driven by culture or economics. By culture, I mean the influences that persuade us to behave a certain way without real economic incentives underlying the behavior, like Jews fasting on Yom Kippur or Moslems fasting on Ramadan. Indeed, there are certain Confucian functions that can only be performed by a son, including certain mourning rituals. But this is not the major factor leading millions of parents to abort daughters. What is the major factor is patrilocality, which refers to the firmly-entrenched cultural norm for elderly parents to co-reside with their adult children, and for the son to have a woman “marry in” and assist him in this function. Patrilocality is an economic factor affecting almost every country that participates in sex-selective abortion.

For parents in China, having a son comes with the added bonus that he and his wife will eventually take over the primary responsibilities of elderly care. In a world without social security and with limited ability among individuals to generate financial wealth, this is the primary method of guaranteeing support in one’s old age. It is perhaps no wonder then that parents prefer a daughter after having sons – since they are only going to live with one of the sons, and extra sons become a burden as the parents are forced to purchase land to make these other sons more desirable for marriages. So when international observers are puzzled by the increasing sex ratio at birth in China in spite of economic growth, it is worth taking a closer look and realizing that the incentives driving parents to want sons are getting stronger, not weakening.

As China’s fertility continues to drop and parents have fewer children, the need to have a son to provide for one’s old age becomes even more critical. Chinese government officials have repeated their calls for a ban on sex-selective abortion at the same time that they have declared that rural old age support is the responsibility of one’s family, not the state. Limited social security in rural areas has been associated with a normalization in the sex ratios at birth  for rural areas, therefore a significant amount of work must be done to compensate. Until the need for sons is reduced, policymakers will continue to find themselves in a difficult predicament.

Avraham EbensteinAvraham Ebenstein received his Ph.D. in economics from University of California, Berkeley in 2007. His fields of interest include environmental economics, health economics, and economic demography. Dr. Ebenstein’s past research examined the impact of fertility control policy in China on the sex ratio, and investigated policies that might address the “missing girls” phenomenon in Asia. He also explored linkages between declining fertility and increasing female labor supply in Taiwan and the United States in a comparative study. His current research examines the impact of globalization on labor market outcomes in developed and developing countries.



The views expressed by guest contributors to the “It’s a Girl” blog represent the opinion of the individual author who contributes the content and should not be interpreted as being endorsed or approved by Shadowline Films. We feature these contributions to foster dialogue and exchange on gendercide and invite our readership to join the discussion.

Gendercide and The West

Newborn BabyGendercide is the unreported tragedy of our age.

I was one of those guilty of dismissing gendercide as an Asian problem. Surely, unwanted female foetuses were aborted there, in illegal clinics, not here. And surely unwanted daughters were killed there, in forgotten villages, not here. The egalitarian Shangri-La that is ‘The West’ would never allow unwanted daughters to be eliminated in this way. Surely? The shocking truth, I discovered, is that gendercide is a global tragedy.

An Oxford University study revealed that between 1995 and 2005, 1500 girls “disappeared” among Indian communities in England and Wales. Sex selective abortions are the only plausible explanation. If the study is correct, the figures mean that 1 in 10 extra girls, who should have been born according to normal birth statistics, were selectively aborted. Sex-selective abortions are illegal in the UK under the 1967 Abortion Act and yet, as the recent investigation carried out by The Telegraph exposed, families can and presumably have had pregnancies terminated here. Doctors, being secretly filmed, agreed to falsify paperwork to circumvent legal prohibitions even though they recognised the immorality of ‘female infanticide’. Sex-selective abortions are, shockingly, legal in the US and the post-communist states of east Europe all have unnatural discrepancies in their birth gender ratios.

Most, if not all, of the agreed solutions fall away when we understand gendercide as a global problem. Activists have always spoken of the need to economically empower women, to inform women of their rights and to improve legal enforcements. These are all the solutions to problems that don’t exist in the US, Australia or the UK. Those fighting to end gendercide have always kept faith in modernisation as a force that will uproot the “backward culture” of son-preference. But modernisation, though necessary, has been proved to be insufficient.

Gendercide is a problem of supply and demand. Modernisation has failed to root-out foetal gender-preference and developments in technology have facilitated femicide. With sex determination now possible at seven weeks online, new technologies have had the perverse effect of decreasing reproductive liberty rather than can increasing reproductive control. Logic suggests then, that the process of combatting gendercide must be inverted: eliminate supply before tackling demand. This though, might not be the answer either.  Campaigners warn that those extreme enough to want a gender-selective abortion would “always a find a way”. As Kishwar Desai highlights, Indian families from the UK are prepared to travel to India to end pregnancies, where illegal abortions can be procured for a small price. It is impossible to know how many women each year go abroad to eliminate female foetuses. What is certain is that driving these abortions abroad or underground is counter to all interests.

It’s not only the absence of solutions that complicates the fight against gendercide in The West. Abortion – and controls on it – remains a fraught issue. The risk of talking about gendercide in The West is that it becomes engulfed by the abortion debate. The difficulty, as Cristina Odone notes, is that combatting gender-selective abortion ‘smacks of pro-life’. It is entirely consistent with being pro-choice to argue that gendercide is the not-too-remote consequence of permissive abortion controls. A hijacking of the anti-gendercide cause by either the pro-life or pro-choice lobby would be a huge setback.

Abortion and gendercide are distinct issues and if we are to end gendercide, we must constantly remind ourselves of this distinction. The routine elimination of female foetuses, solely because they are not male, is something we must all work to end.

Gendercide is an issue in relation to which our first and last question must always be: how do we end it? All manner of policy initiatives have been tried. Over concerns of sex-selection, the Council of Europe went as far as to suggest that doctors must now refuse to tell parents the gender of their baby. But technology and culture undermine policy at every stage and no legislation can combat a global cultural malaise. As Evan Grae Davis, It’s A Girl’s director has said, gendercide is one among many issues that is “greater than any single organisation can fight alone”. It is for this reason that the work of Shadowline Films, and similar projects, is vital: where policy falls short, awareness and activism must fill the gap.


Ram MashruRam Mashru is a freelance political journalist. His writing interests encompass international affairs and human rights and he has written before on gendercide here. He is the founder and editor of Discuss[n], an online political magazine, and can be followed on twitter (@RamMashru).


The views expressed by guest contributors to the “It’s a Girl” blog represent the opinion of the individual author who contributes the content and should not be interpreted as being endorsed or approved by Shadowline Films. We feature these contributions to foster dialogue and exchange on gendercide and invite our readership to join the discussion.