NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)– Around 100 cyclists in India rode 50 miles on Sunday, from New Delhi to Rohtak.
The riders were male-dominated; with the The Statesmen reporting about 75 men and 25 women. And that imbalance, while more extreme than in the country overall, was the reason they were pedaling together.
"Fewer girls in society means fewer girls in public spaces," says a statement on the website of Breakthrough India, an organization working to eradicate gender based sex selection that organized the rally. "This makes them appear more unsafe, which further reduced the mobility of girls and women."
India outlawed sex-selective abortions in 1994 but enforcement efforts are still struggling to stamp out the practice.
Organizers decided to start in New Delhi because the capital of India has been dubbed the "rape capital" after a series of brutal rape cases garnered high-profile media attention in the past few years. The general scarcity of women, in organizers view, makes public life more dangerous for them.
Breakthrough India launched the Mission Hazaar campaign in January.
Hazaar means "one thousand" in Hindi and the word refers to the figure needed for female to achieve population balance. Currently, the ratio of women to men stands at 914 women for every 1,000 men.
Free Souls Rider, an Indian adventure biking group, collaborated with Breakthrough India for the rally. "I am sure after this rally many other ladies who have been thinking of riding will be inspired to take up riding and sense freedom," Ved Parkash, a male member of the group, wrote in an email Monday. "People were amazed to see lady riders riding efficiently through the streets and highways and their families were equally supportive. This rally will definitely inspire many for future."
The female bikers led the rally and the group made many short pit stops in towns and villages along the way to gather locals who have been fighting discrimination against women within their families and communities.
En route, the participants also employed the hashtag #missionhazaar to post pictures and comments on Facebook and Twitter; the end of the rally was captured by a drone camera for a different kind of coverage.
— Rajshri Sen (@RajshriSen) February 22, 2015
— Sunita Menon (@MenonSunitA) February 23, 2015
"What propelled me to participate in this rally is to ensure that we have gender equality in our country," Shabnam Akram, another female participant was quoted in The Hindu. "It is high time that we put a stop of female feticide. It saddens and sickens me that a girl child is literally dumped into garbage."
At about noon, the bikers safely reached Chotu Ram Stadium in Rothak. At the stadium, the organizers had arranged a small event to publicize the particularly acute shortage of girls and women in Haryana, a state in north India.
At the event, women from Haryana who had broken gender stereotypes and barriers were ready to share their stories with the audience. One of the speakers was the first female bus driver of Haryana:
— Ajaz Lone (@ajazlone) February 22, 2015
Sonali Khan, vice-president and director of Breakthrough India, said that while working in Haryana, her group realized that the evident absence of women and girls is an unspoken but an accepted reality, The Hindu reported.
In the first week of February, Mission Hazaar organized youth festivals in Haryana.
The campaign includes a video game titled "Find the Missing Women" that features five Indian states that have the worst gender ratios. Players take simulated trip to various public spaces, including a bus stop and a college, and are challenged to spot the "missing women" in 30-second time periods.
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