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WHY JIYO PARSI? A Considered Response

 
The Jiyo Parsi Scheme was conceived in response to the urgent demographic crisis that the Parsi community currently faces. From a population of 114,890 in 1941, the community numbers have dwindled to 57,264 as per the 2011 Indian population Census. A study by researchers based at Harvard in 2011 concluded that the reason for this precipitous decline was an abysmally low total fertility rate (TFR) of 0.89 children per couple on average in the community (Shroff and Castro, Demographic Research, 25(17), 545-564, 2011). Intermarriage and other factors were negligible when discussing the population decline, the low TFR being by far the most significant culprit.
 

Causes for Decline

There are various causes, both medical and sociological, that are to blame for the low TFR. Due to a penchant for late marriage, women in the community often suffer from infertility related medical problems.
 

The Jiyo Parsi Programme Explained

Thus the principal goal of the Jiyo Parsi Scheme is to provide financial aid, when required, for infertility treatment and counselling for Parsi couples. This is of course purely voluntary; it is when members of the community suffer from such conditions that they approach the Jiyo Parsi team, who provide necessary counselling. They choose their own Registered and reputed doctors for their treatment. When financial assistance is required, this is provided on a needs basis, generously sponsored by the Ministry of Minority Affairs of the Government of India, under whose aegis the Scheme runs. This has shown promising results, with numerous cases of couples who had previously faced these medical issues, and a corresponding strain on their finances, now being able to conceive and give birth to children. We have recently crossed the 108 baby mark in 3 years of running the programme, which is significant, an around 18% rise per year, when considering, that on average, only about 200 babies are born annually in the Parsi community in India.
 
In addition to the medical treatment, which forms the bulk of the funding within the Scheme, there is a Social Advocacy programme that has recently seen the launch of a second phase of advertisements. These Ads specifically target the Parsi community, and encourage them to settle into married life at a younger age than the present average. These Ads sometimes make for difficult viewing, but that is because they tell hard truths, when (and only when) viewed in their correct context within the Parsi community. It is hoped that through this Social Advocacy, Parsis will marry at an earlier age, which will help boost the TFR.
 

Jiyo Parsi Aims & Objectives

Thus both aspects of Jiyo Parsi, the medical and the sociological, are being run specifically to target an increase in the TFR of the Parsi community, in order to stem or at least slow its population decline. As mentioned at the beginning, demographic research has shown that an increase in TFR is the only solution available for this purpose. There has been some criticism of the nature of the Campaign, and against its principle of preserving the ethnicity of one particular community. However, this community has been an integral thread in the fabric of India, whose presence has certainly enriched and contributed to the country’s success. It is an ancient civilization, stretching back over 3,000 years in an unbroken line, whose demise would be a major loss to world culture. We believe it is also true that to preserve a culture, the most successful way is to ensure the survival of its practitioners. It is our aim to do our utmost to ensure the survival of this culture, which we believe is only possible by targeting the population decline.
 

Why Are Intermarried Parsi Women not included?

There has been criticism from some quarters regarding the un availability of this Scheme to Parsi women who have married men from outside the Parsi community. We would like to clarify that this is because we are following the legal definition of Parsi-Zoroastrian in the Indian context. The Parsis have maintained a patriarchal system of ethnicity, for which there is now even genetic evidence (Chaubey et al, Genome Biology, 18:110, 2017.). Jiyo Parsi is a Government of India Scheme, and hence is bound to follow the legal definition of Parsi-Zoroastrian.
 

Issues of Inter Married Women is not for Jiyo Parsi to decide

The issue of intermarried women is a debate for the entire community to decide and act upon, it is beyond the remit of the Jiyo Parsi Scheme or its team to change this definition. It is worth noting however, that the Shroff 2011 demographics paper specifically states, “Results show that, given current fertility, acceptance of children of intermarried women would have a negligible impact on stemming the population decline, which is driven chiefly by extremely low fertility”. We therefore again reiterate that our focus is and must remain on improving the TFR, and not on ethnicity debates that are for the rest of the community to decide.
 

Ads Address both Men & Women

There has also been criticism that only women are being ‘regressively’ focused upon. In actual fact 7 of the 12 Ads feature men as Fathers and in other family circumstances. Therefore in truth, there is equal attention drawn to the issues facing both men and women – in hard fact the Ads cover the entire community. Our request is to see all 12 Ads in their correct perspective.
 
In summary, the Jiyo Parsi Scheme exists primarily to provide funding, on a needs basis, to Parsi couples who wish to have a family and require treatment. We also hope that our Advocacy campaign will encourage younger members of our community to embrace the joys of parenthood. If community members who are critical of this approach have any better, constructive ideas, WITHIN OUR REMIT, to stem our decline, we encourage them to get in touch with JIYO PARSI (www.jiyoparsi.org, or on our Face Book Page) with their suggestions . It is hoped that this multipronged approach will help mitigate our population decline, enabling the survival of our ancient Parsi Zoroastrian culture and civilization, of which we are justly proud.

 

Dr. Shernaz Cama – Creating Community Consciousness

Very proud to share Parsiana’s 21 March cover story on Dr. Shernaz Cama, Director, UNESCO Parzor. The keystone to Parzor, Dr. Cama, has worked to preserve the Indian and Parsi heritage and identity. Impeccably talented, Dr Cama remains an inspiration for all of us to help keep the flame alive.

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Navroze Mubarak

Parzor won the UNESCO International Award for Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) for India, due to its documentation of Navroze, with the festival on 21st March, being declared by the 71st UN General Assembly, to be considered ‘The International Festival of Spring’ since 2009.

Our work has always continued through the kind and generous donations of our supporters, who wish to revive this rich culture.

These Navroze cards are a kind donation of Mrs Khorshed Behram Wadia by her daughter Mrs Navaz Gherda. They have a special significance to our Archives and are important documents of the future.

The cards bear the blessing of Navroze in gujarati from the sender to the receiver conveying good wishes, health and prosperity to the receiver and their family.

Parzor, wishes all a healthy and prosperous Navroze Mubarak.

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Twentieth Dastur Dr Sohrab Hormasji Kutar Memorial Lecture

 

The Twentieth Dastur Dr Sohrab Hormasji Kutar Memorial Lecture to be given by Professor Jesse Palsetia (University of Guelph, Canada) on “Parsi Traders and Travellers: Global Zoroastrians in the Age of Empire” on Thursday, 25 May 2017 6:00 p.m. at Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS.
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