Gender Sensitization in a Youth Space

Group 3 listening to Abhinav's introduction
Group 3 listening to Abhinav’s introduction

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to shadow one of our Changelooms’ organizations, People for Parity (PfP), while in action. PfP is a young organization, led by Aditya Gupta, is a movement towards achieving gender equality, but specifically works to curb violence/harassment against women, as well as provides survivor support and survivor rehabilitation. One of their primary initiatives is the facilitation of in-school gender sensitization workshops.

This two-hour workshop, at a private school outside of Delhi, made for a very energizing day.

Anisha engaging the group
Anisha engaging the group

Despite some directional challenges, we arrived in good spirits and the team of four facilitators plus myself was well received. A welcome card was presented to the team, as well as a lovely plant, bright greetings from the children, and a special handclap – which seemed distinct to the school.

It was, from my view, a true testament of People for Parity’s work that they were invited into this school – with boys and girls in separate lines to transition through the halls and sex-specific uniforms – to conduct a two-hour workshop on gender sensitization.

With little delay after the introductions we divided nearly 100 10th standard students into three groups and began the workshop in separate rooms.

The students were given multiple opportunities through activities & discussions to talk in small groups about their gendered experiences. As one session concluded, the facilitator pulled the co-ed group together and asked them to share. One female student, with the passion of a community activist, stood with paper in-hand and started listing all of the gender injustices her group had experienced and compiled. They listened with joyful confirmation as she continued, noting such things as how the teachers’ scoldings were always gendered towards girls, never the boys.

Throughout all of the activities there was some wonderful insights that came from the youth. Many were excited to have their voice heard, hearing the views of others, and connect the real world to their peer experiences as students – these sentiments came from both the boys and girls.

Aditya clarifies students' inquiries
Aditya clarifies students’ inquiries

Rather than the customary one-to-one dialogue they are often relegated to in a disciplined school setting, they could speak freely, and amongst their peers. It was a freedom of speech that was new and unfamiliar to most, but appeared to be exciting to all.

Each of the facilitators left that space and that school equally energized, drained and contemplative. The PfP team and myself quipped about how “smart”, “excited”, and “roguish” some of the children were. Above all, they were quite intelligent – and eager to be informed.

Another thing was evident to me throughout the day: The distinct differences between a workshop and a class, as well the necessary differences between a facilitator and a teacher. I have been both – and I was conscious that both were present in this space, this space that which was best served by the prior.

This was confirmed by the children themselves at the end of the session:
“I think it was the first workshop in school in which we where so involved…
It was a different experience, where everybody was able to open up about their situations…
It was amazing and should be conducted more often”.

Rorujorona first developed a passion for educational justice as a high school student, desiring to develop better curriculums and programs in mathematics education. As an undergraduate student at Michigan, her interests evolved into international social justice, after multiple experiences abroad as a student researcher and volunteer in Austria, Peru, the UK, and India. Rorujorona was part of a research team in Chennai, studying the intersections and differences of the social justice narratives of race in the United States and India. In addition to meeting with and interviewing several local Dalit activists, she presented her narrative at a local conference in Chennai.

Upon return to the US, she worked in higher education administration, supporting students in public health and regional studies, while maintaining her commitment to urban communities as a mentor and a tutor. Three years later, she returned to India, where her service focused on engaging religious minorities in Uttar Pradesh via intergroup dialogues. Her interest in serving marginalized youth populations eventually led to her pursuit of an MSW at Penn. Her fieldwork placements included providing case management services for youth and families, as well as programming and administrative services for a cultural resource center. During her graduate coursework in Mathematics Education, Rorujorona focused her studies on educational justice and access, participated in local conferences on equity, and culminated her studies in a final project that addressed cultural competency in mathematics education. In the midst of her graduate studies, she further engaged her passion for service in India through intensive studies of Tamil and Hindi.

Since completing her graduate studies, Rorujorona has enjoyed serving local communities in the dual roles of educator and social worker, mentoring and advising many marginalized student populations, including those with learning differences, physical challenges and social tensions. During this past year, her time was divided between teaching and mentoring secondary students, aiding in local political campaigns, and serving the community as a member of the Los Angeles Urban League Young Professionals. Outside of the professional arena, Rorujorona enjoys event planning, bowling, socializing with friends, and volunteering.

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