In India, schools have been tasked with addressing gender inequality. In most classrooms there are no initial surprises: quick Q&A sessions reveal that all girls must do housework before homework, and that very few boys are expected to help with chores.”
Shakir Parvez Shaikh, a 15-year-old student at the Shahaji Nagar Municipal Hindi School in Mumbai’s Cheeta Camp area, says the lessons are a revelation to her. “We talk about how boys and girls are equal as human beings, but how we treat girls differently.”
“I didn’t realise before… for example, that girls are not allowed to play cricket because they have to do housework or because it is not safe outside for them. I think it’s unfair.”
Shaikh’s views reflect that many Indians have just come to accept the horrifying levels of violence against women and children in their country, which range from female feticide, child marriage and dowry killings to rape and domestic violence.
It was the international reaction to the fatal gang rape of a woman on a Delhi bus in December 2012 that jolted the government of the world’s second-most populous country out of apathy. Now media campaigns are designed to help women come forward and report abuse.
Women are also fighting other forms of discrimination in India. Many have little say over their lives and lack access to inance, land, inheritance, education, employment, healthcare and nutrition.
Gender classes are being taught in more than 12 000 schools across India. Using role play, teens can act out and discuss familiar scenes in their lives, such as when a daughter is given less food than her brother, or a husband beats his wife for not cooking his dinner, or a girl is harassed by boys in the street.
Researchers admit the gender inequality course may not be enough to turn around deep-rooted views over the lower status of women, but say it may plant the seeds of change in the next
Category: Winter 2016