Education

Parenting And Schooling Are Key To Gender Sensitisation: Kiran Bedi

Drawing from her own past where she was pitted against fiercely competitive officers, who were not always sensitive to women, ex-top cop Kiran Bedi feels that the institutions must look at entrenched habits and attitudes, and modify study programmes and courses accordingly, even if the results might not always be transformative.

Parenting And Schooling Are Key To Gender Sensitisation: Kiran Bedi
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Institutions teaching management courses have now opened their classrooms to gender sensitivity, an inclusionary subject unknown to both teachers and students until some years ago. To foster equality in a progressive and productive way, educational institutions, particularly those teaching management courses, are encouraging gender-equality dialogues in classrooms. The aim of this gender-inclusive exercise is to bring in social change for the better.

Students and teachers alike are sensitised to understand gender terminologies and complexities to bridge the gaps in order to create awareness, which will enable better communication. These programmes, often of a shorter duration, are guided by experts dealing with sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination, gender justice and various other related issues.

Former super cop Kiran Bedi has been at the forefront of bringing in reforms within the police and prison departments during her years in government service. A Magsaysay awardee for her work, Bedi has broken numerous glass ceilings across the divide. As one of the illustrious IPS officers in the country, she has never looked back at the controversies that have plagued her service years. For her, it has always been the forward march to better achievements.

After she resigned from the police force, she teamed up with social workers and anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal, the incumbent Delhi chief minister, to launch a nation-wide people’s movement against corruption. She later quit the Hazare–Kejriwal team and joined the BJP. From 2016–2021, she was the Lt. Governor of Puducherry. A former national junior tennis champion, Bedi has worn numerous hats, each more challenging than the other.

During her tenure as the Lt. Governor, she started book reading sessions for school children across the country. These sessions, which came to be considered as a prestigious event by schools, were conducted by her every alternate Friday. The same was live-streamed on social media. In the beginning, the sessions had readings from a book on her life, Kiran Bedi: Making of the Top Cop. Later on, other books were added to the reading list. These sessions saw six children being chosen from various schools to read a chapter with her. In keeping with the theme of the “Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav”, the celebration of 75 years of Independence, children joining the programme are asked to research unsung heroes of the freedom struggle from their cities and towns. The research is then discussed in the programme, which is followed by a question-and-answer session with Bedi.

In an interview with Outlook, she seconded the need for gender sensitivity in management schools saying that it will help the students better their communication skills with those others, apart from their own gender. According to her, the spotlight on gender sensitivity should begin early on from schools to create and generate an understanding that will stay on.

Drawing from her own experience of a past where she was pitted against the fiercely competitive officers, who were not always sensitive to women, Bedi feels that the institutions must look at the entrenched habits and attitudes, and study pragrammes and courses can be modified accordingly, but they will perhaps not be transformative.

“Sensitisation has to begin from the cradle and primary schools. Study courses will help only to a limited extent. We all must consider each others as contributors and not competitors,” she highlights in the interview.

Some excerpts from the interview by Haima Deshpande.

Educational institutions are today focusing on sensitising management students to gender issues, which was not the case earlier. Why is this shift taking place?

It is happening because it is to the advantage of all. It is accepting a reality that unless more minds work together, creativity will be limited and will eventually get outdated. If you want to stay ahead and keep growing and innovating, you need a diversity of mindsets. You need freshness of ideas and approaches, and these cannot come from one section of the society, one gender alone.

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How will this integration help with their courses? Should this not have been taken up much earlier?

Sensitisation has to begin from the cradle and primary schools. Courses will help only to a limited extent. This will raise awareness and perhaps see a rise in, what exists by now, knowledge. We have to look at the entrenched habits and attitudes. Courses can be modified, but they will perhaps not be transformative enough.

What is required is a natural authentic response and attitude of mutual respect recognising each other’s unique worth and value in each other’s lives.

Numerous management institutions are offering a degree in the liberal arts. What has necessitated the need for the mixing of management and the arts?

It had to, because machines deliver mechanically, with perfection perhaps, but they lack the human emotions, which finally win hearts and minds to deliver.

The liberal arts provide the emotional quotient, as against the intelligence quotient (IQ). It also provides the SQ, the Spiritual Quotient. This makes for better human beings at heart even as we deal with flawless machines.

‘The Liberal arts provide the emotional quotient, as against the intelligence quotient (IQ). It also provides the SQ, the Spiritual Quotient.’

How will management studies help in the pursuit of liberal arts?

They will add soul to machines and the science of mathematical calculations.

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Gender issues play a dominant role in our lives today. How can we sensitise the new generation to gender issues?

Parenting and schooling are the key. It is also the kind of literature they read and project, right. It is also a place where they learn to play together, collaborate and think together, prepare to work together and live with each other as support systems for a more humane world of giving and sharing.

And consider each other as contributors and not competitors, supplementing each other’s strength.

(This appeared in the print edition as "Parenting and Schooling Key to Gender Sensitisation")

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