Due to the dowry system in our Indian society, females are considered less welcome into our families as compared to their male counterparts. Parents have not only committed abortions of the females, but also female infanticide or the killing of baby girls after birth. Doctors have done sexual alterations so the girl would look like a boy. Can you imagine what this does mentally to the child? Due to this the girls feel like second class citizens and men feel they can use or abuse them either verbally, physically or sexually. If the husband or in-laws feel that the dowry has not been sufficient the newly married bride, who has now moved in with her husband and in-laws can end up living literally in hell.
Just in today’s local paper: “Woman set ablaze by in-laws for giving birth to a daughter” – “Minor girl (12) molested” – “Two women hurt in acid attack” – We all know the horror stories.
Is there a way out?
What can we do as parents? I met this confident outgoing lady in Gurgaon who was originally from Rajasthan. She was the CEO of a large Multi National Company. I asked her how it was as a girl to grow up in a society where girls were considered less welcome than boys. She explained to me that when she was born her father made the promise that he would not pay one paisa of dowry for her, but that he would give her the best possible education. This girl grew up with female confidence that she was different and special, because her parents treated her with equal rights and responsibilities of a son. She went to the best schools and did her best not to disappoint her parents. She now not only has a beautiful family with husband and two children, but also has hundreds of men working for her.
Another example: Anjali who is the teacher in charge of the Devilal School was an orphan baby girl. The parents that adopted her were very thankful for her as they so much wanted a baby girl. She grew up confident because she received love. At a young age of 21 she operates the school-project in a confident, efficient manner. Being loved and wanted builds a strong character in your child. Being rejected breaks down the character and opens the door for insecurity and fear.
Let me give one more example: While on the flight Delhi-Kolkata I sat next to a charming young lady in her early twenties from West Bengal. She came from Germany where she was studying as she had received a scholarship from there. When we got to talking about the different educational projects, she said, “Oh sir, I am just so thankful that you help the poor with education. You see my father is a very small man, he is a pan-wallah, but my parents loved me so much that I wanted to be the best daughter they could have, because they gave me so much love.” At birth, was she dealt a bad card economically? Yes! Did it hinder her parents from loving her? No! Here again it shows that love, which is equal to genuine acceptance, is the best ingredient to develop not only the child’s character but also the brain. I affirmed that her father was not a small but a brave man as we are taught by Gandhi,“A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.”
As you see from these examples, we don’t have to be ruled by traditions and financial burdens of dowry which have been handed down to us from generations past, which take the joy out of our lives.
If we as parents can be proud of our daughters, we will grow a crop of leaders that can and will lead us into a future that will not be restricted by the fears of certain past traditions that have handicapped us from welcoming daughters into our families.
TEACHER AND PARENT SEMINARS
Many of our teachers come from the villages where the Learning Centres are. They are usually the only person that is educated enough to properly read and write and knows math and a little General Knowledge, so training is extremely important for the benefit of the teacher but mainly for the children’s education, which is our focus.
For us it is very important that the child is treated as a human being with feelings and needs proper explanations to its questions. How to teach is very important: No yelling, No Latti, No abusive language, How to avoid difficult situations, When the class gets rowdy, simply take out the one person that started it instead of getting upset with the whole class. The simple basics of teaching that can either make you have a good day with the children or an extremely frustrated day. When you get frustrated and start yelling then the children have won and you are the looser as you lose their respect and they will try again to see if you will get upset. If however you keep calm and keep simply explaining soon you will win your class over to your side.
FOR PARENT MEETINGS
We discuss with the parents. Explain to them that the child stays totally their responsibility and although the teacher can help build their character, the ultimate responsibility lies with the parents, as God gave them the child and not to the teacher. If they feel something is not right with the teacher or the guardian of a hostel, they should not be afraid to report it as they are the ones ultimately responsible for their child and they need to keep a watchful eye on their child at all times. By listening to their child they can develop an open relationship that is only for the child’s benefit.
We have heard such beautiful words of thanks. Every little school has a village school committee that oversees the teacher and discusses the needs of the children. All the parents without exception explained with words of thank how the people that last year refused to talk to each other are now communicating because of the needs of the school and the children. Miracles of the heart.