Friday, May 17, 2013

Pride and self-advertisement

I do not accept glory from humans (John 5:41, NIV)
..a themia ki nu ketshe pfii nyiiya mo

As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else (1 Thess. 2:6, NLT)
Hie themia kinu ketshe pfiimo, nie kinu rei morei kekreimia kinu shieri

How hard are these words to say! Ours is a time when we have to assert and promote ourselves lest we are trampled upon by people. There seems to be no place for the meek and the humble. They are walked over. So, these words of Jesus and Paul come as a stark contrast to the prevalent view of our time.

We come across people going on an ego trip. If you have been observing, there has been a change in the trend which is quite recent. Not long ago, to lavish praise on one’s own achievements was seen as negative trait, something to be laughed at, of course, in the absence of the one who does so. But time and time again, I have been coming across people who go on and on about their own accomplishments. They speak as if the universe would disintegrate without their help. It seems as though we don’t see that as a negative trait anymore. In this competitive world, to heap praise on oneself, I suspect, might be seen as an essential thing to do to survive or keep up with the world. Self-advertisement becomes necessary in a culture where to be noticed and celebrated is the ultimate desirable end. Not to be noticed is to cease to exist. To meet that end without caring for the means is the mark of the day. You need to advertise yourself in order to sell your brand to the world, and it takes you to places and gets things done. Cost-effectiveness is valued over character.

Forget about the teaching of Jesus when he says ‘when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing’ (Matt. 6: 3). When we do something good, we want to shout it from rooftops; we want it captured on camera, have it published in the newspapers, get the receipt laminated and photo-framed, or have it updated in our facebook status.

What does the Scripture verses mean then? Are they of any good for our times? Isn’t it good to be recognized? Isn’t it more productive and effective if you let people know your worth? Won’t that open up doors to do greater good? What is so bad then about self-promotion and advertising one’s own capabilities and achievements?

It is pride (I’m not talking about the type of Pride as in a father being proud of his son’s exam results). It is taking pride in one’s own self. It is all about I, me and myself. It has no room for God or other people. It is to be self-deceived to think that one can be so good because of one’s own self. The Bible equates pride with foolishness; the proud is someone who lacks understanding (2 Cor. 10: 12). It is opposite of love (1 Cor. 13:4). It is the precursor to a sure downfall (Prov. 29:23, 16:18). It is a hindrance to seeking God and receiving his grace (James 4:6). The proud seeks his/her own glory over God’s.

To be humble is not to be weak but to be reliant on a greater power: the power of God which gives strength for us to do all things (Phil. 4: 13). To be humble is to seek for God’s wisdom and understanding. To be humble is to give back the glory and honour to God. There is a false humility. It is what we may call ‘pride in humility’, or ‘proud of being humble’. In a so-called Christianized society like ours, people can take pride in being so humble; the ‘I am-not-like-them’ mentality. Even kind deeds can be shrouded in pride. A charity work can be done with much pride in the heart. A writing such as this on Pride and Humility can also be done with the motive of getting glory from people. 

In a time when people do bizarre things just to be noticed, or advertise their way up the public ratings charts and it seems as though you are left behind; hear these words, ‘Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves’ (Phil. 2: 3). This advice flies in the face of the thinking of our times. But it is the way to receive God’s grace and wisdom, a sure foundation for a secure and fulfilling life.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Study on Child Sex Ratio in Nagaland

To keep one's blog updated is a suggestion I give to people. But I have been struggling to do that myself lately. I have been very busy with work. And that is what I'm going to write about here.

For about a month, we did a study in 19 villages of Longleng and Mon districts. The study was the fulfilling of a promise that the Department of Health and Family Welfare made to the Planning Commission. PC flagged the issue of decrease in Child Sex Ratio (CSR) in the State of Nagaland from 2001 to 2011 and the department said that we'll do a study to see if it is true. CSR is the measure of how many girls are there per 1000 boys in the age group of 0-6 years.

In Nagaland, CSR reduced from 964 in 2001 to 944 in 2011 as per the census. 2001 figure is unreliable and more male names might have been put, or the ratio was really so despite population inflation. So, it is difficult to say 'decline in 2011' when the base year figure is questionable. And 2011 figure is higher than the national average of 914. So, nothing to worry?

The worrying bit is that in a natural setting, the CSR is expected to be about 952. So, Nagaland is short of the expected by 8. That's not very worrying. It may be population inflation again in the 2011 census, although not as bad as 2001. 

But here's the thing. The more 'worrying' ( don't worry, that will be the last time I use the word) bit is that in Longleng and Mon, the CSR is 882 and 900. Now that is something. 'Faulty census' we may be quick to say, but unless there is proof, that will just be an opinion. So, we set out to investigate.

What we were not prepared for in our guts was 'what if the census is right?' Although as researchers, we kept all options open. And yes, we were in for a surprise. 

We purposely picked the blocks which showed the least CSR in Nagaland: Sakshi circle (10 census villages) of Longleng district and Chen circle (9 census villages) of Mon district. Before I bore you with the methodology, who we employed, how we traveled or who among us sleep-walked, let me get straight to the findings. And findings only on CSR.

To our surprise, CSR was indeed low in both the circles. There were only 794 girls (per 1000 boys) in Sakshi and 877 in Chen circles. Most shocking was that in Sakshi circle, our figure was even lower than the census (816). 

What could be the reason(s)? We broke our heads over this. We applied all the factors and explanations which bring down CSR of a population and applied to our study. We reviewed literature and had discussion after discussions. Now, it is a complete book.

Killing of female fetus? Unlikely. For sex selective abortion, there is no ultrasound machine in the entire district of Longleng for sex determination. And no evidence of it anywhere. All the 19 villages surveyed are rural which makes it more unlikely. People may travel out for sex determination and female foeticide but that is unlikely (here we go again with the word) to bring down the ratio.

What about female infanticide? Killing of girl child (0-1 age). No trace of it. If there should be 1 case, that will be a shock to the society. Therefore, no chance of bringing down the ratio.

What about more girls dying? Not so in the 0-1 age group. More boys die in 0-1 age group. Among children 1-5 years of age, a few more girls die but statistically insignificant to affect the ratio.

Did we do it wrong? Faulty census, and faulty counting in our study? The study was done rigorously with mechanisms for cross-checking of data collection, entry, and analysis. Among the questions asked, the answer which is least likely to go wrong is on asking whether a person is a male or female.

Is it natural? Hard to say, among the villages, there are a number of villages which have very high CSR and very low CSR. What are the differences between these villages with very different CSR? Not much. Neighboring villages with similar characteristics (same tribe with similar climate, altitude, health care facilities, food, social institutions, etc.) have very different CSR.

What about social status of women and other social and economic factors? We tried to understand as much as possible. There is a need for more research. But even if there should be gender bias, there has to be dying somewhere to bring down the ratio. Therefore it is a puzzle that CSR should be low.

Now, what do we draw from here? Even if it should be natural variations (which may be the major contributory factor), the fact the CSR is low is important for us. We are happy that we have not come across any sex selective abortion. But we do know for sure that there is a lot to be done on gender justice. If CSR is low, down the line we'll have social problems: not getting women to marry, women trafficking, and crumbling in social institutions among others. 

Therefore, there is a need to proactively plan a comprehensive communication and advocacy strategy to improve awareness on the risks of low CSR, strengthen implementation of law to prevent sex determination, revisit the mindset on status of women in the society, improve health of girl child and women, improve our data and reporting systems.