25 October 2011


Satara (photographer's real name unavailable)
Did you see the news story about the girls named "Unwanted"? I had been vaguely aware that there were places in the world where boys were valued much more than girls, but today I learned that in one region of Maharashtra, India, the ratio of young girls to boys is only 801 to 1000. And what is life like for those 801 girls, the ones not aborted or fatally neglected? Some, especially ones born into a family with several daughters already, get labelled with demoralizing names like Nakusa, which literally means "unwanted". Parents say that they didn't treat these girls badly. But it's tough to imagine being reminded every time someone uses your name that your birth was a disappointment to your parents.

Yesterday I read about Dr Bhagwan Pawar, district health officer in the Maharashtra region of Satara, who came up with the idea of an official re-naming ceremony. Officials visited the homes of over 200 local girls with this or similar names (Nakushi, Nakoshi), and asked what they would prefer to be called. Some chose the names of famous actresses they admire, some chose Hindu goddess names, and some chose names with literal positive meanings, "prosperous", "beautiful", or even "rock hard, very tough".

The ceremony was held last Saturday. (Most news coverage has included a beautiful photograph of some of the girls at the ceremony; there's also at least one news video with interviews).
students in Mumbai, photo by Bernard Gagnon
The girls were given certificates with their new names, which were also published in the state gazette. Schools were notified and asked to use the new names from now on.

Of course this made me think of Hosea's children, the oldest named for a massacre site, the girl named "No Mercy" and the youngest named "Not My People".

My devotional Bible text last night, though, was the story from the Gospel of Luke of a woman crippled for eighteen years by a spirit, so that she was bent over double. Jesus healed her as soon as he saw her, and she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue was indignant. Indignant. Indignant with Jesus. So what did that religious leader do? He began to harangue the crowd (not Jesus, but the congregation), telling them they could perfectly well come to be cured on a weekday. He was shaming this woman in front of the community, criticizing her in her moment of freedom, beating her back down. But Jesus shut him up. He called him a hypocrite and said,
Ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?”
Satara city, photograph by Mangeshjadhav
Jesus called her a daughter of Abraham. Which when you think about it is the very opposite of "Not My People".

There's so much to think about here, so much to pray about, and this is already a long post. But then, also last night, I read this post by Wanda at KidTrek. She says that 70% of children raised in the church leave it. And she says that one major factor in whether or not churched children keep their faith is whether or not they feel connected to the church community while still a child. And so I want to ask, are the children in your church "Not Our People"? Are any children you know perceiving that they are Unwanted?

[My first source for this news story was a link to USA-Today posted by a Facebook friend. I've since found two Indian newspapers' coverage here and here.]


  1. Wow, what a powerful post. I am glad I stumbled upon it while looking for Godly Play resources. Thanks for your inspiring thoughts.

  2. Welcome, Nancy. I get a little nervous about straying too far off-topic, so it was very nice to get your comment. Thank you :)

  3. Thank you for linking to Kidtrek:Sunday Plus - it led me to EasterKind.


    I sense we have similar hearts and passion though we may come at from different directions :)

    I look forward to reading through your writings - you have a real gift to write.

    God bless

  4. Your welcome! You inspired me and that is in line with we hope to do when we tell sacred stories!

  5. Hello Wanda! Isn't it great that although we come from different directions, as you say, we can still recognize that discipling heart in each other? We share the goal of encouraging and equipping children to follow the Good Shepherd all the days of their lives. God bless your ministry!


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