Why Gender is so important to learn something? Does learning have a gender?
I am Niwas, founder of anantmool organisation, and we are running India's first gender-free learning centre in a remote and Naxal-affected village of Jamui, Bihar. I studied for 4 years in a boys (gendered) school, and after that, I could not interact with any girls and a similar thing happened with my sister.
While doing my Master's in Education from Azim Premji University, I found binary gendered system in education becomes, even more, worst when it comes to gender-diverse children
or children who are experiencing gender dysphoria. They don't find a safe space to study and feel difficult in socialise. And I realized the need for intervention in a sensitive topic right in the heart of Indian culture, gender norms.
Born as a boy from early childhood onwards, my daily activities were clearly defined what to play with whom, what to wear as clothing, what costume to use, how to behave and not to show emotions even when I wanted to cry. I always ask, why is gender so important to access education for a child or learn something?
Because if we will not give the opportunity to children to interact with each other then how we can expect them to work together and respect each other equally?
With this vision, we started our first gender-free learning centre in a remote and Naxal affected tribal village Noontara, where girls get married at the age of 12 to 14, and boys have to earn money from early childhood. In this village within a radius of 3 km, there is no public or private school. That's why the current generation is out of school. Right now we are having 30 kids from the age of 5 to 12. The mother tongue of these children is Santhali and most of them don't understand the Hindi language. These children are free to wear what they like, but that has to be comfortable. If any child wears a falling skirt, we simply do a dialogue and ask them, who gave them this? How do you like it?
-Rina has studied for 2 years in a private school before and then she left the school 3 years back. When she joined our learning, she used to come in a falling skirt uniform. That time, during free play and lunchtime, she was feeling very sad, seating in the corner and never interacting with any other children. But when she realized the culture of our learning centre of no uniform system, she started coming in comfortable daily used clothes, and now she climbs and jumps from the tree, plays in mud with other children and she feels so happy to express her emotions with everyone.Call for support
This learning centre does not just provide a gender-free learning opportunity, but we have designed our whole curriculum where children can develop holistically. For this, we have taken ideas from different alternative schools like Poorna Learning Centre, Bangalore and divided our week into three parts:- Mon and Thursday- for conceptual learning, Tuesday and Friday for practical learning and Wednesday as a community day where children have to engage in community work. We have special children's entrepreneurship program where children have to make something which can be sold in the market. One group of children right now working on collecting Palash flowers to make cool bathing powder.
"We believe that anyone can learn anything if social and practical barriers don’t exist"- anantmool team
We are raising funds for scholarships for children for one year where they will access learning opportunities from activities, project work, exposure journey, visits, interaction with administrative power, culture and practices. We are also developing a gender-free learning system where we are transforming books, creating gender stereotype-breaking content and applying with children. Per child, the costs of study at anantmool are 500 INR per month and 6000 INR for one year.
500 INR per month includes:-
1. Access to stationary, colours, chart paper, chalks etc.
2. Salary of the teacher
3. Rent of the campus
4. Electricity and water bills
6. Access to sports like volleyball, football
7. Access to learning activities:- farming, nature walk, cooking etc.
Apart from this, we also distribute nutrition to children:-
1. Community cooking every Wednesday by kids
2. 250 ML malt distribution on a daily basisPer child per month this costs:- 300 INR and per year 3600 INR
To break gender-stereotype we provide practical clothes:-
1. T-Shirts-02 set
2. Trouser-02 set
3. Shoes, globes, caps, masks etc, (we want to distribute)- 01 set
Per child per year this costs:- 1500 INR per year for mentioned everything above.
You can sponsor one child scholarship, nutrition or clothes. You can do it either for one month or 6 months or for 12 months. You can also donate as per your interest.
Watch my kanthari talk about my initiative gender-free learning centre through this link from 2:29:30 (2 hours and 29 minutes 30 seconds):- Kanthari TALKS 2021
+91-8789311695 (Anantmool team member Niwas)