Akshara Centre launched Big Small Steps, a Report which examines the gender narrative and puts forward a template for change

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Mumbai, 27th November 2019:Akshara Centre launched its Report “Big Small Steps”,which measured the acceptance of gender equality and gender beliefs amongst urban youth, the change makers and thought leaders of tomorrow.

The purpose of the report was to understand what this generation of young people understood as gender equality and how much they had moved away from traditional social norms. To achieve its purpose, Akshara Centre surveyed a total of 6428 youth within the age of 15-29 years of which 3364 were men and 3064 women from across 8 different cities in different states of India. Four metros – Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata and four cities namely Vijayawada, Ludhiana, Ahmedabad and Bhubaneswar were covered.

Below mentioned are a few highlights from the report that suggest the current scenario of Gender Equality amongst youth:

  • This is the first Index on gender attitudes of youth in India. The score for Gender Equality for Youth was62.21. Women scored 68.6, a higher score than Men who scored 56.4. However both men and women were not close to the high point
  • Youth were well informed, aware of and accepted equal gender rights. An overwhelming 79.2% of men and 87.4% of women said that men and women should have the same rights
  • The majority of youth were socially progressive and rejected traditional views and social norms e.g. they disagreed with the social taboo of women not entering the inner sanctorum of temples and mosques [58.7% men and 78.7% women]. Nor did they agree that menstruating women should not cook in the home. [51.4% Men and 74.7% Women]
  • Some customs are more deep seated than others. Men [48.8%] believed that the last rites of parents should be performed by the son. Fewer women believed in the social custom [31.3%]
  • Domestic violence on women was rejected by both men and women. However if there was violence then women should tolerate it for the sake of keeping the family together say 42.6% of men
  • The common myth that revealing clothes invite rape or sexual harassment still held strong in the minds of both men 54.8% and women 39.2%
  • Another deep and prevalent belief is that 49.4% men and 23.5% women say that women cannot run the home and do paid work. Many women do bear this double burden of work. Significantly more men would like women as homemakers than women
  • Another marker of masculinity is the strong man. 68.9% of men would not like to see men cry in public. Women too believed it and in much larger numbers or 79.2%.
  • A ‘real’ man also does not do any housework. Only 1. 5% men said that basic cooking, cleaning and washing was their responsibility too. Most stayed away from the 3 basic tasks and confined themselves to paying bills and changing bulbs. 

As a city, Mumbai usually considered cosmopolitan and progressive had a score which was close to Ludhiana or 56.7 to Ludhiana’s 54.9. Kolkata came up tops in the gender equality ladder with 70.3.

The event featured ActorRahul Bose who opened the dialogue on gender equality, followed by stand-up comedians–Jackie Thakkar, ,Kajol Srinivasan and Pooja Ramachandranin an un-conventional format highlighting somehard-hitting facts from the report. The evening saw each one of them bring their inimitable view of gender to the table. It was followed by a discussion on the over arching theme of importance of youth in changing the uneven levels of gender parity in the country.

Commenting on the rationale for the report, Nandita Gandhi, Co-Director of Akshara Centre said “Unless men, women and all genders have the same opportunities and the same access to resources, we will see not see the progress and development which should rightfully be ours. There is no doubt we need change, as ours is a very unequal and differentiated society with one group being racing ahead and the other far behind. Every generation has its own way of thinking. Unless we know what young people are thinking, how can we speak about change? Research and knowing will give us direction and strategies. “

Commenting on his association with Akshara Centre, Rahul Bose, said “‘ I have worked with Akshara Centre for the past 17 years. I have watched with awe at their relentless efforts to build a gender equal India. From their Yuvati-Yuvamelas in the hinterland of this country to their campaigning and advocacy with government agencies. This report is important for us to understand where today’s Indian youth are in their attitudes towards gender equality. It will form an important stepping stone in the direction gender rights movements in this country take in the years to come.” Nandita Shah, Co-Director of Akshara Centre said “Like climate change, we have a limited time to get our society in order, or we might have a severe crisis on our hands. Our data shows us that we need to focus on the areas of gender education of young people, empowering young women to be financially independent and improving laws and its implementation for women and the violence against them. But no one agency can do this, it has to the collective effort of society, of the community of young people acting for equality; the mass media projecting better role models, the police and legal system working effectively, the corporates hiring more women and keeping them safe from harassment and the family supporting their daughters.”

About Akshara Centre:

Akshara Centreis a Mumbai based non profit and a women’s rights organization working for women’s empowerment and an inclusive and safe city for the last two decades.

Akshara works on changing hearts and minds, building communities and works towards changing systems with the government.

Akshara has a multi-faceted, multi-pronged strategy for social and policy change reaching out to multiple stakeholders for making this world a more gender just world.

Our solutions rests on four strategies:

  1. Empower young women and men by building and strengthening their leadership capabilities and skills to not only tackle sexual harassment and violence but also to claim their right to access education, health, sanitation and other public services and improve their well-being and quality of life.
  • Influence public opinion with ‘new gender narratives’ in public campaigns which change the way people think and act for supporting women’s rights for a gender equal world
  • Collaborate with State Government, Police and Mumbai Municipal Corporation to ensure provision of quality and safe public services, safety, for improved quality of life.
  • Build national and state alliances to establish and implement laws and policies for improving justice for women in their life cycle.

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