In order to create an environment free from violence and discrimination inside and outside the home, perspectives on equality, democracy, peace and justice have to be introduced early on in life. MASUM’s work with children is multifold, being curricular as well as extra-curricular. In order to make the right to universal education for children real, MASUM conducts pre-schools (balwadis) and support classes in the interior and highly neglected tribal hamlets of Parner taluka in Ahmednagar district, so that school enrollment of Thakar and Bhil children into mainstream government run schools can be eventually facilitated and their retention sustained.
Through our Raanpakhre groups, play activities with children are conducted in villages whereby children imbibe values of gender equality and religious tolerance through games, story-telling, art and craft, experience sharing, and discussion on child rights issues. Children’s participation in decision-making is put into practice through an elected children’s council (bal-panchayat) at the village level. These councils deal with reducing school-dropout, corporal punishment in schools, sexual harassment, disability issues and caste-based discrimination. Children are now conducting exclusive bal gram sabhas in many villages, wherein all elected representatives and local government officials listen and respond to children’s issues.
Since 2002, the rural staff of MASUM has been conducting ‘value-education’ classes in ninth standard classes of high schools of the region, emphasising constitutional rights of equality, non-discrimination, social justice, democracy, secularism and peaceful co-existence.