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Khushboo Sharma

IWB Blogger

Nandita Bhatt Of Martha Farrell Foundation On Gender-Just Parenting And Education For The Youth

  • IWB Post
  •  January 12, 2019

Be it Army Chief General Rawat’s recent comments on the possibility of women in combat roles or PM Modi jeeringly calling Sonia Gandhi a “widow,” there is no denying that patriarchy and sexism run deep in our country and are constantly normalised. How else would you explain the behaviour of national leaders saying misogynist things while addressing masses in the most nonchalant manner?

In India, we are constantly fed with the rhetoric of “boys will boys” and thus there comes a time when we actually start believing it. Sadly, the seeds of these problematic ideologies are sowed at our very homes when a girl is always told to be nice, homely, and submissive, and a boy is fed with the ideas of toxic masculinity. Thus, there certainly lies a need to make changes in the way we bring up our children and the way in which we impart education to them.

Namita Bhatt of Martha Farrell Foundation shared in a recent chat with IWB how data from a recent study in Haryana revealed that “boys as young as 13 think there is nothing wrong in winking, whistling, and passing comments.” She added, “But it’s frightening when girls too believe that it is normal behavior and does not warrant any punishment.”

During the chat, she also talked about men’s lack of understanding of sexism and sexual harassment, the changes that need to be made in the parenting style to break the vicious cycle of patriarchy, the need for gender-just education, and how MFF is contributing towards it.

Here are the excerpts:

On the volatile patriarchy in Haryana

Nandita on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @FoundationMf Data 4rm r study wth school going youth of Haryana illustrates how deep rooted the problem really is. its alarming tht boys as young as 13 think there is nothig wrong in winking, whistling, passing comments

Nandita on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @FoundationMf But it frightening when girls too believe that it is normal behavior and does not warrant any punishment.

Nandita on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @FoundationMf We are in the process of doing a similar study in other states as well, so we cannot really say at this stage if the patriarchal volatility is as rampant in other states as well or is it only particular to Haryana.

MFF on Twitter

@nanditapb @indianwomenblog The findings of our survey were recently carried by @the_hindu. While the findings are alarming, they also point out towards the need for integrating gender education with our existing education system.

On changes that need to be made in parenting style to break the vicious cycle of patriarchy

Nandita on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @FoundationMf Sharing parental responsibilities at home, not rewarding girls for being polite & boys for being dominating, teaching and demonstrating to boys respect for all women. Equal division of labour for boys and girls are some ways.

Nandita on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @FoundationMf Include men in the conversations. In trainings we conduct in wrkplaces, men are often shocked to discover that their behavior can be considered to be sexist or can be construed as sexual harassment.


On men’s failure to understand sexism and sexual harassment


Nandita on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @FoundationMf Far too much time is spent telling women what harassment is – they know. Such conversations must happen in mixed gender groups

Nandita on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @FoundationMf In our study, 58% of youth (63% boys) said a man has the right to tell his wife what she can and cannot do 21% also believed its okay 2 hit his wife to discipline her.

MFF on Twitter

@nanditapb @indianwomenblog Also, it is not easy for boys to work on gender equality. They do it at a great risk since they are often ridiculed by their elders and peers for doing it, so much so that it is seen as emasculating for a boy to be a gender champion.

On ways to motivate men to step up for gender equality and let go of the resistance that they have been harboring internally

MFF on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @nanditapb Resistance is inevitable but it is also about how well we prepare our boys to deal with this resistance. Through our work, we not just build their capacities, but also enable local support systems so that they are not alone in their struggle.


MFF on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @nanditapb It is essential that when we do gender programming with boys, we become aware of local resistance and accordingly build an ecosystem with them so that they can build and lead their work as gender champions. @ecfindia @nanditapb @RTandon_PRIA


On making safe spaces a mandatory part of the school curriculum so as to change the situation

Nandita on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @FoundationMf Yes. Creating/building infrastructure alone does not make a space safe. @FoundationMf safe spaces program focuses on changing attitudes that create feelings of unsafety. This too is done jointly by boys and girls

On how MFF is contributing towards gender-just education

MFF on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @nanditapb @the_hindu We believe that youth are leaders, thinkers and innovators. We mobilize their potential, power and passion to enable a process of change that they create and lead. Our interventions are based in schools, colleges and Industrial Technical Institutes @nanditapb @RTandon_PRIA

Deboshree Mohanta on Twitter

@FoundationMf @indianwomenblog @nanditapb @the_hindu @RTandon_PRIA @FoundationMf also ensures communities are equally involved in the process of change. Building safe space and a safe community. Increasing accountability of institutions . @nanditapb @RTandon_PRIA @praatibh_M @yashvisharma903


On MFF’s future endeavors 

Nandita on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @FoundationMf We will continue to work with adolescent youth, support youth leadership to initiate and lead interventions for creating gender just spaces in their communities, homes and schools.



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