Stereotypes are prevalent in our society and have resulted in issues like gender inequality, gender-based discrimination, and violence. Therefore, as the youth of this country, we have to come together to break gender stereotypes and move towards a gender-equal world. Supriya Routray is one such example that wants to make India a gender-equal nation.
A class 9th student of Beena Bharti Vidya Mandir located in the slum settlement of Bharatpur in Bhubaneswar has been a part of the Kadam Badhate Chalo (KBC) program. KBC is an initiative by Martha Farrell Foundation to impart awareness on the prevalent issue of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) in the region.
Supriya describes the KBC program as nothing short of a journey full of self- discovery and growth. She recalls “when I think about it now, I realized I lacked the confidence to voice my opinions, thoughts or even doubts out loud". However, since then Supriya has successfully managed to turn the situation around. “I’m more confident in participating in class now and try to focus on both my studies and sports”, said Supriya.
She further expressed, “My favourite aspect of the program is that we all (girls and boys) play together. Previously, girls and boys used to play separately and therefore, interacting with them was a challenge for me. But after we started playing together, I started to understand them and their behaviour towards girls also changed positively”. In a way, Supriya feels that the program has helped her find her place and voice amongst her male and female peers.
Supriya spoke about her favourite memory, “we were the runners up of the Mixed-Gender Netball Tournament that was held this year. It has been my favourite moment. Girls and boys learned how to team up together and strategize”. She feels that together girls and boys can break gender stereotypes and playing sports together is one of the steps to achieve gender equality.
“The young boys and girls must bridge the gap between the genders and break stereotypes associated with them. This will happen if we interact freely with each other and try to understand one another”, said Supriya. Her teacher, Mr. Alok Dash said, “She is far more active in class than she was before the inception of the KBC program. She used to be reluctant to interact or sit with boys but now she is confident around all her peers. She makes an effort to understand her peers and sets an example to break the barriers between girls and boys in class”.
When asked what she aspires to be in the future, she stated, “I’d like to be a sportsperson. While participating in the program I’ve realized that it would be something I’d like to pursue throughout my life. With sports, I can bring the youth together to break the gender stereotypes that have been built around them and free the society of gender-based discrimination and violence”. Supriya’s mother expressed her joy in Supriya’s dream, “I am and will be supporting her to achieve her goals, and she is capable of being great (at sports). There is nothing that could stop her”.
It is important to deconstruct ingrained learnings or myths about gender and work towards gender equality from the very beginning since adolescence is the time when young boys and girls form their perceptions of the world. This is one of the steps to prevent gender-based violence and discrimination. Students like Supriya are an instrument to change the mind set of people on gender roles and strive for a gender-equal society.