What's in a Name?

How do you feel about the name your parents gave you? In North America most people are quite happy, and maybe even proud of, their given names, but for a significant number of girls throughout India, that is not the case. The cultural mindset of many Indian parents values the life of a male child over that of a female. A common perspective there is that boys are assets and girls are liabilities. Consequently, girls in India are commonly given names that convey the meaning of “unwanted,” causing them to feel worthless and to struggle with self-esteem.

Recently, efforts to address this issue in India resulted in a renaming ceremony in which hundreds of Indian girls were given the opportunity to choose new names for themselves. It is encouraging to see that district health officials, recognizing the detrimental and potentially devastating health effects of living with a negative label, were willing to confront cultural tradition by allowing girls to choose names that express positive value and build their self-esteem.

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