A child’s development is limited to the involvement and interest of their parents in their education and personal interests. In poorer communities it is not uncommon that the parents do not involve much in the development of their children. They do not realize the advantage and importance of education. Tradition and culture are dominant obstacles in Indian communities. An even worse threat to the children’s development is gender discrimination which is often even practiced within the family. A boy child is seen as a future breadwinner of the family and also the heir to the family inheritance. Boys are very often over-indulged with freedom and money even amongst poor communities. In some communities of India, a newborn girl child is introduced to the family by saying “The servant of your household has been born.” Girls are seen as a financial burden to the families because of the traditional dowry system and thus do not invest in their education, and mental and physical development.
We at Karunakarya identified this problem of gender discrimination and the general problem of parents not being involved in their children’s education and development. Our adult development program aims at educating parents in the problems of gender discrimination and helping them to understand their roles and influences on their children’s mental, emotional, and social development.
The adult development program was started by us in 2001 in the slums of Chennai as literacy classes for women. Literacy and Arithmetic skills are the two most basic skills which are needed for employment. These classes helped the women to develop these skills and contribute to their family’s income. In 2005, the focus was shifted to a more holistic development program for women with the inclusion of awareness programs and recreational activities in protected environments.
As we have changed our focus area to the village of Eraiyur and its surrounding villages and run most of our projects in that area, including The Ark nursery and primary school, we have decided to shift our focus to the parents of our school students. Different programs for the parents were initiated in 2015 to increase the involvement of parents in their children’s’ education and in the various activities of our organization. Our school education system is based on holistic development and we aim to reach out to the whole community on a holistic level as well. We help the parents to understand their roles in gender discrimination at home and its effect on their children’s confidence, behavior and social skills. It is a very sensitive and difficult topic to address because of the traditionalistic and cultural environment of the poorer communities were the caste system still plays a big role. In the beginning we had only mothers who participated in our programs as it is not custom for fathers to involve that much in their children’s development. But soon we also had some of the fathers participating in the programs and we were delighted to watch them get involved in their children’s education and lives.