“My brother can speak to me, but I cannot speak to him”


By Hannah, VOICE Fall Intern

            This quote stuck with me, coming from a shy, timid 6th grade girl.  This past weekend I spent my time interviewing boys and girls from schools around Hyderabad for VOICE.  Focusing on grades 6-9, and dividing by ages and gender, we spent hours interviewing schoolchildren about their home life, social life, school, and touched on gender equality and the changing body.

            Girls and boys alike perked up when asked about their families, eager to share how many siblings they had and their favorite games to play together.  I listened to passionate tales of cricket, school friends, and computer games; everyone was eager to share.  However, their faces turned ponderous, timid, or confused as questions became harder and more thought provoking as I touched on gender questions.  When asked, “Are boys treated differently than girls? How so?” there were some quick shout outs of “Same!”, while others answered with shakes of the head, misunderstandings, or downward glances.  Many girls responded that it was harder to be a girl; they were blamed for their brother’s mistakes, couldn’t go to market like their brothers, couldn’t play with boys.  One said her father wouldn’t allow her to pursue college and she would be married after 10th grade, without a chance to work.  Boys often answered, sort of laughing, that their sisters stayed home while they went out and played games, and they balked at the idea of playing cricket together.  When asked if they thought this was fair, none had an answer, it seemed to be a question they had never considered. 

            At the same time, a few groups of children held incredibly progressive notions on gender, proving that the road to equality is possible.  One group of girls proudly stated they all wanted and would be allowed to go to college, with dreams of becoming doctors and teachers; one even said she hopes to become a gynecologist!  A group of boys adamantly said they would allow their future wives to work and agreed that everyone, themselves included, should learn about the female body and puberty because, “it’s natural right?”