CHENNAI: When Gulika Reddy was in school, she decided that one day she would become a lawyer and change the world. Then she became a lawyer and realised that to change the world, she’d have to go back to school.
“I remember a while ago I was handling a case on domestic abuse, and the client who had been badly bruised was advised to ‘adjust’,” the 26-year-old recalls. “It’s one of the many instances in my career that have led me to believe that social attitudes need to be changed early,” she tells us.
With a little help from her friends, this human rights lawyer has converted her rants into an entire syllabus that encourages youngsters to think for themselves, rather than subconsciously having their thoughts shaped by ads on TV, peers, media, popular opinion or just about any stream of thought that bears a strong influence.
The pilot project, which has been active in two city schools —Abacus Montessori School and Sishya — just completed its first term since it kicked off earlier this year in June. And the name of the course that has been a weekly feature at both schools (of classes 9 through 12) simply sums up what it’s all about, for parents, teachers and of course the hand-raising teenagers in question. Gulika calls it ‘Schools of Equality’.
“The idea has been to integrate arts and sports to reflect on concepts that aren’t often talked about,” she lets on.
And over the last six months, this has covered everything from photography for a lesson on identity, to a game of football to disprove gender biases — all covered by experts from the related fields.
“We even had some of the students put together a little theatre for us, from sections of an Archie comic that they thought showed Veronica and Betty being gender stereotyped,” Gulika describes.
However, it must be noted that every session according to this new gen project is a discussion, not a lecture.
Gulika elaborates, “The idea is to get these youngsters to think about where these notions are coming from in the first place.”
Could it be a book that read like the Twilight series that portrays weak feminine roles, or something they saw on TV? “Once they’re aware of how these messages impact them, then the hope is to impart the ability to question messages that perpetuate inequality,” she sums up. Although just to clarify, Reddy adds, “At no point do we ever conclude a discussion with a right or wrong — it’s always up to the student to decide.”
Turns out one female 11th grader suggested they do act out an eve-teasing incident, but in reverse.
Instead of a victimised girl in the scenario, there was a boy who volunteered to do the job, with a bunch of girls cat calling loudly as he walked by. We know this little man is going to grow up to be a gentleman!