Parents and Equal Dignity


Zinthiya Ganeshpanchan, Director and Coordinator

HumanDHS is primarily grounded in academic work. We are independent of any religious or political agenda. However, we wish to bring academic work into "real life." Our research focuses on topics such as dignity (with humiliation as its violation), or, more precisely, on respect for equal dignity for all human beings in the world. This is not only our research topic, but also our core value, in line with Article 1 of the Human Rights Declaration that states that every human being is born with equal dignity (that ought not be humiliated). We agree with Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development, who advocates the building of bridges from academia as follows, "I have always believed that good scholarship can be relevant and consequential for public policy. It is possible to affect public policy without being an advocate; to be passionate about peace without losing analytical rigor; to be moved by what is just while conceding that no one has a monopoly on justice." We would like to add that we believe that good scholarship can be relevant and consequential not only for public policy, but for raising awareness in general.

During Evelin Lindner's summer class of 2003 at Columbia University, students worked on gender relations and how humiliation could be diminished. Students developed a number of ideas. Jennifer Kathleen Vakiener developed the idea of a Parents Union that would introduce changes in society that would make it possible for parents to combine child rearing and career, thus leveling the field between men and women and finally arriving at more women being able to take up influential positions in society.

In summer 2005 Zinthiya Ganeshpanchan has kindly indicated that she wishes to build on these ideas and develop them further.

Zinthiya writes (2nd August 2005): It is not the easiest thing in the world for a woman to have a full time job, continue with educational ambitions and raise kids. To make things worse, women are not supposed to 'complain' as it is their duty and even if they do so not without feeling 'guilty'.

Modern society have placed contradictory demands on women. On the one hand women are called upon to reproduce and nurture and they are also called upon to contribute to the national economy through the household. While society continues to place 'motherhood' as the supreme responsibility of women, it also tends to devalue unwaged work performed by women. This duplicity places women in a situation of constant pressure leaving no choice but to juggle between multiple roles to maintain their status/value in society.

Social welfare schemas are not designed to support women who do not go out for work and there is no incentive for women who quit their careers to look after their kids or to take up further education. For example women who have not worked and contributed to the national insurance schemes are not entitled for a pension and therefore will have to rely on the state pensions doled out at their age of retirement. This has placed older women among the poorest. Such economic demands make women want to work and save for their future.

On the other hand even when women decide to return to work after a raising children they face the possibility of having to take a low level/lower paid jobs than what they held before they became mothers. The main reason for this is that employers fail to accept the experience women gain from parenting as employable skills. Often women face the dilemma of being discriminated against the more younger unmarried women and also against men who never get pregnant and who will never have the responsibility of being the sole carer for their young children.

A new report released today by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) U.K. shows that nearly one million pregnant women will be discriminated against in the next five years while nearly three in ten men (27%) would consider working in the childcare sector, and one in four boys expresses an interest in entering the 'caring ' professions - yet only one in fifty childcare workers are men.

These are a few barriers that put off women from parenting. Parenting does not have to be a difficult choice that we have to make at the risks of our career or educational ambitions. It should be a happy experience and all should have the right to enjoy it without having to make sacrifices in our life. It is also the right of children to being looked after and nurtured until they are independent. Then

What possible steps could we take to improve the quality of life for mothers who want to have children and who are happy to quit their jobs as well as mothers who want to keep their jobs while having kids?

In the coming weeks I intend to open up a dialogue on the issues I have raised and would appreciate any contributions. Best Wishes, Zinthiya.

Zinthiya writes (15th August 2005): I did not intend to return to the page in such a short time space but the events over the last few days made me wanting to write. As a part of my research I was introduced to an Art workshop which is aimed at asylum/refugee women. The intention of this workshop is to use art as a therapy.

Even though the group was quite small due to being summer holidays, we all had a grate time. For a moment it seemed that all of us were lost in our own world. Finally, when I finished, I was covered with chalk dust and paint which was invariably an addition to my load of washing. But it never bothered me.

It was ages, probably after my school days, that I had sat and spent two hours without any disturbance doing my own painting with such enjoyment. During my school days I used to be a keen painter, who loved scribbling on my books, painting on fabric and even re-decorating the old crockery which was stored in my grandma’s cupboard. Once I even won an award for the best drawing in the school exhibition. That was many many years ago (in 1982) and those memories seemed so far away. Since I left school I had never being able to indulge in my hobbies; in fact I had forgotten that I had such interest.

