New Names for Unwanted Girls

Why would 285 girls change their names at one time? Liz Waid and Joshua Leo tell the story.

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Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2 

And I’m Joshua Leo. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 3 

“My new name is Sakshi. It means “witness”. I am 16 years old and I have just been named.

Voice 1 

In October 2011 Sakshi officially received her new name. Sakshi took part in a special renaming ceremony. During the ceremony 285 girls received new names. Many people see this as a positive event. They hope it will help the girls with new names to have better lives. Today’s Spotlight is on this ceremony. We tell about the positive results it has already had in the lives of these girls.

Voice 2 

Satara is a city in the state of Maharashtra, India. Here, experts have been noticing a terrible thing. Over the years, the number of girl children is getting smaller and smaller. In fact, this is happening through the whole country of India. But experts say the problem is even worse in some areas - like country areas far away from cities. Zubair Ahmed reports that the ratio between boys and girls here is very low. There are only 880 girls for every 1,000 boys. What is happening to India’s girls?

Voice 1 

Many people in India want sons instead of daughters. Sons can take part in particular parts of a parent’s death ceremony. But daughters cannot. People believe that sons will grow up to bring money into the family. A son can get a good job and support his parents. But a girl usually costs a lot of money. Traditionally, the parents must pay a large dowry for a girl to be married. The parents must pay the dowry to the man their daughter is marrying and his family. This dowry costs a lot of money.

Voice 2 

Sadly, this means that many girls are unwanted. Many parents may be sad about the birth of a girl. In some extreme cases, the parents even kill the girl they do not want. Parents with an unwanted girl may also neglect her - they do not feed her enough or take care of her. This leads to higher death rates for girl babies and young girls. Many parents do not harm their girls in any way. But they are still sad when another girl is born into their family.

Voice 1 

If parents already have one or two daughters, they may wish for a son even more. But when their next child is a girl, they are disappointed again. Some parents in these cases decide to give their daughters names that mean “unwanted”. This was the case with Sakshi. Sakshi comes from a family of six girls - and no boys. She explains her family situation to BBC reporter Zubair Ahmed:

Voice 3 

“All my life I was known as Nakusha. That is the Marathi word for “unwanted”. I understand why my parents did not want me. They had three girls before me. I was the fourth girl to be born to my parents. Everyone here wants sons. My parents named me Nakusha. They believed this would end their bad luck and stop the birth of more girls. But two more girls were born after me.”

Voice 2 

Sadly, this is an experience many girls in India share. Parents name their unwanted girls names like Dagadi or Dhondi. These names mean “stone” - as if the girl is a heavy load the family has to carry. Or, like in Sakshi’s case, parents name their girls Nakushi or Nakusa. These names mean “unwanted”.

Voice 1 

Some government programs aim to change the way people think about girls. Some programs offer support for families of girls. They give free food or free education for the girls. Some programs offer money if a girl completes enough years of schooling. But changing people’s opinions is a difficult and slow process.

Voice 2 

Doctor Bhagwan Pawar is the district health officer in the district of Satara. He has worked to change the negative opinions of girls in this area. One way he hopes to do this is to get rid of names like Nakushi and Nakusa. He believes this is an important issue. He explained the negative results of these names to the AFP press service. He says:

Voice 4 

“Many of these girls we have found with names like Nakusa do not want their name. They feel bad about it. It influences how they feel about themselves.”

Voice 1 

In October 2011 Doctor Pawar helped organize a special ceremony. The ceremony was for girls with names like Nakusa – “unwanted”.  285 girls took part. On the day of the ceremony, they dressed in their best clothes. They wore decorations in their hair.

Voice 2 

Each girl chose her own new name. Many of the girls chose names of powerful women like goddesses or Bollywood actresses. Some chose names because of their beautiful meanings. Their new names had meanings like “beautiful”, “powerful”, or “strong”. Sakshi told Ahmed how she chose her new name.

Voice 3 

“My school friends helped me choose my new name and I love it. We considered Namrata and Neha, but I loved Sakshi. It was a symbol too, since I was going to be a witness to a historic event, and become a part of it too.

Voice 1 

Doctor Pawar told the AFP that the renaming ceremony would change the girls’ names legally. At the end of the ceremony, government officials gave each girl a certificate - a piece of paper with her new name. All school documents and official records with the girls’ names were also changed.

Voice 2 

Sakshi knows that her friends and family will have to learn to use her new name. But she does not mind. She knows her new name has changed her life completely. She told Ahmed:

Voice 3 

“I know I have to be patient, because people are used to calling me Nakusha. It will take some time for them to learn to call me by my new name. But now I have a name and I feel good. I feel like a new person. I feel confident. It will change my life forever.”

