Closing the gender gap- The Scandinavian example

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Gender Gap Report, Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden have had the most success at closing the gender gap. That’s the “gap” prohibiting full equality between men and women in education, health, the economy and politics.

Guidelines to close gender gaps

Schools  in these countries have adopted “gender-aware education” guidelines. These suggest that it is the schools’ responsibility to provide children with equal opportunities regardless of gender, to work against sex-based discrimination and to “counteract traditional gender patterns”. It is also very important to break  the association between masculinity and violence

The teachers in these countries are trained to look inward and identify their own prejudices and behavior patterns while dealing with boys and girls. They observed that during the play break, they let the boys run into the playground, while asking girls to wait patiently for help zipping their coats. They spent more time comforting girls who had hurt themselves, while quickly telling  boys to “go back and play”. The results were a wake-up call for teachers, who considered themselves proponents of gender equality.

The children’s books also come under scrutiny

The fairy tales told since ages have mostly looked upon the “princess” as a wronged captive who needs to be protected and finally rewarded with the prince for her virtuous beauty. Even  the popular story of “Snow white and the seven dwarfs” is no longer prescribed for these impressionable children to prevent gender bias.

 The heroine is too naïve (she is tricked by her stepmother twice) and lacking personality (she has to be told what to do and not to do by the dwarfs).

We in India have a long way to go. The gender gap is wide and gaping but an attempt at the school level must be made to build  future generations  that believe in equality between men and women.


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