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Teach your Children the Concepts of Consent, Body Positivity and Feminism through The Irrelevant Project

The books are centered around the crossing points of gender, class, standing and religion which are predominant in Indian culture ; themes which are influential to a growing child.

Alishya Almeida (left) and Meghna Chaudhary (right): Founders of The Irrelevant Project
Teach your Children the Concepts of Consent, Body Positivity and Feminism through The Irrelevant Project

A gathering of feminists in India are attempting to wear down destructive social / identity norms that don't have a place on the planet in 2018. All in all they are known as The Irrelevant Project, made up of academicians, engineers, creators, students, artists, business people, therapists and writers who are energetic about utilizing learning and imagination to stop the cycle of biases from being passed down to more youthful ages. They are doing this by making a progression of outlined children’s' books about relatable Indian characters that cover themes such as consent to implicit gender biases. 

The gathering was at first established by Meghna Chaudhury and Alishya Almeida in 2016 who saw a chance to bring more comprehensive stories into children fiction, and the undertaking soon developed into a completely fledged association that saw its initial five books released for people in general in January 2018. The books are centered around the crossing points of gender, class, standing and religion which are predominant in Indian culture ; themes which are influential to a growing child.

In an interview with BW Disrupt, the founders talked about their venture, and the need to come up with such a concept.

What is the idea behind The Irrelevant Project:

Life isn't a story filled with fairytale characters, and the way literature for kids is loaded with sexist convictions is saddening. We frequently grow up tuning in to stories which fortify generalizations, give us a genuinely odd perspective of the world.

As the kids grow up, they have a tendency to soak up these preferences identified with body shape and gender roles and it turns into the 'severe truth' of their lives. In reality, these personalities in light of sex, shading, standing, and body shape are absolutely insignificant. One such task is attempting to break the standard, and The Irrelevant Project aims to reduce these prejudices in children from 6-12 years old, first through the books, and then through events and workshops with discussions on feminism, body positivity, dreaming big, consent, bullying etc.

Why is the focus on kids, and not on the youth?

The focus on the younger generation is a smart target, as it if often hard to undo generations of ingrained stereotyping in adults. The Irrelevant Project sees their books as a form of constructive protest, living up to the mantra “the pen is mightier than the sword”. Research by stalwarts such as Rebecca Bigler, Sheri Levy, speak of the malleability of stereotypes( especially gender!) and how it changes from early childhood to late childhood. And certain cognitive skills such as ability to view different perspectives, critical thinking are instrumental in helping children relax their rigid understanding of the world. Which is why, our books are designed to have every character as a protagonist and also as problem solvers. We also have visual imagery that depicts under represented scenes - non-petite children, brown skin and hairy bodies! We hope that reading these stories would guide children into reevaluating their understanding of roles/hierarchy in this world. The current set contains 5 books. Can you summarize the content in each of the books?

Of course! 

  1. Don’t Pull My Cheeks ! (Theme = Consent)  - Bibloo the precocious child who hates his uncle pinching his cheeks, and finds a way to stop him from doing so. We wrote this from the point of view of a child itself, and the theme of the book tries to explore the grey-er areas of touch; example - the fact that a child is taught that an adult is unequivocally right, adds to the confusion in identifying adults who cross personal boundaries. This is why most sexual abusers are people known to the child.
  1. Big Book of Why (Theme : Curiosity) - Anvesha, the curious kid who loves asking questions like - Why can we not wear short skirts in the temple? We attempted this colorful book from the eyes of a curious child who notices status quo and rules in the society
  1. Nila and Najam (Theme : Non Gendered dreams) - Two twins from Coimbatore who dream careers that are diametrically opposite to their gender. A recent email to us mentioned how the reader really loved the character descriptions of Nila and Najam; Nila was rational while Najam as ‘soft’, a trait hardly associated with the typical male self.
  1. The Curious Case of Mohit and Rumi the Rabbit -  The story of a plump Mohit who realizes that fat is not a bad word and learns  his body size has nothing to do with his talents. We’ve met countless children who feel pressured to look a certain way and the constant media reinforcements do not help!This book tries to offer solace and confidence to a child whose body does not fit the stereotype.
  1. Annie and Arjun ( Theme : Implicit Biases) - We had Annie and Arjun - siblings who are perplexed with the chores assigned at home to them. This book deals with the concept that parents, albeit unintentionally might cater to gender roles and expect gendered behavior from children.

What are your long term objectives for this project? 

TIP will likely intrude on preference in spaces of learning. Out of the blue, we began with fiction as a technique for doing as such. As and when we take in more, we would need to utilize different techniques to accomplish a similar objective. We have a ton of plans; and we need our books and the concept to connect with each child. Starting at now, we are furnishing worksheets with every book so a facilitator can help maintain the topic of the book. We trust we can connect with libraries/schools who would work with us and co-make materials that can help interfere with the development of preference. We share academic research and make it easier to understand through our Instagram page.

You might want to look at the books here.

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