It’s a bird!
It’s a plane!
Oh wait! It is a Stereotype.
It comes in various shapes and sizes, mainly found in the unsuspecting corners of one’s mind and heart. Lurking comfortably under the noses of all types, stereotypes usually get in the way of knowing the people better. Its primary method of operation involves providing an altered assumption about someone, based on our conditioning or experiences.
So, who is an ‘Uneducated’ person?
Recently, Nirantar conducted its Annual Women’s Literacy, Education, and Empowerment Training, 2016. In one of the activities in the training, more than 40 participants, from all over the country, sat down in groups to determine their image of an ‘Uneducated’ person.
While there was an air of doubt, and reconsideration among the groups, some of the statements heard around were:
“If the education is not technical or skilled, then it IS of course uneducated.”
“Ye to mazdoori kar rahi hai, yadi padhi hoti to naukari karti!”
“This woman must be educated as per her personality. She is in urban clothes, and looks confident.”
“These people who are sitting in groups are into blind faith, are definitely uneducated.”
“Computer chala rahe hai, isliye shikshit (Educated)hai.”
“Her hair is messed up and living conditions are worse. Which educated person would tie a goat near its living place?”
“Travelling and willingness to explore cultural places means the person is educated.”
“His way of sitting and clothes show that he is educated.”
“This girl is sad and looking outside the window hopelessly, thus uneducated.”
One of the major observations made during this activity was everyone did have an image of picking out pointers in an image, if that person is educated or uneducated. On being discussed with the facilitators and other groups present there, almost every justification one had for each image was analyzed. While giving it a second thought and hearing other points of views on same images, each participant looked surprised and shocked about these images and perceptions that they could very easily categorize in the first look.
During the ensuing discussion, several pointers came up from the groups on basis of which they tend to stereotype someone in their fields of work, i.e. Literacy, Education, and Empowerment for women.
The very first activity of the training aimed towards building perspective on how education is a broader concept and not merely a reading writing skills or always related to formal education. Adults or women in particular, who have not got the opportunity to get formal education, also have a range of knowledge which they have acquired through their experiences, non-formal or traditional ways or from the context where they live. This is the first step towards literacy for empowerment that you acknowledge that women have knowledge, even if they have not gone through the formal process of acquiring education.