Chapter 3

Gender(Social and Political life-II)

Growing up

Growing up as boys and girls

Being a boy or a girl is an important part of one's identity. The society we grow up teaches us what kind of behaviour is acceptable for girls and boys, what boys and girls can or cannot do. We often grow up thinking that these things are exactly the same everywhere. But, the roles women play and the work they do are usually valued less than the roles men play and the work they do.

Growing up in Samoa in 1920s

The Samoan islands are part of a large group of small islands in the southern part of the Pacific Ocean. In the 1920s, according to research reports or Samoan society, children did not go to school. Older children, often as young as five years old, took over this responsibility. By the time a boy was about nine years old, he joined the older boys in learning outdoor jobs like fishing and planting coconuts. Girls had to continue looking after small children or do errands for adults till they were teenagers. Once they became teenagers they had much more freedom. After the age of 14 or so, girls also went on fishing trips, worked in the plantations, learnt how to weave baskets. Cooking was done in special cooking houses where boys were supposed to do most of the work, while girls help with the preparations.

Growing up male in Madhya Pradesh in the 1960s

From class 6th onwards, boys and girls went to separate schools. The girls school was designed very differently from the boys school. They had a central courtyard where they played in total seclusion and safety from the world outside. The Boys school had no such courtyard and the playground was just a big space attached to the school. The boys use the streets as a place to stand around idling, to play, to try out tricks with their bicycles. For the girls, this street was simply a place to get straight home. The girls always went in groups, perhaps because they carried fears of being teased or attack.

Distinction between boys and girls

Societies made clear distinction between boys and girls froman early age. Boys are  usually given cars to play with and girls with dolls. This difference is created in the smallest and most everyday things such as how girls must dress, what games boys should play, how girls need to talk softly, or boys need to be tough. All these are ways of telling children that they have specific roles to play when they grow up to be man and women. Later in life this affects the subjects we can study or the careers we can choose. In most societiesincluding our own, the role men and women play or the work they do are not valued equally.

Valuing housework

The main responsibility for housework and care giving task is done by the women. What this they does not have to be paid for, thus, society devalue this work.

Lives of domestic workers

Most domestic workers are women. Wages paid are low as domestic work is not regarded as valuable. Housework requires a lot of physical labour and is time consuming. In rural areas, fetching water and carrying firewood are strenuous and physically demanding activities.

Women's work and equality

The inquality between man and woman has to be dealt with through actions not just at the level of individual or the family, but also by the government. The Constitution says that being male or female should not become a reason for discrimination. The government is, therefore, committed to understanding the reasons for this and take positive steps to remedy the situation. The government has set up anganwadis or child-care centres in several villages in the country and has passed laws that make it mandatory for organisations that have more than 30 women employees to provide creche facilities. The provision of crops helps many women to take up employment outside the home. It also makes possible for more girls to attend schools.

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