Discrimination based on gender is highly prevalent in society today, however, 21st-century youth part of the Kadam Badhate Chalo (KBC) program, including boys, are coming together to end gender-based discrimination and deconstruct myths related to gender. One such example is Saideep Das, a class 8th student of Saraswati Shishu Vidya Mandir school in Bharatpur, Bhubaneswar, who believes in the power of youth and sports to end gender-based discrimination.
Saideep has been a part of the KBC program since its inception in his school in 2019. KBC is an initiative by Martha Farrell Foundation to impart awareness on the prevalent issue of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG).
Saideep has had a keen interest in sports since his childhood and was keen to be a part of the KBC program in his school. “I heard about the KBC program from a friend at Beena Bharati Vidya Mandir (another school part of the KBC program). I was inspired by it. When the program was implemented in my school I knew I had to be a part of it”, said Saideep.
Many activities conducted during the KBC sessions, such as Word Relay and Dekho aur Dhoondho, require equal participation of girls and boys. This has increased the interaction and understanding between girls and boys participating in the program. Saideep expressed, “I have seen boys and girls play separately in the past, but this has changed since the program was implemented. The girls and boys have started playing together. While participating in the sessions, we have to interact with each other which has made us more confident around one another”.
The KBC program subtly questions gender stereotypes through various interactive activities and mixed-gender games. Saideep while sharing his moment of happiness said, “Our school participated in the Mixed-Gender Football Tournament last year. I took this as an opportunity to interact with students from different schools. This was the best moment as we all came together to bridge the gender gap and fight against gender-based discrimination”.
Bandita Padhi, a teacher at Saraswati Shishu Vidya Mandir said, “The KBC sessions on Self-Awareness and Leadership have imparted important values, inculcated leadership qualities, and have boosted the confidence of the students. I have taught Saideep for two years, and seeing him grow through the KBC program has been very satisfying. Earlier, he was shy in interacting with girls and boys in his class. Now he conducts himself with ease with his classmates”.
KBC sessions on Gender Stereotypes, Patriarchy and Socialization have benefited the participants by deconstructing socially constructed gender roles and norms that have been ingrained in their minds. Saideep’s mother, Gitanjali Das, has also noticed a marked change in his behavior. “Saideep was an aggressive child but since he has been participating in the program, he has changed. He doesn’t behave aggressively with his brother and sister at home any more. He also helps me with the household chores. He has started respecting us more and more”, said Saideep’s mother.
hrough the KBC sessions on gender-based discrimination, Saideep realized that there is a huge gender gap in the country that is limiting the potential of girls and women. In the KBC sessions, the girls of his community shared that they usually don't get the freedom to choose their line of career. As Saideep aspires to become an engineer in the future, he shared, “I have heard less about girls in the engineering field. This might be because they either do not have an interest in it or lack the opportunity to pursue it. I want to reduce this gender gap in the field of engineering. Girls can become engineers too and nothing should stop them from achieving their dreams”, said Saideep. His family encourages him to take the initiative to fight gender-based stereotypes, discrimination, and gender gap.
Gender-based discrimination leads to a range of economic and social problems in the world, primarily against girls and women. The world needs more male leaders like Saideep to support girls and women in their fight against gender discrimination. The KBC program aims to demystify and unlearn gender-based stereotypes. By participating in the KBC program, Saideep has realized his responsibility as a youth to bring the world together to end gender-based discrimination and violence.