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Why a safer future for women begins with gender-sensitive children

By HT Brand Studio | July 10, 2017

SOURCE: Hindustan Times

Alarm Bajne Se Pehle, Jaago Re

Ensuring gender equality is one of the first steps towards an inclusive and safer society. And a huge part of this lies in how we raise our sons and daughters.








Ensuring gender equality is one of the first steps towards an inclusive and safer society. And a huge part of this lies in how we raise our sons and daughters.

Gender inequality is not a new challenge in India; since centuries now, girls and boys have received differential treatment not just in their homes, but also in schools and workplaces. However, what does this have to do with the rising rate of crimes against women?

More specifically – what does it have to do with the 34,651 cases of rape, 4,437 attempted rapes, 59,277 kidnappings and abductions, 7,634 dowry deaths, and 1,13,403 incidents of domestic cruelty complaints registered in India—in one year alone? A single incident can be blamed on the offender. But, when the statistics are this staggering, the problem cannot be regarded in isolation anymore.

Well-known social activist and academician, Dr. Ranjana Kumari highlights how centuries of social conditioning and rigid gender constructs have led to an unequal balance of power between men and women, which results in discrimination and, often, violence against the latter.

To better understand the problems surrounding women's safety in India, Tata Global Beverages commissioned a survey to understand public standpoint on the issue. Over 80% of the respondents believed that society plays a key role in creating a safer environment for women, while 93% affirmed that raising gender-sensitive children will lead to creating a safer society.

So, what is gender sensitisation, exactly?

To create an equal as well as a safer space for women, it's important to drive change right from an early age. Children, after all, follow by example. When a boy discovers that the rules meant for his sister do not apply to him, it conditions him to believe that there's a lot he can get away with. Similarly, we instruct our daughters to avoid confrontation wherever possible—even if it means curtailing their personal freedom, but often forget to teach our sons that their actions are accountable. As a result, we raise girls who lack confidence and boys who think they can get away with anything – a recipe for disaster if there was ever one.

Gender sensitisation programmes are primarily designed to rid children of such regressive social conditioning. These workshops encourage students to redefine traditional roles and responsibilities, to explore a world where they are not tied down to stereotypes. As a result, such training also teaches students to be more respectful towards each other, to understand boundaries, and to fight for equal rights under all circumstances.

"Self-esteem, right to privacy and gender sensitivity are issues that have to be integrated within the psyche of the children as they grow," writes Ameeta Mulla Wattal, principal at Springdales School, Delhi, and the former chairperson of National Progressive Schools' Conference. "As long as societies are imbalanced, and more aggressively male, rapes will continue to be a growing reality."

SOURCE: Pixabay

Be the change you wish to see

Jaago Re's petition to the HRD Ministry, demanding compulsory gender-sensitisation programmes across all schools is an organised way to take pre-activism to the masses. It allows citizens to proactively ask for change from the grassroots, in an impactful way.

Amitabh Kumar, Head of Media and Communication at Centre for Social Research, New Delhi, stresses on the importance of starting early. "Gender is a living subject and has to be taught hands on," he told HT Brand Studio over email. To explain the impact of such workshops, he narrated an anecdote from one that CSR conducted at a NDMC boys' school. "On our first visit, the toilet walls at the school were filled with profanities and sexual slurs. When we went back for our second training a month ago, the children had painted over those walls."

Kumar however asserts that such behavioural changes, while significant, are also fairly 'microscopic' in the bigger picture. "The government needs to come up with a massive educational programme on a national scale," he believes.

Practising what we preach

Compulsory gender sensitisation programmes in school are definitely a huge step towards creating a safer and more equal society. However, our work doesn't end there. As parents, guardians, and role models, it's our duty to ensure that children are raised in gender-sensitive environments at home as well.

The next time you're walking down the street with your daughter and spot an incident of harassment, report it immediately. If you encounter even the smallest episode of discrimination at home, stand up against it. "The difference in roles at home, the work distribution, all these are examples of inequality that need to be observed in our own lives," explains Kumar. As a result, it is crucial to keep children at the centre of the conversation around gender dynamics and equality. Most importantly, don't treat your daughter differently from your son. Let there be no different rules for her – whether it comes to clothes, friends, education, and life choices.

Join Tata Tea's movement to make gender sensitisation programmes compulsory in schools by signing the petition now. In addition, do remember to pledge to raise gender-sensitive children and call out discrimination wherever you see it.

Remember, gender inequality lies at the heart of an unsafe society. Don't wait for the next rape to react – be a pre-activist and do your bit now.

Join the conversation at www.jaagore.com

Tags SafetyGender sensitisationIndiaRanjana KumariSchool Children