Men are shown involved in outdoor activities. They are portrayed as the head of the family, and often shown to be violent, fat or lazy. Women, on the other hand, are confined indoors, shown to be adept only at domestic chores. They are the primary caregivers of their children, and projected as thin, weak, and kind. These polarising gender stereotypes were found after an analysis of 10 NCERT textbooks for subjects including Hindi, mathematics, English, and environmental studies.
These books — for children between classes two and five — were analysed by a 21-year-old French national and political science student, Anais Leclere, an intern with non-governmental organisation Action Aid.
The main objective of this study was to see how textbooks promote gender equality; what kind of messages were conveyed through the stories; how women and girls are represented; and the use of a gender sensitive language, said Ms. Leclere. Through her analysis, she found that the textbooks showed that boys and girls were not seen performing activities together.
Referring to class four English textbook, she said there has been “masculisation of jobs” such as “milkman, policeman and ice-cream man”. Very few women are depicted doing outdoor activities or performing sports.
There is a gender division in terms of labour or tasks. Women are seen as in charge of cooking and household activities, and taking care of children, while construction work is seen as a man’s job. Phrases such as “father’s hard-earned money” indicate that men are in charge of bringing the money back home.
Ms. Leclere said no gender-neutral term was used for animals. Explaining the need for textbooks to not have gender stereotypes, she said, “Everything is socially constructed, and what is taught to kids at a young age will have an everlasting impression on their mind”.
Action Aid has decided to write to the Union government to make gender equality a priority during the re-examination of the NCERT textbooks and to implement gender studies from class one. It would also recommend the need to have teacher training.