by Reeta Gupta
Only 27% of grandmothers will allow boys to play with a kitchen set: SAAMNE AA
I am at the final stage of releasing “Saamne Aa”, my song and labour of love.
When I wrote the song in September 2016, I was thinking about the number of times I had been asked , “when will you have a son?”
Or better still, “you have a daughter, now high time you had a son too.”
While many of these were actually just sweet, well-meaning messages, there is always a lot of pressure on a marwadi daughter in law to produce sons. And even the most supportive mom in law has that entreaty shining through her eyes.
In hushed whispers, women discuss the potent fruit of the banyan tree and its power to help you conceive a son- or a ritual that guarantees a son etc; Complex words like ‘amniocentosis’ are traded freely- with a ‘secret’ phone number that is circulated between mom in laws in clubs and kitty parties- this guy is sure-shot! Meaning that he will test whether you have a son or a daughter in the first trimester.
I poured out these and many other experiences into my lyrics. Once the lyrics were complete, I wanted a very powerful singer to give voice to Saamne Aa. I approached Sona Mohapatra, a woman known to speak her convictions. Once she said yes, she belted her emotional power and all her conviction into the song.
My friend Swati Popat Vats, President, Early Childhood Association, gave me perspective about how environmental biases creep into children from an early age. She agreed, via the ECA to conduct a survey in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai, and Delhi with a total of 4700 parents on “toy usage and trends in children.”
The results were startling.
- 69% of parents said they would not like their boys to play with a kitchen set
- Only 27% of grandmothers will allow their grandsons to play with a kitchen set
- 71% of parents said that their first choice toy for girls would be a kitchen set and not a doctor set
So the biases are there in the adults minds, and we freely transfer it to the children.
At an action level, what do we need to do to change these biases?
Swati shared, “Play is the work of childhood, play and toys help stimulate and nurture 90% of a child’s brain development. In our survey we found that 65% of kids did not select the same toys as they had at home, and infact were more attracted to toys that they did not have. We must let the child choose rather than force our choices on them.”
This is absolutely true. While shooting Saamne aa, we have shown that many biases are unconscious and seeded at a young age. For eg; teachers have a tendency to dress girls as nurses and boys as doctors in annual programs if there was a song about doctors. Props like ‘pots’ and ‘brooms’ are given to girls, while ‘swords’ and ‘sticks’ are given to boys. An unconscious message about career choices is being ingrained in young minds right from early childhood.
Instead, we must advocate the promotion of simple ideas like celebrating the birth of the girl child in the family. This change is not going to be easy. But we must pursue the advocacy and the specific actions that will lead to this change- and not be vague about “girl child” empowerment.
We are grateful to have the support of Ministry of Women and Child’s “beti bachao beti padhao campaign” for Saamne Aa. Shot with Paresh Rawal and Swarup Sampat., and a bunch of 5 year olds, Siddharth Sharma is the composer of the song.
About Reeta Gupta
Reeta Gupta is one of India’s most sought-after content strategists, with a special focus on health, education, disability and sustainable development. Her team at The Network, delivers social media campaigns and creates compelling stories for the causes and clients they support. Know more about her work