Let us give a uniform welcome to 'three fourths and T-shirts': Manju Warrier

Many discussions are taking place globally on gender-neutral uniforms. In India, there were many such experiments. In Kerala too, we are making strides in this direction. We can take pride in the fact that a group of parents have taken the initiative to implement three fourth-type school uniforms for boys and girls in the Government LP School, Valayanchirangara near Perumbavoor in Ernakulam district.

Can a girl run easily by wearing a skirt that goes up to her knees or feet? It is certain that while running, she will have to keep her fingers on the skirt to escape from the blow of winds. It is an automatic action. Such issues always disturb girls wearing skirts while they run behind the bus or while they practise in the school grounds. I am so happy to know that the three fourth type of gender-neutral uniforms are becoming popular.

I acted in many movies wearing skirts. When I was in school, I also had to wear skirts. Then, we friends used to murmur how uncomfortable it was to wear skirts. It creates happiness in my mind that the parents and students are now openly demanding more comfortable types of uniforms for girls. Such a change is a reflection of the new mindset of society that the girls need more freedom. Though a skirt is a good dress, it creates inconvenience for girls while wearing it in places like schools.

At the international level, there were too many discussions about the concept of gender-neutral uniforms. It is not a new idea to have a uniform dress for both boys and girls. When the children from Taiwan demanded such a dress as their school uniform, the world famous designer Angus Chiang came forward to design it. He is the one who has attended Paris Fashion Week for six times consecutively. In Mumbai's famous Children's Academy School, 99 per cent of students voted for a gender-neutral uniform. In Delhi's Shri Ram Matric School, such uniforms have been in vogue since 1988.

In Kerala too, there has been a slow start to such a trend. Such a practice was first launched by the Valayanchirangara Govt LP School in 2018. Kerala can be proud of the fact that the parents took the initiative to usher in such a change. The parents and teachers thought of introducing the gender-neutral uniform after it was found that the girls had a tough time participating in sports events wearing skirts.

This is the age where we, in general, give equal treatment to women, girls and transgenders. Women are walking tall among us. There is not much resistance to the idea of gender equality now. The changes that we saw in Valayanchirangara School would give us more strength to launch more such initiatives. The gender-neutral fashion is now a hot topic of debate in the world fashion arena. The male actors put up the attire of women at the Oscar award venues many times in protest against men-women compartmentalisation. In the same manner, there are people like Ranveer Singh In Bollywood who showed no hesitation to wear skirts and use eyelids.

Whenever you wear a comfortable uniform, you will gain more confidence. While travelling, you will be all the more cheerful if you wear the dress which gives you the maximum self-confidence.

Nowadays, the girl students are a little bit scared to run behind line buses owing to their discomfort with the uniform which they wear. We are moving into an age where we hope that there will be no more gender differences. We are slowly removing all hurdles in this path. It makes us proud that one of such obstacles has been removed by a government school in our state.

If you achieve such equality at the younger age, it will undoubtedly give women more strength in the later years. The change in school uniform pattern cannot be seen only in the viewpoint of gender equality. It gives you a new world of freedom. Three fourth pants is not a new type of dress. It is the favourite dress of many girls. They wear it inside and outside their house. What makes them happy is that their favourite dress has become their uniform. But at the same time, many girls like to wear skirts. They should be allowed to wear it in future too. Dress is something which we wear to satisfy our mental comfort. Just for gender neutrality, you cannot impose the choice of dress on anyone.

We should achieve equality by gaining self-confidence even in small things. It is not the necessity of the girls alone to achieve gender neutrality. Boys should also open up their minds on what they exactly want. In future, no girl should be hesitant to run along the school ground.

Kerala should take the path to gender neutrality as shown by the Valayanchirangara LP School. I am saying this while loving all my skirts that I used to wear once. We should think of promoting dresses which are really helpful to us.

Pioneering gender neutrality theme
The Valayanchirangara LP School created history by introducing gender-neutral uniforms for students in 2018. The concept of single uniform for boys and girls was first introduced at the pre-primary section of the school. Blue colour three fourths and yellow colour T-shirt were the uniform. Later in 2019, the three fourth pants were made part of the school uniform at the LP section. The colour of the three fourths was dark green and T-shirts light green.

"Such an idea struck when it was noticed that the girl students were participating very less in sports items compared to boys due to the discomfort they face while wearing skirts," the then headmistress C Raji said. "We spoke to girl students first and understood their difficulties before introducing the new uniform pattern," said headmistress T R Suma.

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