PUNE: The University Grants Commission (UGC) has once again reminded schools, colleges and other educational institutes to nominate ‘Gender Champions’ who will monitor and identify gender bias in classrooms and ensure gender equality on the campus.
The initiative of gender champion was started in 2015 under the guidelines of Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) in a bid to make young boys and girls gender sensitive and create positive social norms that value the girls and their rights. However, even after three years this initiative is yet to be executed in colleges, schools and educational institutions.
“We don’t have gender champions in our college but there is a women redressal cell which is headed by faculty and supported by the students so that if students hesitate in speaking out to faculty members, they can easily share with their colleagues. In case of any incident or issue in the college, they take the initiative to resolve the issue in all possible areas,” said Dilip Sheth, Principal of Sir Parashurambhau (SP) College.
On June 19, the UGC notification emphasised the need for creating an environment that fosters equal treatment and engagement of gender champions in all educational institutions. It also requested swift implementation of the guidelines for gender champions in educational institutions.
In 2015, UGC and Ministry of WCD stated that the broad mandate of gender champions is to provide an integrated and interdisciplinary approach to understanding the social and cultural constructs of gender that shape the experiences of women and men in society. The Ministry of WCD issued guidelines for engagement of gender champions by schools and colleges.
“This is the need of the hour. Whenever we go for gender sensitisation sessions at judiciary schools or among judiciary officials, they do appreciate, understand and show sensitivity towards gender issues but when it comes to practising in their daily life, that doesn’t happen. Besides, when sessions are conducted on gender sensitivity, majority of the audience are women and few men, but this awareness has to be done within the entire community,” said Jaya Sagade, Director of Women Studies at ILS Law College.
Sagade emphasised on mainstreaming gender in every field, specially legal education. “The subject ‘Women and law’ which is optional for legal education should be made mandatory. Mainstreaming gender in the entire legal education is necessary. Otherwise we will not have lawyers who can argue from gender perspective and judges who can understand gender issues,” she said.
Harish Sadani, founder of Men Against Violence and Abuse (MAVA), said, “The UGC should do and can do more than such initiative of nominating gender champions. Sadly it doesn’t do enough to encourage intermingling of all genders including LGBTQ individuals. I had shared with UGC a year ago my notable work among college students engaging them on gender and preventing sexual harassment on campuses. I was wanting to upscale my work and ideas to other campuses across the country. I did not even get any acknowledgement from them! I felt disheartened by that.”
CRITERIA FOR GENDER CHAMPION
According to Ministry of WCD guidelines, gender champions can be both boys and girls above 16 years of age enrolled in educational institutions. They will be envisaged as responsible leaders who will facilitate an enabling environment within their schools/ colleges/ academic institutions where girls are treated with dignity and respect. They will strengthen the potential of young girls and boys to advocate for gender equality and monitor progress towards gender justice. These gender champions shall be identified by a screening committee formed by the Principal/Head of Institution. A formal training programme should be organised to equip and empower the gender champions. At the end of each quarter, gender champions shall submit a report to the nodal teachers, on the implementation of activities elated to gender equity.
- According to Ministry of WCD guidelines for engagement of gender champions by schools and colleges across the country, gender champions can be both boys and girls above 16 years of age enrolled in educational institutions.
- They will be envisaged as responsible leaders who will facilitate an enabling environment within their schools/ colleges/ academic institutions where girls are treated with dignity and respect.