Our history gives us a clear understanding of the term ‘gender fluidity’. The Native American culture allowed the idea of male or female to build a bridge between the human and the greater spirit. Over time, this culture began to diminish. It is claimed, in India, colonisers suppressed and outlawed the idea of gender fluidity. As a result, ‘tradition’ and ‘culture’ of India has fixed definitions for the male and the female and eliminates any other forms of associations.
‘Modernity’ tells us to ‘be true to ourselves’ and live the way we want. When we want to colour our hair purple and wear the brightest colors, fear creeps in when we step out of our comfort zones. It takes a lot of courage and support to stand out in a crowd, being absolutely proud of who you are.
Meera Kale wants to build this confidence and courage in the young minds of the community. Currently working with the Teach for India organisation, she has published a textbook named ‘Bosses?’ for children between the age of 4-6 years. She believes that this would make a “quicker and better impact” in the society.
How do we teach a complex topic like ‘gender’ to pre-schoolers? Challenging the minds of these children ‘Bosses?’ is a combination of 4 core chapters- Body Autonomy, Body Positivity, Boundaries and Consent. Each chapter deals with the topic with colorful pictures and texts that communicates with the reader at a very close level. The textbook talks about one’s relationship with their body, breaking it down to simpler terms and details. This textbook is very easy to teach and explain to the children.
Working on this project since her post-graduate course from London, Meera says “kids need to be aware, hence they have to be taught at the earliest age possible.” After publishing the book online, in India, she has conducted workshops and activities for both teachers and students, introducing this textbook. Her experiences with the current education system has made it all the more important for her to accomplish her project. Through workshops and experiments, Meera is now working on incorporating her textbook into the Maharashtra State board syllabus. She hopes that in the future, along with further updates in textbook, she will be able to bring it out for CBSE students at the Ist and II nd level.
Apart from this remarkable textbook, Meera and her college buddy Swastika Jajoo has build a community called the ‘Gender Bender Aurangabad’. This is a platform for artists to portray their poems, photographs and paintings with regard to the gender issues in the society. Their first exhibition ‘Gender Bender Aurangabad 1.0’ held in September 2017 discussed about ‘what is the gendered life we are living in?’ Over 300 people attended the exhibition, joined the community and stay connected till date. Their Instagram handle @genderbenderabad is a platform for the digital world to vibrantly discuss about the issue.
Change begins when you think differently. Younger minds should be aware of the problems of the society in order to bring about this change. Dissolving gender identities needs a lot of patience and understanding. Conflicts and confusions about this topic can be erased only through the right education and research.