An Indian mother holds her newborn daughter. The Indian Dreams Foundation — funded in part by Indian Americans — has launched a new initiative, “My Daughter, My Pride,” which aims to acknowledge the special bond mothers share with their daughters. (Getty Images)

The Agra-based Indian Dreams Foundation has launched a new initiative, “My Daughter, My Pride,” which celebrates the unique bond between a mother and her daughter and acknowledges the important role a mother has throughout her daughter’s life.

“It is a universal truth that the relationship between a mother and daughter is vital from birth to adulthood,” Punit Asthana, who founded the Indian Dreams Foundation in 2004, told India-West. “A mother is the most important individual in her daughter’s life, and this relationship is particularly significant in the formative years,” he said.

IDF is funded in part by Indian Americans, who donate to the organization through the Northern California-based Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The organization’s flagship program, “Honhar Ladhki” – promising girl – focuses on the education of adolescent girls in formal secondary education schools and higher learning institutions. “My Daughter, My Pride” is an extension of the Honhar Ladhki initiative, said Asthana.

The web portal provides a platform for women to share photographs of themselves with their mothers or daughters, along with anecdotes, experiences and policy ideas to empower young women.

“Through this campaign, IDF would like to encourage brave mothers who fight against all odds and to do all they can to ensure the well-being of their daughter. The campaign is dedicated to the empowerment of girls and to encourage their education through digital media,” said the social activist, whose mother raised him and two siblings singlehandedly after his father died when he was just 10. Asthana noted that his mother had fought for all her children to be educated, ignoring the wishes of relatives who thought the young children should work (I-W, Dec. 2, 2015).

“Capture your proudest moments and share them,” the founder told India-West, encouraging all women to peruse the portal. Since its launch last month, 200 women have connected with the initiative.

India is home to one-third of the world’s female illiterate population. More than 187 million women cannot read or write, and only half of India’s women have basic literacy skills.

Evan Grae Davis, producer of the documentary film, “It’s a Girl,” noted that India’s females are devalued by their mother and fathers even before they are born. Female infanticide is still prevalent in India, with some states having skewed gender ratios as low as 832 girls for every 1,000 boys.

In the film, Davis interviewed a woman in India who casually spoke of killing eight newborn daughters by strangling them. “Women have the power to give life and to take it away,” she told the film-makers.

The woman also told her own story of excelling in school, but nonetheless being married off at a young age, as a second wife to her sister’s husband, because her sister was unable to have children.

“Gendercide took on a whole new meaning for me, because I realized she was simply a product of the culture in which she lives,” Davis told Mercatornet.

“She was programmed from birth to accept certain traditional views about her value and roles as a woman. These deeply engrained cultural beliefs drive the entire system, and women often find themselves as the perpetrators, visiting the same violence they experienced upon their daughters and daughters-in-law,” said Davis.

IDF is currently working with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration to support the “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” – Save the Girl Child, Educate the Girl Child — initiative.

The program aims to balance child sex ratios through initiatives – primarily education – which help parents recognize the value of their daughters.

Asthana said he hopes “My Daughter My Pride” will grow into a forum to allow women’s voices to be heard across the globe.

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