One Billion Rising and What it means for YOU!

WHAT IS ONE BILLION RISING [OBR]

Based on horrifying statistics, we have realised that 1 in 3 women are beaten or raped and that is about one billion women/girls among our 7 billion population in this world. Women and girls is an inclusive term here though, it signifies that the weaker are oppressed and hurt.

February 14th every year has now been championed as a day for Revolutionary love, being as Valentine’s day focuses primarily on love. That’s what the One Billion Rising movement hopes to carry through their movement as well. LOVE. RESPECT and a chance for an EQUAL PLATFORM.

 

HOW DID IT START?

2013 was the first year of the OBR movement where people rose to express their outrage against injustices that women suffer. It spread through hundreds of countries, involving the local communities shining a light on the injustices faced by the survivours. This movement gave a voice to them and their oppression. It included a RISE through dance, talks, walks, strikes and dialogues to say that we shall stand together and shall not be silenced and we shall strive to create an environment where violence is resisted and believed to be unthinkable.

This movement included the struggle against sexual and physical violence, which has grown now to include economic violence and violence of poverty, racial violence, gender violence, violence caused by environmental disasters and violence impacting women in the events of wars, capitalised greed and much more.

The 2014 movement focused on One Billion Rise against Justice, while the 2015 to 2016 movement was focused on Revolution. That theme is carrying on to 2017 as well with a focus on ‘RISING IN SOLIDARITY AGAINST THE EXPLOITATION OF WOMEN.’

 

RISE! DISRUPT! CONNECT!

RISE! Women are at their most vulnerable to abuse – at home, in the workplace and economically. Women are abused in multiple layers of our society. One is through our patriarchal structures in society, while another is through the economic exploitation in the need for survival. This is quite prevalent among the marginalised communities – like our indigenous women, domestic workers and women from the lower socio-economic strata.

DISRUPT! OBR believes in a world of equality, freedom, peace and dignity. This belief carries through our YWCA movement as well and it strikes an intense chord with us. Through walks, dances and other creative resistances – a force is built with hope and will that is strong enough to ask for a dialogue and create a need for the Government to pay close attention to a demand of the people.

CONNECT! No movement, or in this case Revolution, can be without support or solidarity. No system change, no challenge to a patriarchal thinking process can be done alone. It needs support and lots of it. Solidarity with a movement, with a cause that will affect each and every one of us and those suffering at the hands of these injustices can help move our hopes and dreams for a equal world forward.

 

HOW TO BE PART OF THE MOVEMENT?

There are global coordinators from the OBR movement and there are two based in India. They are Abha Bhaiya and Kamla Basin from the Sangat South Asian Feminist Network. They organise events that support the OBR campaigns. You can contact them for more information, follow the links through their names to find out more.

From one of the previous campaigns, a group called New Light Girls performed the Anthem of the OBR called, Break the Chain. This anthem can and is still used till today and any new variations of it are encouraged by this campaign.

Follow the OBR blog for more information about the events taking place around the world and know how you can help. The Indian movement has been categorised here. And here is a list of all the events taking place tomorrow around the world.  In India, there are two events taking place, one in Delhi and another in Kolkatta with subsequent events taking place around 22 states throughout February.

 

 

 

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YWCA OF INDIA DAY – THE STORY

YWCA of India currently has been a constant between all the YWCAs in India, that it is inconceivable to believe that it did not exist before the YWCAs in our country! India had about a 109 YWCA branches before it was finally decided that perhaps we need a YWCA for the country.

Here’s your crash course on the history of the YWCA of India.

THE IDEA THAT SPARKED IT ALL:

December 1896, Acting President of the YWCA of Calcutta, Ms. Alice M. Bethune realised that unity was required for the needs of the country. Hence invitations went high and low to the 109 branches in the country requesting their presence for a conference for prayer and planning towards this goal. Ms. Minnie L. Collins was the General Secretary of YWCA of Calcutta and Bengal.
Incidentally, the Biennial Convention for the YMCA was taking place, with a representative from the London YMCA, Mr. James Stokes Esp.

WHAT HAPPENED THEN?

