Meena Raju Manch campaign in 25,000 schools
Meena Raju Manch (MRM) is a Maharashtra state government programme (in collaboration with UNICEF, with key support coming from CORO), which has been implemented in Mumbai schools. MRM sessions are based on different themes – including fair distribution of food and the need for equal nutrition amongst girls and boys.
A teacher told us about an interesting incident that happened in one of these Mumbai schools where Hindi is the teaching language. A brother and sister were studying in the same class. Their mother used to pack their lunch boxes – always giving the boy more food than the girl. One day the teacher noticed that the boy was going to his sister during the lunch break, and the teacher asked him why. He said that his mother wasn’t giving his sister enough food, and he was sharing his lunch with her, to make sure she got enough to eat. The teacher felt that this was happening because of the strong impression made on the boy by the MRM session which focused on boys and girls needing equal amounts of food.
The boy said that he had discussed the matter with his mother, asking her to give his sister the same amount of food. As a result, the mother began giving the little girl enough to eat at lunchtime.
What’s important here is that the boy recognised the discrimination at play, took action to share his food and also talked to his mother – which brought about a positive result.
The children attending this school generally come from marginalised families, where most parents are daily wage workers or have meagre jobs – hence the scarcity of resources, including food. But even in these conditions, there’s a tendency to give male children enough food (even if it means compromising the needs of female children).
It’s generally thought that this type of discrimination is less prevalent in urban conditions, but the story above gives impetus to the efforts that are still needed to bring about gender equity.
The actions taken by the boy (including the conversation with his mother) clearly show the positive impact of the MRM programme. It underpins the idea that, if correct messages about equity and equality are given to adolescents, we can surely expect the next generation to be more gender-sensitive and fair.