“I have always believed in the power of an individual, and more specifically youth. It is often said that the future lies in the hands of youth. Well, I believe even the present is not in the best hands if youth is not involved.”
~ Sanjoli Banerjee
Imagine a person earning the tag of an ‘activist’ at the age of four and half! Sanjoli Banerjee became a social activist when she asked these bitter questions: What is female foeticide? Why isn’t there male foeticide? Why do people support the killing of my unborn sister? Her young mind was disturbed deeply by the fact that her little sister’s life was being threatened as her mother was being pressurised to go for an abortion because she was expecting a second daughter. Many acquaintances of the Banerjee family thought that a second daughter would be a burden to the family. A son would, on the contrary, bring honour and prosperity; he would grow up to take care of the parents; he would do the last rites, and he wouldn’t have to leave home after getting married! So, the best way out is to abort the baby in the womb, and try again for a boy!
But four and half-year-old Sanjoli was already ignited with the fire of passion for gender equality; she stood up to those who wanted to kill her little sister for her gender in the womb of her mother. Fortunately, unlike many parents in India, Sanjoli’s parents answered her questions honestly rather than shrugging them off. Her father gradually guided her to the path of activism. Her mother, defying the pressures from society, stood like a rock to save her unborn baby and delivered a beautiful bundle of joy, Ananya, little sister to Sanjoli.
Thus began the journey of activist-changemaker Sanjoli Banerjee. The birth of her little sister gave her a purpose in life. “Since then, I have fought many fights, big and small, against female foeticide, for environmental protection, for mental and menstrual hygiene, and for empowerment through education. I continue to work through my NGO Sarthi,” she says.
Joe Eruppakkatt, a former editor for ST PAULS Publications and The Teenager Today, has been actively involved in the field of print media in India, the U.S., Great Britain and Nigeria. He is currently working for ST PAULS, New Delhi.