Voice 1 

But these good results are not only for the girls with new names. Sudha Kankaria runs a local organization that helps girls. She also helped to organize the renaming ceremony. She explains that the ceremony is good for the girls of India today. But it is also good for these girls’ daughters. Kankaria says the tradition will continue if people do not stop it. She tells the AFP press service:

Voice 5 

“With this project we are giving good results to two groups of people: the Nakusas of today, and the future Nakusas.”

Voice 2 

The writer and producer of this program was Liz Waid. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, “New Names for Unwanted Girls”.

Voice 1 

You can also leave your comments on our website. Or you can email us at You can also find us on Facebook - just search for Spotlight Radio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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What does your name mean? Do you think the meaning of your name has affected your life?


Avatar Spotlight
said on March 05, 2012

Unwanted girl in India are not alone. The same situation is in China and other countries too. Some times ago I read here a similar article about a chinese couple who get rid their baby girl. They did so because Chinese government ruled that every couple must have not more than one child. The couple prefer a boy rather then a girl so they decided to leave their baby girl in sidewalk. This way of thinking is common in rural aerea. People who live in cities and those who are well educated have another point of view. For them girls and boys are equal. Both girls and boys are fruit of love and they love their parents. I think it is against God’s instructions to neglect girls and to name them inapropriately. Thanks God, I have a son and three daughters, and I love them very much.
Skender from Albania

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said on March 06, 2012

I think that there are a lot of country treat girls unfairly. A girl baby born often is unwanted. In some culture girl is treated wore.

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said on March 08, 2012

I can’t believe this issues in the world The human rights aren’t respected in some countries
The women are part of our existence.

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said on March 27, 2013

Best wish to all girls and women in the worl for happiness, respect, justice….

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said on April 20, 2013

many traditions are terrible, i hope people will change their minds about the traditions in the future. thinking about the died girls, i feel so sad

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on October 04, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: answer to the questions above
Date: Tuesday 04, October 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Liz waid and Joshua Leo:

At first, I want to thank you to bring us readers and learners of English more one great article. Thanks!

My name means simplicity, naturalness, and sincerity.
No, I do not think because my name is a region name of my Pernambuco countryside where I was born and many guys of there have this important name.
My history’s name is: In paudalho In Pernambuco countryside in the V century there was a man from Rome who was very rich, poweful, and religious.
However, this Roman man   was simple, honest, kind, and sincery. Even he had had a lot of weathy and power.
This noble Roman man gave up from all his weathy and power. So, he gave all his weathy to poor people and he went to live together with   poor people of that poor area. He was born and died in V century. So, God became him in Saint.
Therefore, until now, Saint São SEVERINO DOS RAMOS is the most powerful Saint of the Pernambuco.
Every year a lot of people go there to Paudalho to celebrate this important Saint and to get many unbelievable miracles from this important Saint. For that reason, my mother named me with this proud name SEVERINO RAMOS DA SILVA. I like so much of the my name.
Thanks mother.
If you want to know more information about this true story, please just search at Severino dos Ramos’ story in Paudalho in Pernambuco.

The best regards,
Severino Ramos

Avatar Spotlight
said on October 06, 2016

Actually my name means brightness, I think it was a nice and kind name . I think names affect some people , specially at their childhood! For me it affected me in positive way .
Thanks spotlight,  thanks sweet Liz Waid .

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Lan Can
said on August 15, 2019

It still happens in some rural places of Vietnam. The parents really want to have a son. If they don’t have a son, people will say the woman don’t know how to born. The man won’t be allowed to sit with men having sons. I know a family having 4 daughters and they named the fourth daughter to be Four.
Luckily, it is changing day by day. Many people recognize daughter or son is not important. The most important is how they raise and teach their children.

Avatar Spotlight
said on August 15, 2019

Each of us is born and grows up. We are cared for, taught and educated to become good persons of family and community. We live to be good persons. We live our lives for beautiful good things and we love beautiful good things. If there is no love in life, we will not be able to exist. Love helps us exist. Our lives have difficulties, challenges and sufferings. Love helps us do beautiful good things. Each of us is born and grows up. We are cared for, taught and educated to become good persons of family and community. We live our lives for beautiful good things. We die for beautiful good things.

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said on August 21, 2019

I repeatedly say that the great evil of a man is ignorance. In Brazil, where I live, exist a region famous for the low education grades and it is common to put strange names on children who births there. When one of the inhabitants go to other places, normally his names cause laughter and strangeness. One of them was called by is parents Johnn Shit and he hated this name. He tried to modify his name and gone to the judge of his county. After a long and expensive process, the judge marked the ceremony to change the name of the postulant. The judge asked: Well, Mr. Johnn Shit, what name do you will for you hereafter? Johnn answered solemnly: Peter Shit, Excellence…