I think the greatest threat young women face in our community starts from womb. In India, parents feel that daughters are a burden on them. They have to raise them, give education, and eventually make arrangements for her marriage— including giving a Dowry (in cash or kind) to her husband and in-laws. Most times parents must sell their houses, farms, or use their retirement money to afford this. Because of this, some communities deny birth of girl child. By using medical tests and techniques, if a family knows there is girl child in womb they pressure the mother to terminate the pregnancy.
I think that the greatest threat facing girls in my community is the culture of the music industry that produces catchy songs using lyrics that are crude, inappropriate, or disrespect a women's identity, body, and purpose. I think that when we listen to music on the radio, whether we are paying attention to the lyrics or not, they still imprint on us— including boys who can subconsciously come to believe that women are sex toys, and that men are more powerful.
I believe the biggest threat facing females in my community are expectations to “dress pretty and stay quiet” through little hints in our daily lives. Like when the boy wants to lead the group project because he believes that he is "smarter" than the girl, or in gym class when boys are usually the captains and get picked before the girls. On more extreme terms, college campuses in America are where females are in danger of sexual assault because young men feel they can get away with it because "She was asking for it, look how short her skirt is."
I created and taught a lesson on female foeticide to a girls group in our community in India. I began that lesson with a story followed by a presentation on what is female foeticide and the reasons behind it. At the end of the presentation I showed a film of a girl child in her mother's womb asking her parents not to kill her and promising she will take care of them. It was a successful lesson, and I think I will use that presentation to teach more girls and women in other communities also.
I created an activity for boys and girls to uncover how they view their roles in society.
Girls group: I would first set up a discussion with a group of girls so they can talk among themselves about what the daily worries, threats, and problems are that goes on in the teen environment. I would also help them become aware of what the status quo does to people. Then I would set up a discussion so the teens can talk among themselves about the different expectations peers put upon themselves, as well as their other peers. At the end of the class I would give them a test with three questions on it:
1. List 3 expectations put on you by your friends or other peers
2. List 3 ways to change these expectations
3. What have you learn from this lesson and what will you do about the status quo that has been put on you?
Boys group: Meanwhile, I would give boys a lesson on the gender gap between girls and boys, and how the societies subconsciously push girls down and give men the idea that they have more power. Then I would break it down into three discussions. One would be about the boys take on the gender gap, the second discussion would be about what they think the status quo is between girls and boys, and the third discussion would be about how the dynamic of boys and girls has changed over the years.
At the end of the class, I would give them a survey with three questions on it:
1. List 3 expectations that have been handed to you subconsciously
2. List 3 ways you could change the dynamic between girls and boys
3. What are your own personal thoughts on the gender gap between girls and boys? Do you like the power? Do you want it to change? Be honest.
Highlights from "Realigning Gender Imbalance" virtual conference.