Since the YMCA Convention and YWCA Conference were happening at the same day. The first session was held at the YWCA’s Home 31, Free School Street, Calcutta with Ms. D. McConnaughy Esq., the National Secretary of YMCA India chosen as the Chairman, and Ms. A. G. Hill from YWCA of Madras chosen as the Secretary of the Conference.
This was monumental, because with the guidance and reassurance of Mr. Stokes (who had worked with YMCA and YWCA in London) explained that the World Committees were hoping that National Associations be formed everywhere to ease in carrying out the mission that was the YMCA and YWCA effort.

WHAT CAME TO BE?

December 1856, saw the formation of the YWCA of India Association, under the guidance of Mr. Stokes suggesting for a simple union between the 109 branches of YWCAs in India.

Thus, YWCA of India, Burma and Ceylon was formed on December 1896.

 

WHAT DID THAT MEAN?

With the YWCA of India, Burma and Ceylon Association in place, it meant that the National Association would work on the same principle as the World YWCA. The National headquarters were to be in Calcutta.

And most important, February 1st every year was to be marked as the inauguration of the National Association and would be a special day of praise and prayer.

 

WHAT CAME UNDER THE ASSOCIATION?

The National Association now had 68 English branches [with Calcutta, Bombay and Madras having several branches within their cities). 2 Vernacular branches, 27 Hindusthani branches, 6 Malayalam branches and 5 Tamil branches were also under the YWCA of India, Burma and Ceylon Association banner.

 

FEW YEARS LATER. . . 

National Headquarters is no longer the same, as well as the National Association India, Burma and Ceylon. The headquarters moved a few times after that, from Calcutta to Bombay, Madras to New Delhi – meaning the Association had many strong influences from all these regions before it became settled in New Delhi.

YWCA of India, as it finally came to be known was settled in New Delhi in the year 1958.

 

WHAT HISTORY SHOWS US TODAY?

The common goal of the YMCA and the YWCA was the same and always will be. We needed a common denominator that coordinated at the World stage and we had the guidance and support from the 109 branches in India as well as the YMCA to establish that.

Calcutta had the vision and foresight to bring us all together and Bombay and Madras supported the movement continuously. It must have been sad seeing the YWCA of India, Burma and Ceylon Association become the YWCA of India Association alone, along with the shifting of HQ 4 times. However, it is to be noted, that HQ shifted 4 times, thus engaging every corner of the country’s YWCA branches. February 1st, requires us to take a step back, realise we all have the same goal and praise this movement that has steamrolled into the 22nd century. 120 years of the Association now, still younger than most of the YWCA branches in the country, but still the glue that binds us all together.

National Immunisation Day 2017

Lately social activism has taken on a hard edge to it. There is a sense of despondency that whatever is said will not be heard. The days do look dark ahead of us, however, we need to take our wins along with us as well.

National Immunisation Day 2017, the day that marks the start of the Polio drive in India in accordance with the World Health Organisation [WHO] directive. WHO wanted to eradicate the World of Polio by the year 2000 and India met that deadline with aplomb.

Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease. It is caused by the poliovirus. The virus spreads from person to person and can invade an infected person’s brain and spinal cord, causing paralysis (can’t move parts of the body).

WHO had two Millennium Development Goals: halving the number of people who suffer from hunger (for which a key indicator is the prevalence of underweight children) and reducing the mortality rate of children under five years of age by two-thirds. With this in mind they set up building campaigns around the world to start the polio drive by immunising children under the age of 5. India successfully participated in this initiative.

It started in Delhi, with polio drops being given door to door. And the following season the Indian Government had taken up this crusade. Door to door campaigns, information to the public was issued at regular intervals, polio schedules were drawn up to ensure that children below 5 got their doses regularly.

Things were on track till one case popped up in Howrah, West Bengal in 2011. From then on, The Indian Government has been following the directive set by WHO to keep India polio free. So, here’s a feather in our caps for following through for 5 years through. There is some good news around, development is happening, we need to remind ourselves of it more often is all.

Oil & Gas Conservation Fortnight 2017

 

Oil and Gas Conservation Fortnight (OGCF) 2017 starts today {4th January} and continues till the 10th of January. First started in the year 1991, in order to spread awareness about the conservation of petroleum products. This initiative grew from just being the ‘Oil Conservation Week’ to ‘Oil and Gas Conservation Fortnight‘ in 2004 – since the nation-wide campaign was quite successful and new eco-friendly gaseous fuels were being substituted more regularly, that it needed to be conserved as well.

