Taking gender bias out of classrooms

Mallika Sarabhai interacting with students in women's colleges in Kerala as part of the sensitisation programme. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Kerala government is making an earnest attempt to create gender awareness among students in women's colleges across the State.

The initiative is part of the ongoing efforts to provide more insight on a variety of issues like gender discrimination and gender issues. Kerala State Women's Development Corporation (KSWDC) is spearheading the campaign. The first phase of the project includes preparation of a documentary and other gender awareness programmes in about 40 select women's colleges in the State.

M. K. Muneer, Minister for Social Welfare and Panchayat, told The Hindu-EducationPlus that the government wanted to involve the girls in schools and colleges in the awareness programmes on several gender issues. The aim is to educate them about their rights and to encourage them to come forward and discuss their problems, he said.

Elaborating on the project, P.T.M. Sunish, Managing Director of KSWDC, said that the corporation has joined hands with Mallika Sarabhai, renowned dancer, as part of the initiative. “A video tour led by Dr. Mallika Sarabhai is on at select women's colleges in the State. This has become an eye-opener for women of all ages promoting them to keep a watch on the evils faced by their family members. It also conveys a social message to the entire society,” he said.

The 30-minute documentary titled ‘Unarthupattu - The Song of Awakening', guides young girls in dealing with issues like sexual exploitation, cyber crimes, stress related to their education, depression, premarital guidance and gender issues. Mr. Sunish said that young women can find a better way to address the issues after viewing the documentary. The work also conveys a vital message that the ongoing atrocities against women and adoloscents need to be addressed seriously.

Sharing her exciting experience of interacting with college girls across the State, Ms. Sarabhai said that youngsters were hesitant to talk initially but opened up their minds when encouraged to share their thoughts freely. “They have told me that most often teachers advisethem not to speak on issues. Students also fear that teachers will cut their internal marks if they start discussing such issues. They have also expressed doubts about whether the remaining students would extend their support to a group that is ready to open up,” she said.

Stating that efforts should be made to engage the girls in serious discussions on gender issues, Ms. Sarabhai said that “we have to tell them that there is an alternative”. She said that women should come together to create the change.

Recalling that a group of students at an engineering college had told her that most of the bus drivers refuse to stop near their institution, Ms. Sarabhai said that she recommended that they should adopt Gandhian modes of agitation to resolve the issue.

“I told them to invite the bus owner and traffic police to their college for an open discussion. Let them make their stance on the issue public. The media should also be invited to cover the event, as they co-operate a lot with similar efforts. Never give up the fight. I gave a suggestion that they could garland a driver who stops the bus near the college. They should take photographs on their mobile of buses refusing to stop near the college,” she said.

Ms. Sarabhai said that young girls will be asked to become a gender expert in their college, as part of the project. “We will give them training and provide supplementary materials. They will be guided on how to run focus groups and how to keep the discussions alive. The aim is to slowly start empowerment of women to empower change. The youth have the capacity to fight for change. We will also invite a teacher who could join the students in the project,” she said.

The documentary is being screened in 40 women's colleges in the initial phase. A gender expert and an expert counsellor also visit each college. The screening of the documentary is followed by an interactive seminar based on gender awareness. The event is envisaged as a platform for students to share their problems with the experts.

Mr. Sunish said that the KSWDC will select a group of 20 students after the completion of the programme. They will be given a residential training programme aimed at moulding them as gender experts. The corporation will empanel these trained students as KSWDC's gender experts engaging them for all gender awareness programmes conducted by the corporation in the future, he said.

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Printable version | Aug 6, 2021 9:15:05 AM |

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