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Be a Change Maker

There are many things that make us what we are, how we live, the languages we speak, what we eat, the games we play and the things we celebrate. We get an idea how diverse India is.

Yet this diversity is not always celebrated. This is because we feel safe and secure with people who look, talk, dress and think like us.

Sometimes when we meet people who are very different from us, we may find them strange and unfamiliar. At times we may not understand or know the reasons why they are different from us.

People form certain attitudes and opinions about others who are not like them. Very often we find people being discriminated against on the basis of caste, skin colour, race, language, religion or gender. The practice of making such distinctions and treating a person or a group of people less fairly than the others is called discrimination.

I have grown up in the household seeing many things around where discrimination existed.

For example, when I was young, we had a person coming to our house for cleaning the toilets. My grandmother would not let him touch the bucket and mug and would insist that we keep it aside. I often used to question her and she would just say that he should not touch as he belongs to the lower caste and does menial jobs. We would wander why she behaved in such a manner and if we would not agree there would be lot of disagreements which would lead to arguments. Though I couldn’t change her mind I decided not to get influenced by her thoughts and would always treat others equally. That didn’t go down well with my grandmother and the things always became argumentative.

Another incident which I remember and never agreed was that whenever my siblings and I had a fight and after a quarrel we would start crying. My brother was often told that, “You are not a girl don’t cry like them.” This would just blow the lid out and I would react very badly. Why is it that the boys can’t cry? Why don’t they have feelings? Telling the boys to suppress their feelings leads them to frustration and anger when they grow up.

When parents avoid talking about differences and discrimination with their children, experts say, children learn that the topic is taboo. Children might come to believe the differences they notice are more important than they really are. And they might be hesitant to ask questions, missing opportunities to challenge and correct stereotypes.

Discussing differences, on the other hand, can help kids appreciate diversity and better recognize discrimination when they see it. In one experiment with 8 to 11-year-olds, researchers read children storybooks that either downplayed racial differences (referred to as a “colour-blind” approach) or talked about the value of diversity. Later, when listening to stories that featured examples of racial bias, the children who had read the “colour-blind” books were less likely to recognize that bias. Kids who learned about diversity, on the other hand, were better at identifying examples of discrimination.

I thought things would change when I will grow up. But to my surprise not many things changed. There is a change in the thought process wherein girls are allowed to pursue higher studies which initially was not given much importance and are given the freedom to work and choose the fields which they are interested in.

Though the change might be very slow, equality is the value that we have to keep striving for.

Till we change our mind set, things would not change. Let us teach our children to treat everyone equally.

- Ms. Ruchi Mundra