It made me think how most of us have conveniently forgotten about our selves to accommodate others. We grow up, leave school, then either start working (if we fortunate enough) or are being given in marriage or get married. Thereafter, we design our lives to suit our partners (at least for the first couple of years) and then move on to fit in to our children.

Well to be fair, not only mothers but sometimes even fathers fall into this trap, they spend their entire lives earning for the families and not knowing that there is a world outside. But then kids grow, they fly out of the nest and parents are left to comfort themselves with the memories children leave behind

The worst is - we all know this is not what we should be doing, but we are afraid to challenge the stereotypes of being women, mothers or parents. We are scared of the criticism that may come our way and we also try to make our self responsible for our children’s lives.

It does not have to be like that. We all have a life to get on with, it is true that we have to look after and support our children until they grow up to be adults and even after that to be their for them. However, it does not mean that we have to do it at the expenses of our own lives. After many years of this, now I am beginning to realise that I do have a life of my own away from the nest. It does not in any way suggest that I don’t love my family or we should fly away from the nest. It is just remembering that we too have a life. If we are to be good parents we also have to feel good as individuals, if we don’t feel good within ourselves how could we love another human being. Having a life for yourself does not mean being selfish or not fulfilling your duties and responsibilities. It is simply making time for yourself, not leaving your commitment as a parent or as a wife to direct your life.

The only way we could do this is by striking a balance between our homes and our work/outside interests. This we should achieve by sharing parental roles and responsibilities equally between the sexes. We also should involve our grown-up children and encourage and teach them to take more responsibility for their own lives. By this way we could start making small adjustments in our daily routines which will give us more space/time for us to enjoy our life as mothers/parents.

Please see here
Zinthiya Ganeshpanchan (2005)
New Parenting
Text written for Parents and Equal Dignity, Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies,



Please note that the entire HumanDHS website is maintained by volunteers, since its inception in 2003, and this is mainly done by Evelin Lindner. Until 2012, she usually pasted interesting news into this Links section. From July 2012 until 2017, she tagged interesting information on From 2017 onward, you see Evelin's personal list of interesting web links on Twitter:

Positive Youth Development: An Examination of the Field
This document was prepared by Renée Wilson-Simmons, edited by Katherine Garrett, ed. Creative Commona
May 2007.
see also:
•  Catalano, R. F., Berglund, M. L., Ryan, J. A. M., Lonczak, H. S., & Hawkins, J. D. (2004). Positive Youth Development in the United States: Research Findings on Evaluations of Positive Youth Development Programs. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 591(1), 98-124.
•  Larson, R. W. (2000). Toward a psychology of positive youth development. American Psychologist, 55(1), 170-183.
We thank Michael Greene for making us aware of these references.

Gene 'Links Breastfeeding to IQ'
A single gene influences whether breastfeeding improves a child's intelligence, say London researchers. Children with one version of the FADS2 gene scored seven points higher in IQ tests if they were breastfed. But the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study found breastfeeding had no effect on the IQ of children with a different version. The gene in question helps break down fatty acids from the diet, which have been linked with brain development. Seven points difference is enough to put the child in the top third of the class, the researchers said ... Some 90% of people carry the version of the gene which was associated with better IQ scores in breastfed children...
Please read the entire article at

One Laptop Per Child Project
$100 laptop project launches 2007
The first batch of computers built for the One Laptop Per Child project could reach users by July this year. The scheme is hoping to put low-cost computers into the hands of people in developing countries. Ultimately the project's backers hope the machines could sell for as little as $100 (£55). The first countries to sign up to buying the machine include Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Nigeria, Libya, Pakistan and Thailand. The so-called XO machine is being pioneered by Nicholas Negroponte, who launched the project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab in 2004. Test machines are expected to reach children in February as the project builds towards a more formal launch.
Please read the entire article at

Egypt: Child Violence Hotline Inundated with Calls

International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World

Children's Suffrage Executed by Parents and Guardians
Leo Semashko, St-Petersburg Polytechnic University, 2004.
According to Leo Semashko, the most effective way to prevent children's humiliation is to create the institution of Children's Suffrage Executed by Parents and Guardians.