Children’s book tests gender narrative
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DURBAN - PROFESSOR Nitasha Ramparsad, a former Danville Girls High pupil and University of KwaZulu-Natal student, took a break from academia to pen her first children’s book, Cloud Gazing: Be what you want to be, on the important issue of gender equality in children.
Ramparsad told the Daily News that after her degree in media studies she was fascinated with the gender narrative and did her Honours and Master’s in gender studies at UKZN before moving to Johannesburg to complete her PhD in philosophy which looked at feminism in the South African state.
“Working at the Agenda Feminist Media Project cemented my interest in gender equality. Agenda not only trained me as a writer but taught me to view the world more critically through a more gendered and political lens.”
Asked how she decided to move from research and writing for academic journals to a children’s book, Ramparsad said becoming a mother was an important factor.
“Being the mother of a boy child, has definitely influenced me to write these kinds of stories,” she said.
Her first book, Gender Equality at Work, was aimed at workplace transformation.
She became aware that gender barriers were usually formed from childhood and saw the need to look at undoing gender stereotyping through a children’s book.
Through writing the book, she found that gender issues were often addressed in adolescence and sometimes only in adulthood.
“The missing link is trying to undo stereotyping and gendered barriers from the time children are young. This encourages a more open view to the world and more acceptance of themselves and their goals.
“The book looks at undoing gender stereotyping in career choices and encourages children to look at possible careers that may not fit their cultural norm, and while this may challenge some archaic ideals about upholding culture; culture must be challenged if it is discriminatory,” she said.
The book focused on a group of friends living in South Africa who play “Cloud Gazing”, a game about guessing the shapes of clouds.
“Ultimately this informs a discussion about what they want to be when they grow up.”
She said that the book was targeted at children in the foundation phase up to Grade 3 as Ramparsad believed these lessons should be taught from a young age.
“This book is for people who don’t want to box their children into careers and gender roles because of their own stereotypical thinking. I hope this book inspires those kinds of adults (not just parents, caregivers, grandparents) to open their minds to changing the narrative. “Having a sense of agency from a young age will encourage a child to grow into a confident adult who values their self-worth.”