The campaign is conducted with the sponsorship by the entire oil industry under the guidance of ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas. The campaign has two main concern addressed every year:

  1. the need to conserve resources for the future
  2. the environmental fallout from the non-judicious approach to the use of these fossil fuels

Conservation has always been the need of the hour, since we realised how quickly we run through our resources. Oil and Gas, however, do not feature on our ‘list for conservation’, mostly because we take it for granted. We do not realise the amount of wastage nor use of these resources, because of insufficient infrastructure and insufficient daily commodities among all the population.

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On the flip side of the coin, is the mass usage of these fuels affects the environment that we live in. Besides depleting the earth’s reserves, the effluents from the factories, homes, etc are passed into the running waterways – i.e. our streams, rivers, oceans. Lead free petrol not being a must, we end up releasing a lot of gases into the atmosphere, polluting the very air we breathe.

One of the recent wake-up calls, was when Delhi was heavily polluted, making it the world’s first most polluted city in 2016. The population, the smog, the weather change and the indiscriminate bursting of firecrackers during Diwali made the pollution cross 650 µg/m³.  The high level of particulate matter in the air, made it impossible for the city to function efficiently for a few days.

This is not recent news however, the Taj Mahal recorded damage to it’s white facade turning yellow, because of the pollution in the air, which also pointed out the that air pollution was below the WHO standards for human living conditions.

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Every year, this campaign draws more supporters, more concerns and more information to protect not only these resources, but also our lives. Do join in and learn more about this campaign through the Petroleum Conservation Research Association [PCRA] and find out more of their activities to conserve oil and gas this year and for the coming years.

 

Orange the World: UNiTE to End Violence against Women

A little known fact: 1 in 3 women experience physical or sexual violence from someone close to them, or someone they know.

Thus the initiative started by Secretary-General UNiTE to End Violence against Women calls for 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence in 2016 – from the International Day of Violence against Women [25th November] to Human Right’s Day [10th December].

‘Orange the World: Raise Money to End Violence against Women and Girls strongly emphasizes the need for sustainable financing for efforts to end violence against women and girls towards the fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Ingrained in us is the inequality of roles, rights, opportunities and attitudes between men and women. It’s something that requires a lot of education, a lot of manpower, a lot of open dialogue to break down these barriers. Most instances, women believe they should be in these unequal positions, since a novel concept being spoken of breaks the balance that has been maintained, and that rocks the boat for most. All across the world, leaders realise that for economic and development of any nation, these injustices need to be worked on. However, they also realise that a lot of funds are required to invest into this initiative. Hence, Orange the World.

Evidence shows that even relatively small-scale investments that are timely and well integrated can bring enormous benefits to women and their communities. Donate to support efforts to end violence against women and girls worldwide.

Join in this campaign, by sharing your photos, messages and videos showing how you orange the world at facebook.com/SayNO.UNiTE and twitter.com/SayNO_UNiTE using #orangetheworld and #16days. Follow the UN Women website for the 16 days of activism from across the globe.

Ringing the Warning Bell

We’ve heard about climate change. We’ve heard why it’s important to be vigilant. We some times prefer not to know, because we assume it does not affect us, but the future. However, the future is not so distant as we like to believe.

Leonardo Dicaprio’s film Before the Flood, is a documentary that meets with scientists, world leaders and activists to fully understand climate change, how we can change individual behaviour to protect the future and also, most importantly it promotes hope. Something, that most activists, environmentalists and climate change scientists forget to include in their discourse.

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picture credit: Pete McBride from National Geographic

In Iceland, land is rising as fast a 1.4 inches per year in certain areas as a result of climate change. The melting of the country’s glaciers reduces pressure on the land below and allows the surface to rise.

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picture credit: Thomas Peschak from National Geographic

While in Mexico, off the seas of La Paz, the Sea of Cortez has murky green rough waters, this year, the unusual climatic and oceanographic conditions resulted in ultra calm and clear waters.

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picture credit: Brian Skerry from National Geographic

In the High Arctic near Navy Board Inlet, Canada, the sea ice has been declining in recent years. It is predicted in a year or two, the North pole will be ice free in the summer, meaning the ships will be able to pass over the pole for the first time in recorded history.

