By: Madeline Taskier, Strategic Partnerships Associate at Women Deliver
In India, boys continue to be preferred over girls, permeating gender norms and attitudes throughout the country. Boys carry on the family name, don’t require expensive dowries for marriage, and have more opportunities in education and the workplace. In 2011, 914 girls were born to every 1,000 boys, and gender inequalities are only increasing.
Recognizing the growing gender gap and paucity of programs that try to shift attitudes about gender norms by addressing adolescent girls and boys, The Committee of Resource Organizations for Literacy (CORO), Tata Institute for Social Sciences (TISS), and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) developed a school-based curriculum that tackles gender equality, violence, and adolescent relationships; with the outreach geared toward 12-14 year old boys and girls in Mumbai’s public schools.
GEMS, Gender Equity Movement in Schools, introduces role-playing games, interactive extracurricular activities, and discussion-based lessons that explore the issue of girls attaining higher education, reduction of gender violence, marrying later in life, and girls and women sharing household work with men and boys. They also learn how their bodies change during puberty as a means to discuss healthy relationships between women and men.
In an ICRW article describing the project, Pranita Achyut, gender specialist and GEMS project leader, explained that the “group education activities were successful because facilitators engaged and interacted with children. Traditionally, this does not happen in schools; students are usually expected to sit and listen to instructors, not open up and debate topics with them.”
From 2008 to 2010, GEMS reached approximately 8,000 students in Mumbai. After 2 years of the program, students were more likely to support higher education for girls, openly oppose gender violence, and champion later marriage in life. With new support from the MacArthur Foundation, GEMS will expand its reach to 80,000 boys and girls by 2014. The next phase of the project engages teachers and seeks to bring the girls’ fathers into some of the discussions about gender norms. All of the partners working on the project hope that GEMS will be integrated into the curriculum of Mumbai schools, planting the seed of gender equality early and bolstering the role of girls in Indian society.
- Check out some of our other Celebrate Solutions on health education for newlyweds in Egypt and girls empowerment in Guatemala.
- Check out the Population Council’s programs Sakhi-Saheli and Yari Dosti, other gender quality initiatives for girls and boys in India.