Gender sensitivity and awareness at Junior School | Aga Khan Academies

Gender sensitivity and awareness at Junior School

13 March 2019

With preparation for the PYP Exhibition in full swing by early March, students of Junior School began to wrap their minds around some of the more significant global issues faced by people today. Our young learners ruminated on the philosophies of politics, justice and human rights. As part of this immersive period, grade 4 facilitator Anna Palmetshofer invited Vyjayanti Vasanta Mogli, a Hyderabad based activist for the transgender people’s community, to speak with students about gender at a morning assembly on Wednesday 6th March. Later, during International Women’s Day on 8th March, students of grade 3 were encouraged to address, and overturn, gender normative stereotypes that they see around them.

In a talk that covered visibility and identity with respect to gender, Vyjayanti spoke to students about the transgender community and the hurdles they face. “It’s time to include transgender people into our society,” she said, explaining to students the discrimination faced by members of the LGBTQ community. "People's sexuality is like the colour of their skin," she said, "and it's not fair to discriminate against people based on things that they can't control." She told students how to be supportive of each other should one of their friends come out as non-binary. There was a lively question and answer session with the audience following the talk. Through their interaction, students learned about the importance of using correct personal-pronouns when talking with transgender people, allowing the latter to take ownership of how they are identified.

Grade 3 led the Friday morning assembly which celebrated equity and equality and involved the entire learning community. At their assembly, grade 3 felicitated the women of support staff with sashes that they had made by hand. Support staff members performed a song for students in Telugu.

Later that afternoon, students gathered teachers and admin staff to lead activities that have gendered connotations to them. Mita Mohapatra, ICT facilitator, shared her knowledge of Judo, while Head of Academy, Dr. Geoffrey Fisher. sat in a knitting circle with the kids. EAL teacher, Vasanthi Thandlam, showed students how to climb trees, a feat made particularly impressive by the fact that she was wearing a saree. “This reminds me of my school days when I would go for practice at 4am,” said Mita. Men also participated in mehendi, cooking and cleaning sessions at the event, as women took the lead in indoor and outdoor games and self-defense.

“While cleaning the bus with Mr. Jitendra, I realized that all jobs are equal and we should not look down upon anything,” said Zinya of grade 3, who worked along with transport officer, Santhosh Gundeti, and Human Resources manager, Jintendra Verma.      

With our manifesto to create leaders of tomorrow, the Academy strives to instill in students values of pluralism and acceptance, and this includes understanding people who are different, appreciating their struggles, and learning how to help them. We are proud of this initiative taken by the Junior School, and our students who participated with enthusiasm.

Contributed by Nivedita Paul (grade 3 facilitator)