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The Tale Of Why Girls Become Teachers And Boys Prefer To Be Army Men

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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.

The article puts forward a demand to improvise the curriculum of primary school students to fulfil the onus of creating a gender-neutral and egalitarian society. The need for changing the curriculum has risen after witnessing a surge in gender prejudices among the students of age group 5-6 years.

As per the National Survey Sample of India report, 58 % of girls have a preconceived notion that their ideal profession is “Teaching”, whereas boys have an incline towards “fieldwork” such as “Army or Police”. The report stated that such statistics imply our education system’s failure to develop orthodox perceptions in their minds at such a young age.

a school girl in india

Primary education is the fundamental right of every child as it plays an imperative role in equipping students with the skills of vision, intellectuality and acumen requisite in the 21st century. It must focus on learning processes through which social, cognitive, cultural, emotional skills can be developed.

The age group, 5-6, is a sensitive age since seeds of normative values are laid and take a concrete position afterwards. Activities and lessons should be planned so that the age-old beliefs turn into innovative ideas that can shackle the primordial conceptions about gender and their respective roles.

The generation above us has been the victim of a regressive curriculum, which could have been the reason for their rigid prejudices inherited at a young age. The concept of gender and profession instilled in our curriculum via visuals and pictures have constrained people to actualize their true potential and forties.

In cyberage, children have unconstrained access to knowledge that piques their curiosity, and lack of plausibility creates prejudices at a very early age. An outdated curriculum will enfeeble the roots of young minds, which will sway in elementary education. We are still waiting for the requisite transformation to guard young minds against manifold ethically wrong practices in daily courses.

As we know, it’s comparatively easier to slip into the mould of established norms rather than question them. It is challenging to liberate young minds from the clenches of gender inequality embedded in our curriculum. The unabated continuance of curriculum has to be revised to teach young minds that gender-specific characteristic is the crudest resort of inequality. The change should not be bracketed to the curriculum as the very nature of our language and stories promotes gender inequality.

Poems, rhymes and fairy tales are the first step of learning for a child. But unfortunately, the first step on the road of learning has a destination of stereotypical beliefs. We must revisit some of the famous tales that every one of us must have heard in our childhood and look at the discriminatory behaviour of it.

Let us take the famous story of Cinderella; it has perpetuated that women do not have the capability to free themselves from the clutches of oppression and needs a man to bring them out. The never-ending belief of dependency of women on men has been promoted in the story.

Moreover, it has given the emphasis that even if a man is requisite for the liberation of women from oppression, the women should have such mesmerizing beauty that can grab the attention of the men even with a cursory glance. It glorifies the institution of marriage and portrays it as the ultimate goal in the life of women.

Adding on, the popular narrative such as Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty etc., have focussed on arbitrary qualities rather than pragmatic qualities, which is a reflection of inner beauty such as compassion, empathy, altruism etc. The most prominent fairy tale, “Snow White”, does not only imply gender prejudice but promotes absurd colourism and gives its bit to the universal belief of associating ‘white’ with beauty.

It is said that the tree of education has the root of primary education, but the corrupt nature of our narratives has rotten the first seed of knowledge. Even the most gender-neutral tales, “The Paper Bag Princess have its first sentence as “Elizabeth was a beautiful princess. She lived in a castle and had expensive princess clothes.”

The attributes used are beauty and extravagant clothes despite the presence of immense courage that the princess had. The fact that “The Paper Bag Princess” seemed anomalous to us is that it altered the age-old representation of men and embedded roles that required the abduction of the princess and the prince to be the saviour.

The Fairy tales have burdened men with being courageous, violent and saviour. An oft-quoted credulous justification associates physiology with courage. The societal understanding of ‘strong’ has doomed males to be saviour since their physicality allows them. But a war can be won without a single sword, and that has been best exemplified by the princess where she used intelligence to defeat the dragon. A society where a single woman is derogatorily labelled as a spinster can derive its inspiration from the princess who defied everything and didn’t frown before leaving the prince.

Education is the greatest medium of revolution, and gender-sensitive narratives will make young minds fathom that “presence and absence of Y chromosome” should not constitute one’s demeanour, responsibilities to be upheld, and professions to be pursued. The amendments in our incumbent regressive curriculum will liberate girls and boys from becoming victims and chauvinists, respectively.

The education system has played a great role in gendering dress, gesture, occupation, social network and personality and delayed the annihilation of the evil of social hierarchy. Primary school marks the cognitive and intellectual development of students. The gender biases of the incumbent curriculum can be traced from our second-class textbook, which teaches in the chapter “Structure of family” that father goes to the office and mothers remain at home.

The child’s ability to think and reason hampers when a 5-year-old is taught above mentioned rigid binary categorization. The narratives like snow white should be replaced by stories like” The Paper Bag Princess” as they scrape out the prerogative of women to be dependent, quiet, beautiful and obedient.

Children are sapling of the bright future, and therefore, they should get access to qualitative education. And for this purpose, a comprehensive curriculum should be designed in the light of encompassing moral aspects. I conclude with “One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world”.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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