Gender sensitivity needs to be taught right from school level, but an analysis of UP Board textbooks for classes 6 and 7 has revealed several gender disparities-in terms of published content, pictorial representations, examples cited in chapters and even in selection of personalities.
A team led by prof Roop Rekha Verma, secretary of non-government organisation Saajhi Duniya, in its study submitted to the government, has pointed out that women are being depicted on a lower pedestal than men. Whereas women achievers have been largely left out when it comes to profiling popular personalities, the fairer sex largely finds mention as housewives, as supplicants praying for sons and serving their husbands and in the form of other backward stereotypes.
Prof Verma said, “We have been doing an analysis of textbooks for a long time. But this time we scanned them just for a gender analysis of the text. It was in very few places that we found women as the lead characters in chapters. From gram pradhans to teachers to farmers-men have portrayed all these characters.”
Out of the total 63 chapters in the Manjari textbooks (for Hindi literature) for these classes, women have written only seven, while the rest have been authored by men. Of 163 great personalities described in the textbooks from classes 6-8, only 22 are women.
The team has found that women have largely been shown in traditional attires and getup and have been neglected even in examples of mathematics and other subjects. Also for pictures, such as of the NCC, boys have been shown rather than girls.
Said professor Verma: “We cannot dream of a society free from gender disparity unless we begin to give students the right education from school level. If textbooks lack basic gender sensitivity and portray women on a lower pedestal, what will children learn? They will always feel that women are meant to cook and men are meant to earn.”
She further said that common terms and headings like, ‘Mahapurush’ (great men) seem to indicate that there aren’t any great women. “Such terminology needs to change,” she added.