There were no celebrations, no congratulations, no sweets! My birth as a second girl child in the family was not a joyous occasion. I always thought that was it.
But as I grew up, there was no dearth of opportunities for me, be it in education or in career. All this while, the very fact that this might not be the case for almost half a billion population of my country was a matter of real concern to me. Day in and day out, newspapers with stories of foeticides, dowry, rapes and everyday experiences on eve-teasing continued to add to my distress even further.
Gender is not a women’s issue, it’s a people issue, which calls for the need to start changing the mindsets of our people, especially youth. And this is why, I could relate to the mission of People for Parity and wanted to have first-hand experience of the gender sensitization workshops they do.
This one was with 9th and 10th graders of National Academy in Alwar. It started with the very basic question, “What would you do if you were of the opposite gender” which even kept me thinking about it for a while. While the girls had a long list to share ranging from late night movies to riding bikes to enjoying freedom, boys seemed to be at an emotional risk of being termed ‘girly’ perhaps. Once the students were in the flow of discussion, they started sharing their personal stories of things they do by or against their consent. This was followed by sharing with them some common types of street harassment cases. For even a simple case like a man following a woman, the boys and girls differed quite a bit with boys considering the two as friends and the girls fearing the woman to be at risk. While it was not hard to imagine, it was bewildering to expect this from the section of our society which is just stepping into adolescence.
I realized that the differing opinions were not independent thoughts of these ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ but driven largely by the traditional thoughts of the society. The objective of the workshop was to equip the students with the courage to challenge this tradition. Without this courage, neither boys nor girls will have all the choices they deserve. The team had a quick session with the school administration to make them realize that gender wars need to cease, right from school. It is critical that schools, where students spend much of their time, work to sensitize these youngsters and help them develop resilience towards these gender related issues. In the end, all of it should boil down to respecting each other’s rights and dignity not as fellow men and fellow women but as fellow humans.
Besides these experiences, it was amazing fun to spend the day with so many like-minded people so passionate about the cause. Despite the hectic Saturday, I would say it was a day very well spent!
The question remains whether gender equity is still knocking at the classroom doors. Go, find for yourself!