The gender-biased views that we grow up with, have its origin in our childhood itself. The ideas of inequality and resulting discrimination also begin quite early in life. Traditional school education plays a part in encouraging these ideas. The way men and women are portrayed in school textbooks or the different set of rules for boys and girls are responsible for this kind of thinking.
These ideas of gender inequality are being challenged in a classroom through the simple game of snakes and ladders. This game is a part of a syllabus that the Committee of Resource Organisations (CORO) has initiated in collaboration with UNICEF and the government of Maharashtra. The syllabus, aimed at creating an understanding of gender equality in boys and girls between the ages of 12-15 years, is called Meena-Raju Manch. The programme is woven around two characters: Meena and Raju, who kids find easy to relate to. This is being run in 25,000 schools across the state.
“We have designed classroom activities for every week. It is made interesting through games and stories,” says Sujata Khandekar, co-founder of CORO. “In the first year we taught them concepts like gender, violence and body-related concepts. And the second year was more on the behaviour.” The children were taught ways to be assertive without being arrogant. Girls especially, were taught how to say no to things. Teachers of the government schools are trained to be facilitators of this programme.
Started in 2008, the programme has seen some very positive results. The boys who have already done the programme say that they don't harass girls, they take part in household chores and girls are able to question their parents on certain impositions and pressures they face at home. Lessons learnt from the Meena-Raju Manch will help the future generations to create a more equitable society for men and women.