Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Revisiting our first all girls circle at Choti si khushi: Adolescent facilitators in action :-)

“I shared what I learnt in the workshop about menstruation, child sexual abuse, I think something had happened to her, but after listening to what I said, she was relaxed and she thanked me! I also shared the information in my class and also about 1098. Didi can you believe this, one of the girl used it also and she received help”

We had our first all-girls circle at Choti si khushi in the month of April-May, this year. It was interesting to see how they progressed during our month long intervention which started with giggles, smiles and silence to flurry of questions and taking the hold of situation in their own hands. And now we were back to our all girls circle J

Before we could get out of the Auto, we saw our participants waving and smiling at us, with all the questions and complained as to why we have come after a long time, what are we doing nowadays, do we miss them? and many  more. Finally we were in the circle, where we shared what all is happening at Sahas and where are we currently working? We then opened the circle for the participants to share what has happened in their life over these two months!

It was interesting to see the openness with which the participants were sharing about themselves and the trust they have for this space. The participants were then invited to divide into their designated gender groups and play the game of “Snakes and Ladders” where we had placed messages at the mouth of snakes and beginning of the ladders; all these messages were related to the gender, sexuality and reproductive health curriculum through which we engaged with them.

“So gay is a person/boy who is interested in having relationship- love, sex and emotional with another boy” shared one of the gender leaders
Another one talked about sexual organs and sex; interestingly not just the gender leaders but everyone remembered the information that was shared during the workshop.

“So, we would be leaving these ludoos here, you can use them to conduct a session whenever you wish to”
“I am taking one of these, I will conduct a session in my neighborhood”, almost immediately one of the gender leader replied. I was glad and taken aback by the enthusiasm; it was great to see peer to peer learning happening so smoothly and these little facilitators amazed me with their skills!

Then the participants also shared about changing dynamics in the park where most of the work of Choti si khushi happens! ‘There is a police inspector coming on daily basis to keep a check on the people taking drugs and arresting them’ said one

“We went to say thank you to him and also appreciated him” said another.

I don’t understand and use terms like change, impact and others but these girls have changed so much, they seem more confident, more vocal and their understanding of their own self has increased so much. And yes the love and trust they shower on us and among themselves is no less than a blessing J

Monday, 28 August 2017

Revisiting our first circle at My Perch: Witnessing new facilitators in making :-)

“This is a journey into the unknown, to something completely new.”

Going back to where Sahas once began its journey didn’t come so easily, it took us exactly a year to revisit our first circle at My Perch. Aren’t we taught that success comes to those who keep marching ahead without looking back, however I feel otherwise – we need to keep revisiting our roots, coz that would keep us grounded and help us move ahead :-) My Perch has changed a lot over a year and yes for good- but what that has not changed is the warmth, love, trust and belief that ‘happy childhood’ is possible. 

We were welcomed with smiles and the famous question “Didi, do you remember my name?” All I could do was to respond back with a grin. They gathered around us, holding our hands, complaining as to why we didn’t come before? Do you miss us? There were lot of new faces who looked astonished at what is this chaos happening?

We then invited the participants to sit in the circle and share anything that has happened during the course of this year.

“So whenever someone talks about boys and girls- the first response of the participants is oh! They didn’t attend gender classes that’s why they are comparing”
“Can you tell us, how do we talk to other boys about this?”

The participants were then divided into their respective gender groups and were given snakes and ladders games to play- each snake and ladder had a message written over it; ladder had a question so if you answer the question then only you would rise high. 

One of the girl gender leaders was sitting with 3 boys, two new and one old- and then the question came up “What is menstruation?” she hesitated, looked at us and then started explaining what is menstruation, why it is important? And how few traditions around the same affect the life of a girl?

Another boy gender leader explained to the mixed group of participants what is sex?
“Didi, you only tell them, she is laughing. I think she is shy!”
“No, just give a try” I insisted.

What happened next was nothing less than a miracle, he talked about male and female sexual organs, and how intercourse happens in both Hindi and English languages to his group members:-)For me, I was seeing something that I never imagined, never thought about it, all our motive was to create a safe space where we can talk about topics related to adolescence and support them with the questions they have during this age. However, with our intervention, we were able to create a counter narrative where the adolescents were able to question what is told to them, share the information told to them and facilitate peer to peer learning :-)

We also felicitated the participants and My Perch with the certificates and interestingly we were surprised by a beautiful painting being gifted to us. Then we were offered momos and fried rice in lunch and guess what!  these were cooked by none other than our participants. I was filled with gratitude, love and affection for them and for the space that has given us so much :-)

It was magical to see little facilitators creating a discourse around the issues of menstruation, sex, gender, sexuality etc which are considered taboo-ed in our society with a never seen confidence. I don’t really know what is the definition of change? But what we witnessed was a new wave of informed adolescents who have taken the reigns of their lives in their own hand which is nothing less than magic :-)

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Challenging the myth: "Boys are not the victims of child sexual abuse"

“The worst part of being abused is the betrayal. The one who should have protected you was the one who harmed you. ”

One of the major myths around child sexual abuse is that the victim is always a girl: however boys may be victims of abuse. Unfortunately, child sexual abuse with male victims is underreported due to social and cultural attitudes: boys are taught to fight back and not let others see vulnerability. This fact is also supported by government survey in the year 2007, which was done on over 14,500 students all across the country. 

 With this picture very clear in our curriculum framework, we conducted the workshop on ‘child sexual abuse’ with 39 boys of government school, Dwarka. The session began with the understanding of what will happen in the next 2 hours, reiterating of the agreements so that we can co-create space where we can talk about “Child sexual abuse”. 

