Countering gender stereotypes – one step at a time

Quest Alliance’s Capgemini MyCode project has sensitized students on gender stereotypes and many girl students are making small efforts to counter them.

Chikkaballapur: A few months ago, a bunch of class eight and class nine students studying in Government High School in Sidlaghatta, a small town in Chikkaballapur district, did not really think they were “discriminated” by their families because of their gender.

Sirisha says that the Capgemini My Code project has helped her understand gender stereotypes

Dressed in an olive green checkered salwar kameez, Sirisha D.M., a class eight student said that she never thought her parents brought her up differently because of her gender. “They buy the same toys and stationery for me that they buy my brother. We get the same quantity of food to eat,” she said. But after learning about gender stereotypes, which was one of the modules in the Capgemini MyCode project, she and many of her friends realized how they are “treated” differently. Sirisha says, “Even if I return half an hour late from school, my parents call my teacher. But if my brother comes late, no questions are asked. Sometimes I get yelled at if I stay back after school hours to get my doubts clarified or if I want to attend special classes,” she says. She also mentioned when her classes were held online during the pandemic, she had restricted access to gadgets as her parents were worried if she would “misuse” the mobile phone for other activities. However, she is quick to point out that her parents were not as concerned about her brother.

The Capgemini MyCode project has been rolled out in 25 government high schools across four states. The project equips boys and girls with 21st century skills, sensitizes students to gender norms and helps them overcome gender barriers to pursue their career pathways.

The module has helped students understand how gender stereotypes are prevalent in their everyday lives. It has also helped them think critically and question many of these labels.

Gender champions

Suhana Taj and Muskaan – both class nine students of the same school say that these classes have empowered them to express their dissent against child marriages. Suhana says, “Recently one of my relatives said that he wanted to get his 14 year old daughter married. I had a discussion with my parents and told them that we should persuade our relative to encourage his daughter to study and get her married only after she completes her education.”

Budding gender champions: Suhana Taj and Muskaan say that the project empowered them to raise their voices on issues pertaining to girl students.

These two girls are also on another mission. They are in the process of identifying young girls who are under pressure from their families to get married. Once they identify them, Suhana and Muskaan want to persuade their family members to allow them to continue their education and not get them married.
Ambika S.M., facilitator of Capgemini MyCode said that after the programme, many of her students have acknowledged that girls and boys are treated differently and are attempting to reverse them. “Many of the young girls have told their parents that their brothers need to share the load with them and also take part in domestic chores. The girls want to go back home now and get equal study time as their male peers,” she said. She also said that the module has not only improved their academic performance, but has also helped in influencing their career choices. “Most girls were afraid of picking up their mathematics and science books but after we gave them examples of women who have excelled in the field, they have tried to overcome the mental block against mathematics and science,” she said.

Not only has this module empowered many girls, but many of the boys too have felt and understood the need to play their part to end gender stereotypes. While many school textbooks too have illustrations and content that reinforces many gender stereotypes, exercises in this module made students reflect on who does the domestic chores in their home and how much time they take and have questioned if someone else can do it for them.

Mohammad Huzaifa is one of the few boys in the school who wants to play a part to ensure that his female counterparts in school get equal opportunities.

Mohammad Huzaifa, a class nine student says, “I had not even noticed that my mother sweeps the house, washes all the vessels and clothes at home. I have been very worried about her health as she is overworked.”

He said that the gender roles are not only confined to their homes but also prevalent in their school, where only girls in their class are made to sweep the classroom on a rotational basis. “Even we should be asked to sweep the classrooms. If nobody questions these differences, these practices will continue. While we get time – in school to study, the girls spend time in cleaning the classrooms. If we do not initiate these conversations, the girls will not be able to get equal opportunities as us,” he says.

The MyCode project is being implemented for one year in 25 schools across Karnataka, Odisha, and Telangana under the Secondary Schools Program. Read more about it here.

Written by:

Tanu Kulkarni

Communications Specialist

Author: thelearnerbyquest

Quest Alliance's space for reflection on the education sector

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