Promoting Gender Equality Among Young Children through Art
BACKGROUND & CONTEXT
Gender inequality is a major human rights issue. According to the United Nations, “Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.” Though nature and severity of gender disparity varies from one society to another, no culture or country has so far achieved true gender parity.
Women and girls are not treated equally in any society, even today. The roles, responsibilities, status, access and expectations are different for the two genders. A great deal of discriminatory customs and cultures are normalized by people as ‘traditions’ and we fail to acknowledge them as discriminatory because of our unconscious biases.
Children are exposed to gender discriminations, often quite gross, not only in their family or surroundings but also from books, literature, movies, popular TV serials and shows, print and digital commercials and advertisements!
Toxic male masculinity, male dominance, eve-teasing have typically and traditionally been glorified in stories, novels, films in all cultures. Women are sexually objectified in TV and digital commercials by different industries all over the world. The roles, responsibilities, and nature of women in films, and books are too stereotypical and a far cry from ‘equality’.
If a child is exposed to certain experiences as a part of his/her normal developmental dynamics, they tend to normalize it and develop a great deal of unconscious biases towards that experience. These children would definitely grow up to replicate those experiences in their lives as adults.
Education has an important role to play in shaping up a child’s mind. Art Education has been recognized as a pivotal tool for Human Rights Education by UNESCO (Seoul Agenda, 2010).
Young children often build resilience, inter-cultural respect, and a great deal of awareness about their surroundings through Art Education. The best part of Art Education is it can effectively tap the subconscious mind of children, without them having to deal with the stress of traditional learning. Yet the lessons leave a deep and long-lasting impression in their minds.
PROPOSED EDUCATIONAL INTERVENTION: Colour for Equity / Equality through Art (CEEA)
We think, education through any form of art could be a very effective tool to address complex social and cultural issues like gender discrimination, gender stereotyping, rights and empowerment of girls and women.
We plan to introduce coloring books with images carefully created to break gender stereotypes, gender inequality and disparity through gender role reversal, and gender role equality to young children (5–7 years old). Each image will be carefully designed to have a strong yet simple message for young children to teach them that girls and boys, men and women are fundamentally equal.
We plan to get the images created by illustrators with a strong background in Human Rights Education.
As the first and pilot phase, we plan to develop and print these coloring books to 2–5 elementary schools students (of grades 1–3) in the San Francisco Bay Area.
As a long term plan, we envision to reach out to more schools and children in different states of USA.
We also have long term goals of undertaking similar projects on other complex human rights issues.