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Kissa Kahani curriculum on gender, rights and mobility – Asking questions and testing products


The project is Grand Prize Winner (Community Choice) and Runner up (Jury Selection) at the Core77 Design Awards 2020. Hear what the jury had to say about the Kissa Kahani project.

Lo-fi testing with adolescents

Our collaboration with the University of Chicago was centred on conceptualising, developing and testing a curriculum on gender, sexual and reproductive health and mobility for students in government schools. The University’s Kissa Kahani project is a transmedia initiative, seeking to enable young people in narrating stories of their everyday lives. We used this, to weave into the curriculum, stories of young people that supported other young people in facing similar challenges of adolescence, gender and violence.

Our preferred practice for communication packages is seeking a first-hand immersive experience of the context in which these interactions take place. This becomes all the more important when we are developing curriculums. Our process for the ‘Hum-Tum’ curriculum started with delving into the history of sex-ed in government schools, the resistance it faced and the ways in which the recent Rashtriya Kishore Swasthya Karyakram (National Adolescent Health Programme) has provided impetus to the adolescent health agenda. Moreover, we sought to understand the stakeholders for such a curriculum at the school level and interacted with adolescent girls and boys, teachers and the school administration in various government schools of UP to understand their context better.

What did we seek to understand about teachers and the school administration: Who are the teachers routinely tasked with discussions on adolescent health, growing up, menstruation etc? What are their experiences, biases and challenges? What would make it easier for teachers to engage in discussions on gender, adolescent relationships, harassment and violence? Importantly, what are the common teaching methodologies deployed with young people? Are teachers able to move beyond chalk and board methods? What facilitates a participation-centred teaching learning environment? What are the facilities available within the school to facilitate a more engaged environment?

A critical insight which moulded the curriculum was the observation that most teachers had received intensive training on teaching-learning processes and methodologies. However, traditional methods seemed easier for them to follow given the workload, space constraints in classroom prohibiting free movement, fixed immovable furniture and an unwieldly teacher to student ratio. Female teachers were tasked with the responsibility of making available government supplied menstrual absorbents and this, in turn, made them the point persons for adolescent girls to discuss puberty related concerns. As trusted elders, the advice of the teachers left impressions on young minds and often this advice, while well-meaning, was coloured with personal prejudices and served to reinforce gender-based discrimination.

What did we seek to understand about students and their current engagement in classrooms: What is the current level of exposure and knowledge of students on the topics gender, sexual and reproductive health, and mobility? What are the prevalent biases and misconceptions, and comfort levels while speaking of these issues? Are the students open to common sessions for boys and girls on these topics? Whom do the students approach if they want to discuss violence, harassment or any other problems they may face inside or outside the school?

The interactions reiterated our understanding that gendered norms and stereotypes are prevalent within groups of students and reflect the broader normative leanings of their environment. Information regarding menstruation was available with girls, especially due to the recent push on menstrual hygiene in schools. Contrary to our expectations, the boys also were aware of changes in their own body. Harassment and violence in the everyday were evident among girls. However, the mechanisms adopted by schools for tackling harassment often involved gender segregated seating and school timings as well as public shaming of boys, neither of which were particularly constructive. Such treatment was continually positioning the genders in adversarial roles instead of seeking sustainable solutions.

These and other such insights supported the development of the transmedia curriculum keeping at its centre both the key changes it seeks to influence and the means through which these were communicated and reiterated. While a formative assessment of context is important, this alone cannot guarantee that the curriculum designed will indeed be impactful.

Ensuring that the curriculum will meet its objectives within the contexts of the people engaging with it.

Training master trainers

As a standard practice at StratComm, we ensure that actually content creators and curriculum designers are part of the formative assessment phase. Our curriculum and gender experts were part of the initial assessment and the immersion process helped them to pitch the curriculum for a specific audience segment. Considerations of time, comfort with different methodologies, space etc were taken into account while drafting and prior to finalisation, we put the curriculum to test!

We believe that the test of a curriculum lies in two critical domains – the comfort of the trainers in using the curriculum and the response of the participants to the sessions. Keeping this in mind a low-fidelity prototype was further tested to assess ease of use, simplicity of language, inclusion of critical themes and response and feedback of participants.

Our testing process involved two parts – orientation of facilitators on the curriculum, and testing of specific sessions by these facilitators in schools similar to those where the curriculum will be rolled out. The orientation helped facilitators understand the curriculum as a whole and as trainers conducted some of the exercises in the curriculum, these served as demonstrations on how the session design looks in action. Each facilitator in turn studied specific sessions and demonstrated it to the larger group before conducting it in schools. These multiple rounds of discussion, demonstration, mock sessions, provided a nuanced understanding of small modifications which can support ease of facilitation, engagement and comprehension.

At the end of phase 1 of our association with the University of Chicago and Kissa Kahani, we have with us a tested, 20-hour curriculum that weaves together board games, comics, animated stories, exercises and activities. To complement it, we also have a 58-hour facilitator guide to not only train the curriculum facilitators on using the curriculum but also on the issues covered in the curriculum as well as on facilitation skills required to roll-out the curriculum.

To read more about this initiative, please click here.


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