Meanwhile, in Belize, they are celebrating 20 years of their world heritage site, the Belize Barrier System Reserve System. The country’s laws protect this large reef ecosystem in the Atlantic-Carribean region (the second largest in the world).

Which brings us around to, the burden to protect our planet, rests in our politicians hands. Which, was true for our Indian Tigers. In 1973, a political framework was put in place by Indira Gandhi to protect our tigers. A Wildlife Act that banned hunting of wildlife {mainly tigers}, that also allowed for creating sanctuaries and national parks with strict measures ensuring the safety of the land and the wildlife within.

However, the Tiger initiative has had its ups and downs till date, with more activists and celebrities backing the project. However, nothing ensures results when any initiative has complete political backing and that has fallen short over the years.

This does not mean that we as individuals still cannot do something to help. During the floods in Chennai, a group of people came together and over the weekends following the flood, they cleaned up the beach and a few areas of all the plastic and other debris washed in by the river Cooum.

Another initiative started by a social organisation Grow-Trees.com, identifies locations that need tree cover in India, that will enable the wildlife as well as the tribals in that area, while giving you the opportunity to donate an amount in your name or in another person’s name allowing for a ‘grove of trees’ to be planted.

There are many more programmes that are out there that depend on individual support, volunteering and effort. The bottom line however is very simple, climate change is real. Climate change is happening. Do watch ‘Before the Flood’, the documentary if you can, and share the information with all around you.

 

Why Harambe?

October 2016, saw the resurgence of vigils being held for Harambe, in fact, there were two held in the country itself. However, it was strangely obvious that the true nature/reason for the vigils had been lost – which is surprising considering the social media firestorm that broke over this.

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Who is Harambe?

In May, a 4 year old toddler had fallen into a Gorilla enclosure. Harambe – a 400 pound 7ft Silverback Gorilla – got ahold of the child and was roughhousing with the child, as he would a Gorilla young one. To rescue the child, Harambe was unfortunately shot and killed. Harambe, was one of the critically endangered Western Lowland Gorilla’s, a species that is critically endangered.

What does that all mean? 

Since the 80s, there have been reports of humans (toddlers and adults) falling into Zoo enclosures and either miraculously surviving or being mauled to death by the wild animals inhabiting those enclosures. Western Lowland Gorillas, like all Gorillas in the world are on the Endangered list. There are fewer than 95,000 present in the wild with about 765 being reared in captivity. Hunting for their meat along with the outbreak of diseases like Ebola (yes, even Gorillas suffer from these diseases) have wiped out their numbers by up to 60%. So killing Harambe has a lot of people upset about this.

Shooting Harambe, was a blow towards the conservation of this species.

 

Was there really no other way? 

Most people disregard the fact, that killing Harambe was a very difficult decision to make for the Zoo Officials, and in their shoes, we would have been shaking with fear. Protect the child, or save the critically endangered Wild animal.

Harambe was like any curious Gorilla, touching, prodding, dragging something new that was in front of him. He was rough with the child, because humans are weaker than wild animals. However, from the videos it did show that Harambe was in a manner playing and being protective of the little toddler – in essence, it might have been normal Gorilla behaviour.

Experts do mention that it was playful behaviour, and they stand by the Zoo’s decision, because at the end of the day, Gorilla’s are volatile creatures. No matter how much research into a wild animal and their behaviour, it is always difficult to predict how they will react or behave. Tranquillising Harambe would have been risky because it could have agitated him – thus harming the toddler – before it finally did take effect. Tranquillisers take time to release into the blood stream, precious moments when the Gorilla had his hands on the child.

 

Poor Harambe, Shameful Mother?!

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Social media went into quite a rage, because when you are anonymous and behind a keyboard you are bolder than if you were to say it front of a crowd face-to-face. What was shocking was many calling out the mother for not keeping an eye on her son and for being responsible for the murder of Harambe. Also worth mentioning, is that while reporters talking about Harambe were passionate and had more emotion in their voices, reporters covering mass shootings or any other violence (in America or the world) had bland, calm voices, almost as if it was ‘par for the course’.

 

What’s wrong with taking sides? 

 

Argument A:

A video or an article does not give a complete picture. Toddlers are spritely and full of energy that losing track of them in a blink of an eye, does happen. Judging a mother and her apparent parenting capabilities is not right. We were not that family, we were not there, we were not in that family’s shoes. Condemning them is not our place. Parenting is a difficult job.

