Gender neutral? In Kerala's anganwadi textbooks, drivers are always men, teachers women

The major findings are that stereotypes are being promoted by portraying women as teachers and nurses in the text format as well as in visual content.

Published: 27th August 2021 04:03 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th August 2021 04:03 AM   |  A+A-

A picture in the textbook in which both teachers are portrayed as women.

Express News Service

KOZHIKODE: The five-member gender audit committee designated by the state women and child development (WCD) department to suggest ways to inculcate gender awareness among children from pre-primary stage has found glaring gender issues in the anganwadi textbooks.

The committee headed by state gender advisor Dr T K Anandi has completed the report. The state’s pre-primary level has ‘Ankanapoomazha’ textbook for students and ‘Ankanathaimaavu’ as a teaching aid, catering to more than 33,000 anganwadis across the state.

The major findings are that stereotypes are being promoted by portraying women as teachers and nurses in the text format as well as in visual content. At the same time, the man appears as doctor, driver, farmer, etc. There is less representation for women in public places and men dominate the space in the portrayal. Similarly, the textbook exhorts mothers to help their anganwadi children to do the activities but fathers are let free. 

Another important finding is that wild animals such as lion and tiger are depicted as male  through illustrations and match-the-following activities in which women are equated to parrot and hen, thus cementing the patriarchal notion. 

“There was no woman driver, police or farmer in both texts. But we all know that women are in each and every job sector now. For instance, an illustration shows a boy sowing seeds in the farmland and a girl just watches him. The message conveyed is that the man is toiling and woman relaxing,” said a member of the committee. 

‘Anganwadi texts prepared as per conventional criteria’

“Another illustration depicts man as a headload worker, supervisor and fisherman. In the same picture, the single role attributed to the woman is carrying fish on her head and selling it. The message is clear that selling fish by carrying on head is the job of women, while other related activities are for men. These types of gender stereotypes in pictures are in abundance,” said the member.

These texts, which were introduced in 2014, were not prepared with gender sensitisation as a criterion, say sources. “These were prepared based on conventional criteria, making the small children focus their attention on home, surroundings etc. Gender sensitisation had not been a significant factor then,” said a member who was part of the 31-member committee which prepared the texts.

As it is time to revise existing textbooks, the gender audit committee will recommend including gender sensitisation as a major criterion in the revision. Its chairperson Anandi told TNIE the report is ready and will be submitted to the department next week.


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