“Child sexual abuse happens only to girls. I have seen boys making lewd and sexual comments to girls.”
“Rape also happens to girls”
“They whistle, chalti hai kya nau se barah, masturbate and even blow kisses to girls”

These were some of the thoughts which boys shared in the circle on what they think about child sexual abuse! We then screened ‘Komal’ a film by Child line followed by a brief presentation on the same. There was pin drop silence in the room which otherwise was full of laughter, teasing, making fun of one another or just flurry of questions.

The session was slowly opened for the participants who wish to share any of their experience around child sexual abuse. My mind was juggling between the judgments and the facts- they won’t share it because they belong to the same class, they might fear being judged or laughed over it but on the another hand I believed in the space that we have created from last few session- there was trust, confidentiality and the support.

A boy shared his experience while he was of 8 years where an aunt living in his neighborhood fondled with his private parts, another shared that his elder brother used to touch his private parts, someone shared that his uncle used to make him touch his private parts.

“Didi I have a question; I once saw a girl and a boy making out in the part. The girl was not 18 years. Do you think that comes under child sexual abuse?”
“I have a friend who is 18, he has sexual relations with a married woman who has 2 children. Do you think he is doing right?”   
“The school in which I used to study previously, the PT sir used to beat boys with stick while he used to make girls sit on his lap”
“Oh, even in my school, PT teacher used to touch girl’s thighs, I don’t think they liked it”
“If two people have sex with consent and they are below 18 years – is that a crime?”

Before I could say anything – one of the boys responded, “It’s not actually a crime, but do you think they can take responsibility of the same, also Didi told us previously that the law is against sex below 18 years”

I just smiled :-) we then engaged in filling of the safety action plan- it was interesting to see the eagerness with which they wanted to complete the plan and answer it too! Also they could differentiate between thoughts and feelings around when somebody touches them without their consent. I was assured that these activities have equipped them to fight and challenge the child sexual abuse if ever they encounter with it because-
“Whenever one person stands up and says- wait a minute this is wrong, it helps other people to do the same”

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Co-creating a discourse on gender and sexuality with adolescent boys :-)

“I have heard a number of times my father talking about my sister; he says she should know how to clean, wash clothes and cook food”

“My birthday is celebrated with pomp and show while my sister’s birthday goes unnoticed”

“Boys don’t need to seek permission to go anywhere while girls need permission for everything they want to do”
“There are more men in public spaces and handful women there”
“Whenever group of boys see a girl alone they try to tease her or even eve tease; specifically when girls go alone in the park and that’s why they always go with their friends” 

Contrary to our assumption that the participants study in all boy’s school and with respect to their age, they would have hardly come face to face with the gender differences- the above statements were not only eye opener but also emphasized on the understanding that conversations around gender is a must irrespective of the age. 

The workshop started with the “Train game”, where the participants were invited to become coaches of the train who would imitate what the engine does- many funny moves, lot of chaos happened. After settling down, we screened the movie “Lesser Man”. 

We then played the games of Chinese whispers- interestingly we started with 2 big sentences which ended up in 3 words. Then the facilitator co-created the story of humans with the participants and through the Chinese whispers established the definition of “gender”. It was interesting to see how gender is internalized even at such a young age that when asked “Who will take care of agricultural fields?” without a second, the answer came as “son”! Then began a discussion as to how women and girls should be restricted to household chores and men must do work outside to earn bread and butter. While some agreed that gender differences exist, some refused by saying that “our mother and father both cook. If mom is not at home, even being a son I cook”

I then questioned as to “there are three meals in a day, what do you think who cooks often and clean house”
There was deafening silence and then said, “You are right! I never thought in that way”

The participants were then divided into 3 different groups- each was given a space- home, public spaces and friends- they were then asked to write gender differences in the respective spaces. There was lot of noise, many participants seemed distracted, I was cautious as to whether they have actually understood gender or maybe not. All my doubts got cleared when each group started sharing their points of discussion in the larger circle.

“Boys ride bikes mostly and they eve tease girls”

“Boys smoke, drink alcohol, play cards do all sort of things in public spaces, no one seems to care or stop them”

“After 8 PM in the night, girls are not allowed to be in public spaces”

“I have observed that girls are taught and sent to colleges so that they can marry while boys study so that they can earn for their families”

“I don’t work at all in my home while my sister and others work”

“In schools, there are more boys than girls”

“I feel that there are lots of gender differences existing in the place I live in, but I never thought about it. This doesn’t feel right”  

The next part of the session involved a conversation about gender and sexual identities- so I restated what sex is, what does doing sex means, what is gender? I thought its crucial for us to have discussion around intersex, they looked at me with a disbelief that such an identity could exist as well!! This was then followed by talking about Hizras, transgenders and homosexuals. 

“So how does the sexual organ of a hizra look like?”
“Why do they force us to give them money?”
“How can a female and female have sex? Male and male sex? Is it possible”
“There must be some problem with the parents that a hizra is born to them?”
“If a parent comes to know that their child is hizra, can they keep them?”
“Didi, there lives a girl in our neighborhood, who keeps her hair short, has heavy voice and her gait is also like mine, is she a transgender?”
“My uncle told me that now hizras can also study in schools and colleges”
“Do these people exists only in India or even outside?”
“Do Hizras have breasts?”
“I have read in newspapers that Michael Jackson was a hizra or a transgender. Is that true?”

It was important to make them understand why do we engage in this discourse around gender and sexual identities.

“I think, for example if I am boy and I love boy but my parents don’t approve of my relationship then I have to marry a girl. It would be pressurizing for me, I won’t be living a real life”

“Can gays or lesbians marry? We need to talk about this so that all of us can live happily”

It was amazing to hear such diverse and out of the blue questions and insights coming from adolescents, I was blown over and I was happy that they are asking questions, accepting the knowledge, probably they won’t judge people and can contribute to make a better world to live in :-)