When it comes to women rights and giving equal opportunities to women, India is a uniquely hypocritical society. For every Indra Nui and Chanda Kochhar, there are millions of girl children who are kept at home, away from schools, and forced to do household chores, all because they are ‘paraya dhan’ and will one day leave to join their husband’s domicile.
At Deepalaya, ever since our inception, we have maintained a policy of ‘Positive Discrimination to the Girl Child’. Through this policy we actively search for out-of-school girls and encourage them to enroll at our schools. We do this by incentivizing girl-child education for the parents and by giving admission to the boy child only if the parents enroll the girl child as well.
In 2009, we were approached by Mr. Pedro, a political appointee of the Bush administration, who wanted to set up a project for girl-child education. He envisioned a programme where well-to-do fathers with girl children of their own would adopt a girl-child from the slum and take care of her education expense. However, we decided to modify this project so that the underprivileged fathers of the girl children themselves take up the cause of educating their daughters. Thus, the concept of Father and Daughter Alliance (FADA) was born.
As the name of the programme suggests, the fathers play a major role in the entire education process. We conduct regular counseling sessions for fathers whose daughters have just joined Deepalaya. Instead of the regular PTA meetings, we conduct Fathers’ Meets where all the fathers come together to review their daughter’s progress and are made aware about the extra-curricular and artistic achievements of their wards. We also encourage the father’s to take an active role in their daughter’s daily work, such as homework and class assignments.
While we have changed the traditional mindset of fathers in Sanjay Colony, there are 1,200 slums in Delhi where the girl children are still treated as someone else’s property. They are still forced to work at home while their male siblings go to school and bask in the light of a bright future.
The recently implemented RTE Act has also proved to be a bane rather than a boon to the underprivileged. Since the standard of the act focuses on quantity and not quality of education, and has forced NGO run schools to limit their classes to non-formal education, it has become even harder for girl children to get equal academic opportunities. The program as of now is running in three locations – Sanjay Colony, Y-block and Ramditti J R Narang Deepalaya Learning Center. So far, the project has reached out to more than 392 girls in the year 2016-17.
Going forward, we plan to expand our FADA project to accommodate the girl children who have been negatively affected by the RTE Act. Apart from setting up more classrooms in our Sanjay Colony centre, we hope to expand this programme into other slum colonies as well. The monetary component of the Deutsch Bank Award will allow us to do so by helping us with the costs associated with procuring infrastructure, conducting community visits and hiring staff.