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Here Is How NEP 2020 Will Help Eradicate Gender Discrimination In And Through Education

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This post is a part of Kaksha Crisis, a campaign supported by Malala Fund to demand for dialogue around the provisions in the New Education Policy 2020. Click here to find out more.

For a millennium, India has been the land of iconic women who’ve played a unique role in governance, policymaking, defence, religion, etc. and brought many drastic reforms in society. But 800 years of colonisation by foreign invaders has deteriorated the core moral, cultural and educational values of our country. The Sultanate and Mughal rulers were completely against women’s education, and Britishers had no interest in it. After independence, the education structure that grew out of communism never focused on female literacy.Ir merely made it an on-placard affair by subverting the traditional civilisational knowledge.

According to the Census, the overall literacy rate in 2011 in India was 73%. But, women’s literacy rate was only 65%. There exists a gender gap of around 16% between male and female literacy rates. This gender split is higher in rural areas. The rural female literacy rate is only 57%, while the rural male literacy rate is 77%. However, according to the All-India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) report, 2018-19, the gender gap in the country has narrowed over the past few years, after several new policy interventions by the current government. The female students constitutes almost half (approx. 48.6%) of the total number of enrollments in higher education. Nevertheless, there is a long way to go to bring gender parity.

Gender Disparity In Society

In most Indian families, a son’s education is prioritised over a daughter’s schooling. Girls are more likely to be engaged in domestic activities such as childcare and household work to provide economic support. This is more pronounced in lower-income households, rural families, and households where both parents work. The presence of younger siblings affects a girl’s education negatively — in terms of gross attendance, time spent on learning activities, learning performance, etc.

Early marriage is one of the chief reasons for adolescent girls dropping out of schools and prevents their access to education and development. Expenditure on girl’s education is lower than that of boys within families. More boys are enrolled in private schools and tuition than girls. Also, parents anticipate relying on their sons during their old age. This leads to differential treatment in their school enrollment, educational expenditure, and access to learning resources.

Image credit: Getty

Gender Disparity In School Curriculum 

A gender-responsive educational curriculum will reverse gender bias and discrimination within the educational system as well as society. This requires a transformation of our traditional methods of teaching, learning discourse and resources. Even today, textbook pictures depict men playing certain games, activities and labour, while girls are shown performing only traditional domestic activities.

In history, students are taught more about male leaders than female leaders, and women’s achievements are marginalised. Most of our stories portray women engaged mainly in traditional female roles such as housework and childcare, while male characters are shown earning for the family. Teachers reinforce gender bias by expecting girls to do better in craft activities, while boys are expected to perform well in science and math.

Dropouts In Girls

In India, girls enroll late and drop out early. The progress of girls from primary to upper primary level is also lower than boys. Foremost reasons are lack of upper primary schools nearby; girls forced to support the family’s economic survival by childcare and household work and the gender cultural attitude towards girls’ education. The dropout rate for girls in upper primary level is very high at 18%, according to the Ministry of Human Resource Development. In  many families, girls are not permitted to travel long distances to go to school for fear of safety, and lack of toilets and public facilities in schools.

Gender Disparity In Employability

According to the International Labor Organization, the female labour participation rate in 2017 was 27%, which is a 7% decrease from 34% in 2001. There are more than 50 million women in India who are neither going for study nor work. Monster Salary Survey, 2016, shows that  women in India earn 25% less than the women from the rest of the world. The manufacturing sector shows the highest gender pay gap, while there is considerable gap even in other fields including banking and IT.

Although more women enter the IT sector, some of them end up leaving soon. Almost 60% of women have a work experience of 1-3 years, while only 2.7% women have an experience of more than 10 years. Gender diversity is needed in workspaces across all sectors of the economy. Though female enrollment in engineering and medicine colleges is high, those getting enrolled for IITs, postgraduate research, and elite institutions are low. This might be a reflection of the parents’ bias in higher education expenditure. It results in less number of women in the R&D sector and senior management levels.

Multilayered Discrimination In Case Of Marginalised Communities 

By denying access to educational or socio-economic opportunities as well as political power, our society discriminates against women from marginalised communities, including Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes, migrant children, Dalits and poor Muslims. Girl children who are not part of the mainstream society face social exclusion in schools, and a weak monitoring system further prevents accountability and grievance redress. Due to the scattered nature of many of the Scheduled Tribes, their geographical access to schools is difficult. Dropout rate among children of migrant workers is very high.

Representational image.

Eradicating Gender Disparity With The NEP 2020

To tackle the above subjects and articulate an India-centric educational system, the new National Education Policy, 2020, has been designed by a committee chaired by scientist K Kasturirangan. The policy has prescribed to approach gender as a cross-cutting priority to achieve gender equality in education with the partnership of states and local community organisations. The GOI will constitute a ‘Gender Inclusion Fund’ to provide quality and equitable education to all girls. The fund will focus on ensuring 100% enrollment of girls in schools and a record participation rate in higher education, decrease gender gaps at all levels, practice gender equity and inclusion in society, and improve the leadership capacity of girls through positive civil dialogues.

The policy will emphasise the number of women on leading positions of the institution, including principals, teachers, wardens, physical instructors and other staff. To decrease the gender imbalance among teachers (especially in some rural areas), alternate pathways for female teacher recruitment will be introduced without compromising on merit and qualification, both educational and professional. NEP 2020 will focus on the safety and security of school-going girls both inside and outside the campus.

Schools have to ensure harassment, discrimination against women, and domineer free campus before enlisting for yearly accreditation. This will increase the attendance of girl children in the classroom. The policy will identify social mores and gender stereotypes that prevent girls from accessing education and cause dropouts. The teachers, Anganwadi workers, and local social entrepreneurs will be trained to deliver proper counselling to families of girl children.

All educational institutions will be mandated to conduct awareness sessions on gender issues to break stereotyped gender roles, on the importance of a harassment-free environment and equal treatment of genders, and on legal protection and entitlement for girls and women under Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act (POCSO), the Maternity Benefit Act, and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act.

This training will aim to raise awareness of teachers and educational administrators of a gender-sensitive and inclusive classroom management. The policy will specifically concentrate on the educational upliftment of underrepresented socio-economic and socio-cultural groups, and facilitate additional scholarships and fellowships.

The curriculum will be gender-neutral, technology-oriented, and more adjunct to sustainable employment. The NEP has also recommended vocational training inside school campus to acquaint students with first-hand experience of a workplace. In the end, the policy has a clear vision of reconstructing the nation’s learning methodology and building a vibrant Bharat.

Note: This was originally published here

About the author: Omm Priyadarshi is a Development Studies Scholar from NIT, Rourkela. He typically writes on socio-political, Environment and gender-related issues. He tweets @iommpriyadarshi

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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