KOCHI: The Kerala State Women & Child Development Department has been spearheading a movement to break gender stereotypes and ensure a change of mindset when it comes to accepting independent women. It has now launched a gender sensitivity campaign, starting with a comprehensive reevaluation of school textbooks. It will begin by fixing textbooks and study materials in anganwadis. Training will be imparted to the teachers, said gender consultant Dr T K Anandi.
“The campaign has begun in anganwadis. A committee has been formed and an informal meeting held. The committee will officially convene on Monday. A group of anganwadi workers and other experts has been formed to provide us feedback. In a week or two, the report will be submitted to the government,” said Dr Anandi.
She added that the books and study materials will be tweaked to ensure there are no anti-women mentions. The teachers will also be given ample training to make this concept clear to kids. Illustration and the language will be scrutinised too. Any lessons with problematic mentions will not be taught and will be discarded in the next printing cycle. Anganwadi teachers will also be given gender training, including awareness on types of gender identities. Teachers pursuing BEd courses will also be given training.
Textbooks for lower primary, upper primary, higher and higher secondary classes will soon be scrutinised. “The training will not be confined to teachers alone. Just like our literacy programme, this will be a massive state-wide programme to educate parents. As many as 102 students have already been trained by the department and they will be taking classes in all the districts,” she said.
Post pandemic, lessons in self-defence also will be imparted through educational institutions in all the districts. Almost 5,000 schools in Kerala are already doing it. ASHA workers, Kudumbashree and other service organisations will be sensitised to spread the message further into society.
Activists had earlier pointed out gender inequalities in anganwadi textbooks, where the sister was portrayed as someone who does household chores and the brother as one that goes out to work. Here is a sample of the lyrics in a poem.
“Umma tharan ennamma
Karyam Nokkan ennachan
Kadayil Pokan Kochettan
Roughly translated to my mother to kiss me, father to take care of the family, grandfather to supervise, brother to go to the store and sister to sweep the courtyard. Such faulty portrayal of gender roles can be misleading to children, claim the activists.
The WCD has been in the spotlight earlier too, for its approach towards gender equality, treatment of women and society’s approach towards working, talented girls who want to study and work. The Facebook page of WCD has been lauded by users.