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Stigma by Sweta Singhal

By Volunteer Sweta Singhal, FHI Guwahati

More often than not, we, as social beings, find ourselves entrapped in the cage of prejudices. From looking down at another human being to differentiating amongst them in our day-to-day life, we put up barriers that this society goes on to further strengthen, in-spite of how wrong it is. The question is, how to break this very wall that we, as a society, have built? How do we do away with prejudices and turn over to a new leaf? Sometimes, the answer cannot be summed up in a single solution but we can always take little steps to make a bigger impact. One amongst them is through our children.

Young minds are the most impressionable. We can bend them and mold them so as to shape their ideas through our own. A young mind is only a sapling and how it grows depends on its environment. By providing a nurturing environment and removing the weeds of stigma and societal evils, we can bring about the change so required.

From promoting equal participation in all events, big or small, to propagating the idea of sharing the same hopes and aspirations, we can light the path of a life free from the shackles of these stereotypes that exist amongst us.

More often than not, adults fail to realize that children take after them and those very children go on to pave the way for a future that solely depends on their actions. So, we, as individuals, can only hope to not make such mistakes that can lead the future to jeopardy.

The children that we reach out to while volunteering are often on the receiving side of the social evils. Belonging to the lower strata of the economic class, these children hardly have access to the kind of knowledge that rejects stigma and implements equality and fraternity. They further suffer from the caste stereotype that has impregnated our country since long past. Gender discrimination is a different story in itself. But we are already aware of that, isn’t it? How, then, can we help? How do we do our part?

Being a volunteer in itself is a big step towards change. Being a volunteer who is self-aware and does not carry around the same prejudice? Perfect. We hold the power in our hands to make these children comfortable in their own skin. We can always leave them with the knowledge that everything that the society teaches them may not be right. We can teach them to question. We can teach them to be curious; to not take everything at face value.

As a child, the biggest factor in my life that has prevented me from giving into the belief of societal norms has been reading. Just the very simple act of reading the right books can have the greatest impact on young minds. And that is exactly what we can give to the children – the joy of reading with the motive of implementing newer, simpler and unprejudiced opinions in their minds.

All of us have our own ideas on how to fight social issues that pertain in modern-day India. So, when we come together while volunteering, so do our ideas. And doesn’t that one story from Aesop’s fables teach us that together, we are unbreakable like the bundle of sticks but the moment we are just one, we are easier to break? So, let’s come together for the sake of a brighter tomorrow and let’s teach the children we reach out to, to never give in to stigma.

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