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Rainbow Girls & Boys - breaking gender stereotypes By Indian Author Kamla Bhasin

"Mamma that person has long hair, is that person a girl or boy?"
"Mamma why boys cannot wear frock?"
"Mamma why pink is for girls and blue for boys?"
"Mamma why my friend says Boys are stronger than Girls?" 
"Mamma my friend was very surprised when I shared that, I too love playing with cars & dinosaurs!"

These are the questions and experiences my girl shared when she started her kindergarten. Till then she really didn't have any clue about gender stereotypes. However, as her social interaction increased beyond immediate family members she came across more and more such stereotypical experiences.   

Have you ever wondered how these gender stereotypes can be detrimental and promote inequality and also affect a child's personality in all perspective? Imposing gender specific roles is an age old practice and unless we all put in efforts to stop this, it will never stop and will keep harming our children's Mental Health. Though all this sounds too complex for such young children but that's when it starts and keeps building up. Here are some examples:

  • Girls play with Dolls and Dollhouse whereas boys play with Cars, Dinosaurs, Guns & build with Blocks.
  • Girls are not strong so boys have to help (protect) them.
  • Girls are good at Reading and boys are good at Maths.
  • Girls can Swim but not play Soccer/BaseBall.

This is a never ending list and I can just go on with this, but I will not. Rather, I would request you all to think about it and would recommend, that we all should make conscious efforts to educate our children (either daughter or son) not to fall prey to such stereotypes. As parents and caregivers if we come across such behaviors then we should try to spread awareness and talk about the negative impact of such acts. Encourage fellow parent's to pay attention and negate such experiences from their children's daily routine. Also, educate our children to be respectful, kind and empathetic towards every individual they interact with disregarding the personal choices they make and never be part of shaming and mortifying others. 

All, this does not require you to exert yourself and you can practice some really effortless techniques to implement this. Here are some which I try to incorporate in my daughter's routine:

1. Communicate - communication is the key to most of the problems and therefore it is one of the most effective technique. Talk, talk & talk to your child about various scenarios involving gender stereotypes and help them understand how to make the right choices, be kind & considerate to others while respecting their individualities. 

2. Quote examples - always support your communication with valid examples and share stories of various role models (both boys & girls) who broke stereotypes, did things differently and became very successful in their lives. You can find such examples in your personal lives, on the internet and various books. I did one such Book Recommendation in past wherein, I shared about a book named Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo. This book is a great read for all children to explore about individuals who did not follow the league and chased their own dreams.

3. Practice gender neutral behavior - deliberately use gender neutral language, introduce gender neutral toys, games & puzzles to your child, tweak traditional rhymes to reflect diverse roles, offer equal opportunities & responsibilities to children; irrespective of their gender.

4. Help develop critical thinking skills - have your child explore ideas about gender identity and think what is or is not fair with respect to gender. Coach them how to respond to hurtful gender criticism and offer positive affirmations to them whenever they stand up for themselves or others in the face of gender-bias.

5. Read Books - books can be used as an inordinate tool to promote Gender Equality and not Stereotypes. Pick books which reflects gender diverse roles and are impactful enough to encourage healthy discussion with your child. Be vigilant while selecting books that you read to your child or you hand them down to be read independently. 

Today, in this post I am sharing two marvellous books about celebrating uniqueness of individuals by a very popular Indian feminist activist, poet, author and social scientist Kamla Bhasin. These books have been published by Pratham Books and are available in 9 different languages. You can access the digital copies for both the book on StoryWeaver Website

In case you would like to READ ALONG these books with some real-life Rainbow Girls & Boys then follow the YouTube link below and read with us.

Rainbow Girls

Translated by Kamla Bhasin
Original story सतरंगी लड़कियाँ by Kamla Bhasin
Illustrated by Priya Kuriyan
Published By Pratham Books

Rainbow Boys

Translated by Kamla Bhasin
Illustrated by Priya Kuriyan
Published By Pratham Books