• Highlight how we learn, experience and perform gender expectations across life, particularly in terms of sexuality and reproductive roles.
  • Reflect on gender expectations and their effect on our lives and how we raise our children. Consider the possibility of alternatives


This is an opportunity to talk through sex vs. gender, and reflect on people's own socialization around gender.


Part 1: Sex vs. Gender

The facilitator writes two columns on a flip chart paper – one with the heading ‘man’ the other ‘woman’.

Ask participants to go around one-by-one to list two traits they have that are considered to be ‘like a man’ or ‘like a woman’. Write each on the list under the gender stated.

Then the facilitator asks participants to call out the first words that come to mind when you say “man”. List them out on in the ‘man’ column. Repeat the process for “woman”. Make sure that there are at least 2-3 words that describe biological traits (e.g. penis, breasts, menstruation).

Going through each of the words under “man”, ask if any of these words can be used to describe women. Repeat for the woman’s list. For example, “Can a man cook? Be gentle? Menstruate?” For those that cannot cross over (biological traits), the facilitator circles these words.

The facilitator explains that these lists illustrate the difference between sex and gender. Sex refers to biological traits. Gender refers to the economic, social and cultural attributes and opportunities associated with being male or female at a particular point in time.

Part 2: Visualization

The facilitator dims the lights, plays soothing music and asks participants to close their eyes for a personal reflection exercise:
Think of the time you were born… someone must have told you about the time you were born, where were you born, at home or in the hospital, in a village or in the town, you were the first child, second or third, everyone was happy, they celebrated, have you heard of the stories of your birth...How was your mother treated after birth? Was she at her natal home or in-laws home when you were born… how did your father express his happiness and your grandparents?

You started to grow up, there was time to select a school for you, was there a discussion as to where you would go to study, or was there no discussion about your studies, or anything else discussed. What was the basis of the selection of your school, was it the same school where your brother or sister studied, or was it different? Did you have other children of your age with whom you played and went to school? Did you have other siblings born after you, how was their life? Was it like yours or was it any different … what was different, do you know why it was different?
How was the school, who were the teachers, who were your class mates, boys or girls or both, did you like your school, what did you like about the school, was there anything that you did not like about your school, what was it, why did you not like it?

Did you play with the school children, both with boys and girls or only with girls or only with boys, or with both, did your parents like your friends, did your friend come to your home, did you go to theirs?

How did you relate to your parents, did you share about your happiness and your fears with them? When did you talk to them, whom were you more close to, your father, mother or none? Did they tell what they expected from you, did you tell them what you wanted to do?

What did your parents do? What did your mother do all day? What did your father do all day? Did they do similar work or different work? Did you help your mom or your dad, why?

Your adolescent age, was everything the same in this age, did you feel any difference, did you particularly like a friend to share all your secrets, did you have secrets, why did you trust one friend and not the other, did your parents approve of your friendship and your spending all the time with her/ him?

Did you like to dress well, did your friends like to dress well, use make-up. What did you talk to your friends about? Did you have aspirations, dreams, did you share your dreams with anyone?

Discussions about your marriage: when did this happen, what was your age? How did you feel about these discussions, did you ever participate in the discussion about your marriage? Did anyone seek your opinion on the proposal about your would-be partner? Did you tell about your opinion to anyone? Did your friend also have such moments, did they share any of their thoughts, opinions, feeling with you? How did you feel?

Discussion about your job: was there any expectation for you doing a job? How did it feel? Did your marriage have anything to do with your job?
You got married. Was it a love marriage or arranged, did you get to see your partner prior to marriage, did you get to talk with each other? What did you talk about, your interests, your hobbies, job, liking. Do you remember all you talked about that day? Does your partner remember all the things you told about your likes and dislikes? After marriage did you have to leave your parents’ house to live with your spouse, or did your spouse came to live with you? Were you living in a joint family or a nuclear family? Did it make any difference in your daily schedule after getting married? Did it make any difference in your partners daily schedule after marriage? What was the difference?

Your first child, a boy or a girl, had you planned for this baby, how was everybody’s reaction, did you hear congratulations, was the birth celebrated, how did you feel, how did your spouse feel?

Your baby started growing up, childhood, friends school, education, adolescence, all the stages that you faced… is there any difference in your child’s life now and yours then, does your child have similar relations as you had with your parents? Are the choices for your child same as you had … What is the difference … what is similar… what all do you want similar… what all do you want to change in her / his life?

Following this, the facilitator asks participants to open their eyes. This either leads into the next exercise, or you may want to take time for reflection:
  • How does it feel? Is anyone willing to share anything they saw with others? ( it is possible that some share and some do not share, it’s OK if people do not feel comfortable to share, it does not mean that if they do not share they are not thinking.)

Facilitation Tip: Take a Pause
This may be an emotionally charged experience for people. So, it may be good to take a pause as people process some of their own life experiences.

The facilitator then discusses a couple of reflections based on the life cycle: dreams and pressures men and women have and their effect on people’s lives.

Part 3: Timeline Exercise

The facilitator divides participants into groups of 4 people. It’s helpful if the small groups are same-sex (i.e. contain only men or only women). Each group is given a piece of flipchart paper and a set of markers of different colors.
Each group thinks about a typical person’s life in the community. Ask the men to create a timeline for a fictional man, and the women to create a timeline for a fictional woman. This exercise will follow a series of steps:
  1. Teams first draw a timeline of life, starting at age 0 and ending at whatever age they decide. This should be illustrated on a line drawn across the center of the paper.
  2. In step 2, groups develop a list of significant events that mark the person’s life. In this list, they are also asked to consider reproductive events, in particular.
  3. After this, each group will map events onto the flipchart paper with blue marker. On the graph, participants depict which events were positive or negative (happy or sad) in the person’s life. In the graph, the x-axis represents the age, with the y-axis representing levels of happiness.
  4. As a final step, each group now uses a red marker to map the same events in terms of levels of power – rather than happiness – across the person’s life.

In plenary, groups take turns presenting their posters. To analyze outputs, discussion questions include:
  • How are major life differences different for women and men? Or among women/men (if more than 2 groups)?
  • What were the most positive experiences? What were the most difficult moments ? And why?
  • When do you think the character felt most powerful? What are differences of powerfulness or powerlessness between women and men?
  • How are people treated at these different stages?
  • What change would you hope to see in this?


CARE: Inner Spaces Outer Faces Initiative; Social Analysis and Action Manual; GED 101; Suniti Neogy