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December 03, 2020 Thursday 04:44:39 PM IST

The Gender Voice Lab

Best Practices

The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has stated that achieving gender equality, empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world. Gender discrimination creates adverse impacts in several areas including education. According to the UN data, 781 million adults and 126 million youth worldwide lack basic literacy skills. More than 60% of them are women.
Bangalore-based Durga India was formed in 2012 following the Nirbhaya incident that shook the conscience of the nation. They have been in the forefront fighting against gender discrimination undertaking several activities to sensitise the youth and policy makers on this sensitive issue.

The latest initiative in this direction is the 3-day virtual forum NGAGE-Next Gen Advocates for Gender Equity to be held from December 10 to 12, 2020.

Priya Varadarajan, Founder-Managing Trustee of Durga India said, “NGAGE will be a platform to collectively unlearn and relearn on gender-based issues with insights from thought-leaders who work towards rectifying gender inequities.”

“The carefully curated NGAGE sessions will explain issues that incapacitate our society and what can be done to address them. The sessions will help our youth understand them with much depth, and enable them to deliberate on subsequent resolution actions. Listening to the distinguished speakers, our young attendees will realise solutions are within them only,” says Priya.
According to Durga India team, the forum will help our youth:
•    To do their bit towards gender equity
•    To unlearn force-fed gender stereotypes
•    To gain more knowledge on gender equity
•    To seek accountability from policymakers
•    To build a network to promote gender equity
•    To become active and responsible citizens
Durga’s VOICE Labs
Schools were over-emphasising academics while not giving sufficient importance to developing core values such as respect, empathy and trust in students. Durga India’s Voice Labs are meant to enable students to dissect gender norms and social constructs. The VOICE community of girls, boys and the youth are actively working on spreading the theme of women’s safety.
The labs have been set up in several colleges in Bengaluru for the past five years with the following objectives:
•    To create leaders who believe in gender equity
•    To help women reclaim safe spaces in campuses
•    To involve all genders in the conversation about women's safety
•    To equip women to deter sexual harassment
“We are keen to launch The VOICE labs in campuses all over India. Those who are interested can contact me at”

Durga in Every Child at Schools
It is a Durga initiative for school students to make them aware of gender and its stereotypes, deterrence of sexual harassment and bullying and POSCO guidelines. Priya explains, “This initiative is being done at three levels. We work in government schools, shelter homes and juvenile homes. In schools, our volunteers spend at least 21 sessions with each child to help them learn about different concepts which will nurture their thinking process.
“At shelter homes, we work with girls who have been mentally or physically abused. We help them rebuild their lives. The engagement also builds community responsibility so that the girls look out for one another and help each other individually too. Children in juvenile homes are already in conflict with the law for different forms of a crime they have committed. We work with them to ensure that they build a good future without falling into crimes again. We instil hope, trust and respect in them to become responsible citizens.”
Policies for Campuses:
Education is the best tool to empower our children on gender equity, Priya said. She suggests following policy guidelines to be implemented in campuses
•    All educational institutions should have an internal committee (IC) to raise the issues of sexual harassment and violence. It is mandatory as per the law. But a majority is not following it.
•    The ICs should have a representation of both parents and children.
•    Students, at least from Class 9, should study gender and related issues.
•    There should be opportunities for students to learn and discuss gender issues in our society.
“We are preparing a detailed syllabus on gender equity which could be adopted by schools and colleges all over India. We will train teachers for 20 Hours and provide all the materials to teach their students”, concludes Priya.

Dhanya AK

Dhanya AK is a journalist with over a decade of experience in print, broadcast and online media. She holds a PG Diploma in PR and Advertising from Kerala Media Academy. She looks after content curation and development of and sharing it across the social media sites and preparation of video content to stakeholders in education. Read more articles..