Gender-based discrimination has been prevalent in our society since primitive times. It is normative in our society and culture to suppress women in the private as well as the public sphere. Women have had to fight for their rights that were otherwise fundamental to men.
The Indian Constitution reserves the Right to Equality (Article 14) which protects the citizens against discrimination based on religion, race, caste, place of birth, and gender.
In other words, we are all equal, despite our sex, caste, race, religion, and status. Kadam Badhate Chalo (KBC) is a youth-led program initiated by Martha Farrell Foundation to end Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). The team of KBC facilitated sessions at the Rajkiya Varishtha Madhyamik School, Wazipur, Titana (Panipat, Haryana) on gender-based discrimination to bring young boys and girls together in deconstructing gender stereotypes.
While speaking to the youth there, the students expressed their perceptions, observations, and thoughts on issues concerning gender roles, identities, and inequalities. “There is gender-based discrimination at homes, schools and in general in society. Boys can go out and play while girls are asked to stay indoors”, said Manisha, a ninth-grade student of the Rajkiya Varishtha Madhyamik School. She further expressed that, “Discrimination is practiced when talking about education and marriage. In the village, boys get more opportunities for higher education and have more liberty in choosing whom or when to marry”.
According to Manisha, discrimination is based on society’s patriarchal structure. “Men think that they have to protect women and this perception has led to the suppression of women. Men should rather not hurt women, instead of trying to protect them”, said Manisha.
However, through various interactive activities organized in the course of the KBC program in their school, boys and girls participated and interacted with each other, breaking gender norms and stereotypes. They were able to express and share their thoughts on and with the opposite sex. They discussed how sex differs from gender, and what exactly constitutes the latter. Additionally, they recognized the value of respect, compassion, and a better understanding of each other for peaceful coexistence. “I saw a change in the girls and boys in my class after the KBC program. There is now increased mutual respect for one another, less discrimination in class, and cordial relationships between the classmates”, expressed Manisha to the KBC facilitators.
Manisha expressed that she now feels confident in talking to boys at school and speak up on stereotypes and issues of discrimination in her locality. “My parents don’t discriminate between me and my brother. They let us both play outside, want us to study and be successful in our lives. However, through their support and learnings from the KBC program at school, I confidently raise questions on gender-based discrimination and stereotypes”. She further said, “Together people should take a step towards ending gender-based discrimination and move towards a gender-just and gender-equal society”.