Gender Equity Movement in Schools

The Gender Equity Movement in Schools (GEMS) project was initiated to promote gender equity and reduce violence amongst adolescents in schools.

‘Yaari Dosti’ and ‘Sakhi Saheli’ were multi-component interventions adapted from the brazilian program of ‘Institut Promundo’ to address sexual and reproductive health, fatherhood, HIV/AIDS and gender based violence within the framework of promoting gender-equitable attitudes and behaviours among young men and women in community settings.

The objective of GEMS was to test the feasibility of adapting the Yaari Dosti and Sakhi Saheli modules in selected schools of Goa within the goan culture, targeted at a younger age group. The GEMS project piloted this intervention through School Health Counsellors (SHC’s) placed in the MANTHAN schools project.

The project had two phases – Phase I had a detailed needs assessment in four schools with groups of students and teachers to assess how adolescents construct concepts on gender and violence, its determinants for use in the adaptation of the Yaari Dosti and Sakhi Saheli modules.

The findings from Phase 1 formed the basis for the development of the intervention which was administered to students of standards VIII and IX in the High Schools and Standard XI from Higher Secondary schools in Phase II.

What We Did
In phase I the needs assessment for a sample group of girls and boys from each school was conducted through role plays, group discussions and poster presentations. Focus group discussions were also conducted with teachers from each school. The needs assessment highlighted gender differences between girls and boys in the kind of work they did within the household, the way they were treated in schools and on restrictions on mobility. Violence was found to be more pronounced than gender differences, manifested as bullying in schools or as domestic violence in the communities related to alcohol consumption.

In phase 2 an intervention package was developed in the form of classroom modules focusing on building an understanding of gender, violence and bullying, and life skills required to deal with these, such as assertive communication and anger management.

To scale up the intervention, fifteen SHC’s from the SHAPE and MANTHAN schools were trained during April-May 2009, to integrate the GEMS modules into the classroom sessions conducted as part of the group level intervention in the SHAPE program.

The experience of phase II brought to light that gender was a complex concept and its link to violence needed to be reinforced over time for it to be internalized and that SHC’s conducting sessions need to be highly skilled. The modules developed as part of the project were integrated into the class room modules for the SHAPE project and the school health counselors were trained intensely on gender issues.