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How Classrooms Can Be Made Gender-Sensitive Spaces For Conversations

The term ‘gender equality‘ states that a person, irrespective of their gender, has equal rights and opportunities and the basic need to fulfil their desires. For example, if a transgender person is working in a school with children and their parents are against them, then the school that hired them should support the teacher. They see capabilities that others didn’t see in them and that is why they got selected as a teacher. Thus, the school must give them the opportunity to show how they can make children feel comfortable around them and engage with them.

So, I believe that we should raise our voices when we see any violation against any person because they are not just questioning their gender but also their capabilities.

We usually see gender inequality in our homes, in books, news, society, at our workplace, religious places and cultural spaces, etc. Gender equality empowers all genders. It does matter where we live. Equality is critical to all areas of a healthy society to reduce the poverty and create awareness about health, education and security.

Reasons Of Gender Inequality 

  • In India, child marriage is one of the reasons in rural areas where some people do not let their children get an education or think about their future, due to which most girls are forced into marriage at an early age and end up as housewives or young mothers, whereas they should be learning at that age. Even though the law allows only women who are 18+ and men who are 21+ to get married. However, in rural areas, this law is not followed strictly. At present, we can see governments taking steps to educate children, including transgender kids, for free.
  • Gender-based violence is, unfortunately, a common phenomenon. One in three people globally faces physical or sexual assault, violence due to dowry, child labour, slavery, child marriage and many more. Our Constitution offers the provision for people to raise their voices against any of these issues and organise themselves in campaigns and movements.
  • Another reason for gender inequality is our society’s mindset. Society does not want women to be free; it wants to bind them. This can even lead to suicide or depression. People are not open to confronting their opinions with anyone due to the generation gap, different perspectives, rituals.
  • In India, 77% of people are in favour of gender equality, while almost 36% support increased diversity; 21% of people do not oppose a more important role for religion.
This is an image of school children in class
If we ask four-year-old school-going children about gender, most of them will give similar statements, like: “Boys don’t wear pink, girls talk a lot” etc.

How We Can Teach Gender Equality To Children

If we ask four-year-old school-going children about gender, most of them will give similar statements, like: “Boys don’t wear pink, girls talk a lot” etc. Most of these stereotypes come from watching cartoons, reading pop culture books that perpetuate society’s biases and stereotypes. Children get influenced by these sources and learn them to be true.

  1. Through different activities, we can teach them gender equality. For instance, we can divide the class into groups with two peers each and they can identify and list out places where they see gender inequality in real life. In this way, all the students can be involved in the conversation and discuss their perspectives.
  2. Students can even play a role-play as someone from the other gender. For example, the teacher can indulge them in a kitchen set activity where boys are cooking and girls also help them. In this way, they will easily understand and develop their opinions about gender and its stereotypes.
  3. We can also screen movies as children like to watch movies that are gender-sensitive. Some of these are: Pixie Hollow (age 4+), The Lorax (age 5+), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (age 7+).
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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.

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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 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
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