Argument B:

There is so much happening in the world today, keeping informed is easy and difficult. A beggar on the street, we walk by without thinking of their plight. A man doesn’t have a vehicle to transport his deceased wife because of his status in society, becomes the news of the hour. See another story like that and it’s no longer interesting. However, watch as a man throws a dog off a building and we get up in arms over it calling for that man’s head.

And that is the other side of the coin, Zoo officials and the experts were quite clear, Human life is important! However, it’s interesting to note, that most of us behind the keyboard place our preference with an animal than a human.

Argument C:

Also, many blamed the Mother of the child for bad parenting, instead of including the Father, he was around that day as well. It’s amazing how we all fall into the gender stereotype trap so easily. Anyway, the main issue here is not about the Zoo killing Harambe or the boy and his mother.

Argument D:

The issue is about this tragic situation in it’s entirety. A life was saved, while another had to be sacrificed. There are no sides to this argument –  each was horrifying.

The boy for being in the clutches of a wild animal for a few minutes, for the mother watching her son get dragged by a wild animal so much more stronger than her and her boy and wondering if she would see her son again all while blaming herself, and finally Harambe, for no fault of his, being a curious Gorilla exploring something that would not have been in his natural habitat.

Argument E:

We overtake these amazing creatures’ homes and develop their homes to satisfy our growing population, while we stick them in closed spaces expecting to protect them and view them at our own convenience as well. It was brought home once again when silverback Kumbuka escaped his enclosure from the London Zoo recently. It was a contained situation, however, Kumbuka did want to make an escape – someone noted that the more number of visitors, the more agitated the Gorillas got and attacked each other or growled at the visitors in the zoo.

 

Back to Harambe

Mentioned at the start of this article, we discussed how vigils were held for Harambe. The importance of these vigils isn’t to focus on the tragedy or the blame game. It needs the focus to be on CONSERVATION. Many species are being held in captivity to propagate their species because there is no guarantee that they will be safe in their natural habitat. Humans have amassed a lot more land taking away from theses magnificent beings, however, something’s got to give. Conservation is the need of the hour. Education towards the need for these species being important for the environment is a must. That is what Harambe symbolises, not the divide between humans and wildlife nor the divide between Harambe and the mother of the toddler.

The Truth Behind Those ‘Cute’ Wildlife Viral Videos

Recently there has been an influx of ‘cute’ videos on social media – the bear, lion and tiger cub living together, or the tickling slow Ioris and the latest being the ring-tailed Lemur asking for a back scratch. However, these create a market for an illegal wildlife/pet trade.

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What is Illegal Wildlife Trade? Selling of wildlife or animals parts or even plant resources is wildlife trade. Not all wildlife trade is illegal. When there is an overexploitation of certain species of wildlife or plants laws are put into effect in a bid to sustain and maintain the balance in nature. Poaching of tusks from elephants, horns from rhinos and skin and bones of a tiger are examples of illegal wildlife trade.

What is Illegal Pet Trade? Selling of wildlife for use as pets is illegal pet trade since it threatens countless species that sends them towards extinction. Parakeets, turtles, Lemurs are a few animals that are captured from their habitat gradually emptying forests, rivers and skies for a global consumer market.

How does this start? Demand drives the illegal wildlife trade. Rhino horns have become a much more prized commodity since inaccurate information got around about rhino horn curing cancer. Tiger skin and bones have always been traded illegally because of its apparent health benefits. With the illegal pet trade, it mostly stems from cute viral videos that misses crucial context. Slow Iorises were a species not known to most people, however a video of an slow Ioris lifting her hands up while being tickled turned into the most demanded pet.

What other reasons are there?

  1. There are many nations that have a high demand for wildlife or wildlife goods and expect that lifestyle to be supplied.
  2. On the flip side of the coin, there are people suffering in extreme poverty who see bartering of wildlife as a viable source of income.
  3. Governing bodies do exact laws and have harsh penalties, however, there are gaps in conserving wildlife.
  4. Certain countries have competitions with these illegal pets taking centre stage.

How do the viral videos tie in with the bigger picture? Watching the bear, tiger and lion cubs tumbling around with each other similar to a littler or puppies or cats disillusions you to the actual danger of the wildness of these magnificent beasts. Watching a slow Ioris with its arms raised while being tickled makes you believe these are animals make adorable pets. The lemur being back scratched again disillusions you into believing that this wild animal can be domesticated and live as pets.

