The society has created numerous social norms for the people to follow. Adolescents are familiarised with various notions and concepts from a young age. One of them being gender roles and stereotypes. Usually, if you ask them "What is gender?" common answer would be ‘girls and boys’ furthered by ‘girls play with dolls and boys play cricket’. To break these gender stereotypes, it is important to deconstruct these ingrained stereotypes.
Go Girls Go program under the wing of Kadam Badhate Chalo, a youth-led initiative of Martha Farrell Foundation focuses on gender equality, and ending gender-based discrimination and violence against women. It also focuses on building the capacity of students in to choose a suitable career path. To take this forward, the Go Girls Go team engaged the students of the Government Girls Senior Secondary School (Kakrola) in intriguing activities such as gender relay to make them understand the basic difference between sex and gender. In this hour-long activity, they were made to write their thoughts on boys and girls separately. They came up with the usual stereotypes as prevalent in society. However, once the activity was over, the students realized that there is more to a man or a woman than the roles they are expected to perform in society.
“I feel girls and boys can work together if they respect each other!” said Prachi, a class ninth student who walks five km to school every day. She lives with her parents and is the youngest amongst the three siblings. Her father is an MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) worker while mother works households to earn a living. Being a part of the Go Girls Go program, she became aware of her thoughts on the barriers between genders. She expressed how she was surrounded by the gender roles and stereotypes in her life. “Through the gender relay activity I understood that even though the terms gender and sex are used interchangeably, they are very different from each other. Gender is a social construct while sex is the biological aspect of birth,” said Prachi in her conversation with the team of Go Girls Go.
She said “The young boys and girls must bridge the gap between the genders and break stereotypes associated with them. This will happen only when we spread our wings together!” Prachi shared her views on gender roles. She said, “cooking is not just for women alone to learn. It is a basic survival skill which everyone should know irrespective of their gender.” Prachi also took a pledge to not put people in the bracket of certain roles or stereotype men and women. “The students were keen on participating in the gender relay activity. I could see the change in their perceptions towards the opposite gender after the activity,” said Samiksha, Go Girls Go facilitator.
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 Prachi are an instrument to change the mindset of people on gender roles and strive for a gender-equal society.