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.
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.
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”.