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Why is this dangerous? Half information, out of context information is always very dangerous. Rhino horns do not cure cancer and tiger parts do not help make you healthy. However, that has not stopped the illegal wildlife trade. In the same vein, a slow Ioris doesn’t actually like being tickled. Arms raised is a sign of distress, because a venom is released under its armpit that it licks and then bites the source of threat. Lemurs are social creatures and need to be surrounded with other lemurs, they are also vicious and do not like being domesticated.

What has been the fallout from the Illegal Wildlife Trade? Tigers, Elephants and Rhinos are among the most endangered animals in the wild. Conservationists are trying their best to protect these wild beasts however, deforestation, reduction in habitats and poaching are causes for concern. Governing bodies and conservationists can only do so much, however, there are too many ‘illegal trade hot-spots’ that eradicating this trade is difficult.

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What has been the fallout from the Illegal Pet Trade? The slow Ioris is a prime example of this. No one knew what a slow Ioris was until there was a YouTube video. The pet trade flourished because of this, because they bite their threats with a venom from under their arms – their teeth were clipped out without proper anaesthesia causing a lot to die from infections or blood loss. Many died during transport conditions which are very overcrowded, stressful situations. If a slow Ioris survives the transport to its new owner, they do not survive too well, since even well-meaning owners do not understand the animals needs, habitat requirements and food requirements. Most of these social animals die in loneliness. This has caused the slow Ioris to become an endangered animal. The lemur is already an endangered animal as well, and many owners are unable to maintain them as pets and these are locked, abandoned or killed, since even in a domesticated environment they are aggressive.

What can you do? Learning more is always a plus. Find out more about the animals that are there in the videos – are they endangered, do they really make good pets? It’s always beneficial to learn more, photos and videos tend to skew our perceptions, as many people believe dolphins and chimpanzees are perfect animals in captivity. However, till date every dolphin in captivity has died as they are social creatures and we do not know much about their way of life that we cannot recreate it in captivity. Chimpanzees, though ape-like and show similar characteristics to humans are wild animals and cannot be domesticated either as they tend to show aggressive tendencies as well. If you end up sharing videos make sure you spread the correct context about the creature involved. Speak out about wildlife trade. Stand with the Indian Government and conservationists in protecting the countries endangered wildlife {India is committed towards fighting illegal trade of elephants, tigers and rhinos}.

Remember – Increasing an animal’s appeal as a pet, encourages illegal trade and threatens the species.

Sources: National Geographic, Huffington Post, WWF

Stereotypes & Prejudice

Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible. – Maya Agelou

As little children, we have no notion of he, she, it, muslim, hindu, or any specific gender stereotype or any other prejudice for that matter. A child’s viewpoint is very clear cut, do I get fed this? Do I get my way? Do I get to sleep, or eat or play with this? Will this person give me what I want?

Growing up, things change. We know/identify another person based on the way they look, act or talk. We identify an object based on the colours, tastes, etc. in relation to our already formed concepts learned from society.

Blue is for girls, Pink for Boys?! 

Earlier, boys and girls would actually wear white. Before marketers tried to hard sell their wares to mom’s worldwide, little children would wear gender neutral patterns, colours and pinks, blues were never actively segregated. Come early 20th century, the marketers managed to convince the whole world that pink was for girls and blue for boys. Studies have not found any conclusive evidence to support that girls do prefer pink and boys blue. In fact, pink seems to be the most hated colour world over among adults. However, thanks to clothes manufacturers, pink is associated for girls and blue for boys.

Dresses for girls, and Pants for boys

Again, early 1900s and before, white dresses were the clothes that little boys and girls would wear. It was easier to clean (considering they had cloth diapers then). As the child grew older, gender neutral colours were introduced but it was still dresses that both boys and girls wore. Enter clothes manufacturers and their amazing marketing technique and we have dresses and pants introduced. However, early 20th century parents used either or to dress their little children in. Pants were also worn on little girls than just the dresses. Gender neutral seemed to be the theme, till the marketers managed to change things around to the world we know today.

Blocks for boys, Princesses for girls? 

