We start learning right away from our childhood and somewhere these lessons of childhood have a great impact on our thinking. One common illustration in our textbooks was, a woman chopping vegetables and a man working in the office. Does this mean that the textbooks in some way, introduced sexism in our minds?

To do away with this possibility, the Maharashtra State Bureau of Textbook Production and Curriculum Research known as Balbharati has now decided to keep up with the changing times. The Balbharati has changed many of its pictures and illustrations in order to teach gender equality and to portray women in a more progressive light. The revised books aim at doing away with the prevalent gender stereotypes, the officials said. It now aims at levelling the gender stereotypes it possibly portrayed in previous versions of books. Now it shows women and men sharing domestic chores in the Class II book.

In one of the illustrations, both a man and woman are seen cleaning vegetable while sitting next to each other. This scene depicts the fact that today both of them share domestic chores. In another scene they’ve tried portraying the working man and woman, a woman is shown as a doctor whereas the man is shown as a traffic cop controlling the traffic. In the same way, a man is shown as a chef and children are asked to write a few lines about it. In another illustration, a man is shown ironing clothes. Not only this but also at the starting of the book, both teachers and students are asked to take a look at the pictures and take note of stories of such persons. These include pictures of a woman pilot, male chef, and policewoman. They are asked to talk about them as an element of social change.

The Balbharati has changed many of its pictures and illustrations in order to teach gender equality and to portray women in a more progressive light. The revised notebooks aim at doing away with the prevalent gender stereotypes, the officials said.

Sunil Magar, Director at Balbharati, told PTI that the rationale behind the changes is to inculcate thinking among students that men and women are equal and both can do any work. “We here at Balbharati give emphasis on experiments. While drafting the new textbooks, especially for the young ones, we need to see that the content in the textbooks is abreast with structures and changes in the society,” he said. The teachers’ fraternity has welcomed the changes in the textbooks which stress on gender equality.

“As teachers, we have been inculcating the thinking about gender equality among students. With revised textbooks, students from urban as well as rural areas will have a clear understanding that men and women are equal and capable of doing any work,” said a teacher. From the beginning of our learning from childhood, especially in school, such a step might help eliminate patriarchal thinking and conservatism from the mind-set of people. This is a welcome step.

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