Countering the Prejudice

I still distinctly remember having seen an award-winning documentary on the social attitudes towards boys and girls in the contemporary American society.  I was surprised to learn that beliefs that the members of one sex are less intelligent or less capable than those of the other sex, and the certain jobs or activities are suitable for women and others are suitable for men are as much prevalent in the developed nations as on the developing countries.  The film shows how parents, teachers and society at large expect different society at large expect different behavior patterns from boys and girls right from their childhood.  The boys are brought up to become thought, extrovert, self-reliant and interested in sports whereas the girls are expected to behave like dolls, to be delicate, shy, introvert and interested in things at home.

Such attitudes, formed through the centuries, can be countered only through countered only through conscious and unbiased education right from the childhood.  Prejudices, once formed, are difficult to overcome and education received in early childhood excerpts a like-long influence on a person.

The first step, perhaps, would be to create awareness.  Many of us are not willing to give as much freedom to the girls as we give to the boys in matters pertaining to dress, doing outside work, running the family or taking a leading role in the class.  Many teachers are also not aware that their task is not merely to teach us prescribed text but also to impart describe values to their pupils.  More publicity, therefore, needs to be given to the fact that one of the primary goals of education is the inculcation in the minds of children of the principle of the4 equality of sexes.

The very thought of what can be achieved through the classroom is editing.  Our rich cultural heritage can be used as a mine of references to demonstrate the true worth of the Indian woman.  Students of history can be told of the contribution made by women to the growth of civilization and culture.  The heroic role of women like Ahilya Bai, Razia Sultan, the Rani of Jhanso, Sarojini Naidu and Mother Teresa in eradicating the social evils and customs of the day would inspire many students to take up similar challenges in their own lives.  Similarly, the study of geography can help the students in understanding the impact of women on the socio-economic development of a region while the civics lessons can make them aware of the political and legal rights of women.

Science can impress upon the young learners that physical attributes do not reflect superiority or inferiority.  a few examples from the animal world will convince them that structural differences of sex do not confer any special rights or prerogatives in nature.  Thus, the students can be made to realize that the functions performed by different members of the family, whether inside or outside the house, are of equal importance.

Even while teaching mathematics, the principle of equality between men and women can be stressed.  The problems framed can related to the evils of society such as the dowry system or the extravagant expenditure on other ceremonies and festivals.  It can be highlighted through mathematical sums that both boys and girls have equal rights in the family prosperity.

The teacher should draw the pupils attention to the social attitudes at home, in the neighborhood and at school by involving them in discussions on dey issues and prevalent biases.  I have observed that discussions are na important tool to identify and overcome societal biases.  The level of participation in these discussions, both inside and outside the class, is generally higher than anybody's expectation.  The results, too, are equally astounding as such discussions provide an opportunity to individuals first to define their beliefs clearly and then to modify, discard or strengthen them.

Recently, in Chandigarh, students came in hundreds to participate in discussions held in their colleges on the status of women as depicted in the Indian cinema.  The discussions, which followed brief film shows, continued for hours beyond the schedule.  Boys and girls expressed their views with great enthusiasm.  As a result, both the listeners and the speakers gained a new insight into the subject.  At the end a demand was voiced by the students to give them more opportunities to have such discussions.

However, in a society where parents think it unfortunate to have given birth to daughter, very little can be done to change the situation through the school curriculum alone.  The parents must also be involved and made to realize that girls are not second-rate citizens, that they have equal rights with the boys and hence must be looked after equally well.  They should be educated to refrain from always criticizing or finding fault with the girls as such behavior may create an inferiority complex in them.  The parents should encourage the girls to explore and to take chances.  Experience has shown that given equal opportunities girls almost always perform as well as boys in physical exercised, games, studies and administration.  Further, by ensuring participation of both boys and girls in household work, the parents cannot only train their children to become good workers but also instill in their hearts a respect for manual work.

Women are rich in some qualities such as patience, service, co-operation and tolerance.  These are vital for the survival and growth of mankind in the coming centuries.  By interchanging the roles of children occasionally, teachers in the classroom and parents at home can help both the sexes to gain from each other.

For a better world tomorrow, we must now train our children in certain basic human values.  Seen in this light, teaching them equality of men and women will be a step in the right direction.