Where Are India's Women Freedom Fighters? Not In Our Textbooks

An audit report by the Delhi State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) revealed that Indian textbooks excluded the names of female freedom fighters as well as used language mostly related to the male gender.

Tanya Savkoor
New Update
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Leela Roy, Amrit Kaur, Sarojini Naidu

A gender audit report by the Delhi State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) revealed that several school textbooks excluded the names of female freedom fighters and other women in many domains. The report studied 53 textbooks across 13 subjects and found the use of male-exclusive terms like 'bacha' and 'balak' being used in the books, showing a lack of gender sensitivity. These were seen in subjects including social studies, moral science, environmental studies, English (Bridge Course Level I to IV), and Hindi (Bridge Course Level I to IV).


An article in the Indian Express stated that the Delhi SCERT highlighted the school textbooks' ignorance towards women's participation in society. “The continuation of such content in textbooks, which contain elements of patriarchal dominance and neglected participation of women and other genders, may reinforce similar lessons in the classroom environment," the report said.

Textbooks Lack Gender Sensitivity

The Delhi SCERT's report included key findings that showed an imbalance towards women personalities and even female fictional characters. In the Deshbhakti curriculum, the report found a missed opportunity for 'equitable gender representation'.

The report said, "There are opportunities to include gender-equal characters in stories in the Deshbhakti manual. Imbalance is predominantly seen in examples of patriots of both pre- and post-independence periods where mostly male freedom fighters are highlighted in manuals of classes 6th to 12th."

Similarly, in the Happiness curriculum, one of the findings by the SCERT stated the stark difference in the number of female characters and male characters. "Most handbooks have male characters exceeding the female ones; for example, in the handbook for class 7, there are 20 stories in which there are a total of 38 male and 4 female characters," the report observed, adding that several stories do not use gender-neutral language wherever possible.

According to Delhi SCERT officials, the gender audit was carried out on the recommendation of the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR). The audit committee comprised gender experts from the National Council of Educational Research and Training, Delhi University, DCPCR, and non-government organisations.

Gauri Sharma, a committee member from the DCPCR told Indian Express, "One of the specific recommendations was to avoid content that reinforces stereotypes and to consciously include representations of women in leadership roles. The committee emphasises the importance of gender-neutral language, inclusion of transgender individuals, and highlighting achievements of all genders in unconventional fields.”


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