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Those earlier concepts grew from abroad and have entered the Indian mindset as well. It’s become a general concept – pink for girls, blue for boys. It’s worked well for our marketing giants because they can sell you something gender specific and thus make you believe that boys only prefer cars and blocks, while your little girl only wants kitchen utensils and play princesses {oh the irony, because really, princesses don’t lift a finger in the kitchen!}. However, studies unfortunately do not support this claim either. Lego the building blocks giant was once asked by a little girl, that she would love to be an astronaut one day, but the dolls they created were only boys! New-parents worry that their sons discard their cars for the kitchen utensils that they take from their kitchen and start cooking, mimicking the mother. What will society think?!

A boy will become a man, and a girl a woman! 

Gender specific roles have bled into our daily lives. There’s no doubt about it. The manufacturers were geniuses and deserve a pat on their back for the way they have shaped the world. However, the gender specificity they have helped create is creating a world that is divided and more confused. Parents worry when their little boy plays dress up, it’s girl play they say. Most fashion designers are men. A girl plays dinosaur or sports more than cooking and dolls, parents worry. However, many famous anthropologists/zoologists were women. But let’s leave the future where it should be, in the future and look at the present.

Neil DeGrasse once explained to a little girl that while she banged a wooden spoon on a metal tin, her young mind was learning the different sounds she could make on that pot. She was curious and that curiosity would then lead her to more experiments in science. Children experiment in some form or the other, their imagination runs wild and honestly they don’t need too many toys to get them going. Cars could be getting cooked in a pot one day, to a game of dress up in mommy and daddy’s clothes another, to a baking experiment with a dinosaur in mom’s baking tin. Their minds are growing, they are learning – quicker than we give them credit. Giving them the freedom to explore, gives them the freedom to be more open and non-prejudiced.

India a land full of Prejudice?

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We as adults have notions from experience or from our parents/family/friends’ experiences. Despite the gender stereotypes, there are religious, political, national stereotypes as well. You’ve heard them:

  • Fair and tall is beautiful and handsome.
  • Red heads have wild tempers. 
  • Japanese are workaholics and have a stringent work culture. 
  • Brahmins are xenophobic, because they prefer their culture and ways.
  • Christians are drunks. 
  • Muslims are terrorists. 
  • India is the land of rape. 

In India we find we are more judgemental than other countries. Our caste, our religion, our culture, are all reasons for forming opinions without getting to know another person, religion, culture. The statements above we have heard them a time a many, but we don’t bother correcting these notions or learning to look beyond the preconceived notions.

Even dark skinned people are very striking and beautiful – however, our age old notions and cultures believe only a fair woman would make a lovely wife. After the horrific rapes reported in our country, we as a nation put ourselves down worldwide but accepting the tag ‘land of rape’ by perpetuating a notion that every low-socio economic man is a rapist.

Our pride in our country, is lacking. Education about learning about other cultures religions, other people, is lacking. Religious sentiments or respecting another’s religion, is lacking. Believing a prejudice to be true and not bothering to go beyond the prejudice, is appalling. That is the reason gender stereotypes and prejudices set in. We have become a closed group of people, unwilling to look out and learn more.

What we could do?

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There was a viral video recently about a little girl questioning adults notions of what tag lines are appropriate for a girls t-shirt and a boys. Why do people assume girls don’t want adventure as well?  There have been studies done checking how much the stereotype affects them. Girls and boys were given a math quiz and scored fairly well, with a majority of the girls having scored higher. Give the same quiz to a group of students stating girls anyway are bad at math and the girls don’t do so well. We joke about stereotypes without realising the effect they have on other people or even on us, however, like the girl  in that video, we should be questioning prejudices/stereotypes.

  1. Why can’t short be handsome as well? Why is dark not beautiful?
  2. Why are boys better chefs? Why when girls are meant to cook day in and day out, that they don’t become chefs? 
  3. Why are girls expected to give up their career to be a stay at home mom? Why cannot men do the same and let the woman follow her career? 
  4. Why are marketing giants only focused on pink and blue? What about gender neutral colours? 
  5. Why are we sure men perform better academically and provide for the family? 
  6. Can we find out more about another religion without affecting our religious sentiments or theirs? 
  7. Can we find our more about the history of other countries than just the usual?

Education is the key. Learning, spreading and questioning are the keys to breaking these barriers that we have placed on ourselves and others around us.