Thursday, 2 November 2017

Gender campaign lead by adolescents

“Once I was going back to my home, I saw 2-3 boys teasing a girl in a very inappropriate manner, I stopped and asked as to why they are doing so? They shrugged me and said that she is a friend so don’t bother, I intervened and said that even if she is your friend, you need to seek her consent! And when they didn’t listen, I went to the policeman crossing by and told him everything. Thankfully the police intervened and spoke to those boys” shared an 11 year old girl during our 1st workshop as part of training the gender friends into gender facilitator.

For 2 minutes I didn’t really know what to say, an 11 year old girl had the courage to stop boys who were of double her size, talking about consent where young people, people from judiciary and various complicated social systems fail to understand and acknowledge and really seeking police help not just being a bystander who sees violence happening and not doing anything, I was stumped and rendered speechless!

One and a half year back, when we started Sahas and developed SGRH curriculum for adolescents, we had our perceptions, didn’t know how adolescents will perceive it, will they understand it? Will it work as we have thought! Even, the community based organizations had their sets of perceptions “This is too much for kids to take in, may be the session should be divided into 2 parts” “Don’t you think you shouldn’t be talking about this?” “Can the session on puberty be toned down” “I think the participants would drop down after this session of Puberty” etc. 

Coming back to August 2017, when we had community visit to both My Perch and Choti si khushi, I was happily surprised as to how adolescents remember each and everything that we had conversations about during the series of workshops that we conducted in the respective communities, interestingly they are implementing this knowledge in their day to day life! Also both Kamya Dargan and Seema Joshi founders at My Perch and Choti si khushi has been actively engaging with the adolescents around the gender issues. It is then, during these community visits, the idea of training the gender facilitators manifested.

“When this intervention was implemented, I didn’t really know how it will shape up, will kids really understand it? But the way the adolescents responded to the workshops, and over the past one year, there had been lot of conversations around the same. The kind of connect they share with gender workshops is way ahead and stronger that with any other activity. They have been talking about these issues with the new kids coming to library and also showing interest in taking it one step ahead , so when the need is coming from the community then why not take a plunge and make it a reality” shares Kamya Dargan, Founder , My Perch.

“I have been seeing the girls, they are having conversations around gender issues and they are very confident now. So if each girl talks to 4-5 girls of their own age, then the awareness around the issue will reach out to maximum number of adolescent girls in this community, I know this is the best measure as the girls really want to reach out their peer groups” shares Seema Joshi, Founder, Choti si khushi.

With my short sting in the social sector, I came across many social entrepreneurs who fulfill their unfulfilled dreams in the name of social change and implement their interventions in various communities overlooking whether that intervention is even required! So this has been my important learning and that’s the very reason why Sahas was initiated in the first place. Hence when the younger generation wanted to take the charge in their hand to lead the gender revolution, we couldn’t be happier! 

The beginning “training the trainer” session at Choti si khushi was an eye opener, we wanted to start with 10 participants, however 2 girls persisted on joining the group, seeing their enthusiasm we just couldn’t say no to them. The session included objective of the work that adolescents facilitator will be engaging in, content of the various workshops and the tools which they might use in their sessions. There was lot of excitement, curiosity and eagerness to carry forward this work.

“I want to say this so I was raising my hand, during Dusshera, me and my cousins were going for the Mela. There were few boys who were also walking side by side. After a while, they started commenting like chalti hai kya, kya maal hai. I knew that this is not right and its violence so I slapped one of the guys and scolded him with all my energy till the time all of them begged for sorry. I felt good”

“One of my friend asked me whether two boys can be in love, then I explained him about gays and lesbians. They were surprised but they understood that they are also like us”

“One day my friend, her sister and her friend came to me, she asked me about sex, I explained what sex means, why people do sex? Also I shared about gay, lesbian. They were happy hearing about them”

Our first circle had both boys and girls; it’s always interesting and new experience to go back to My Perch! The “training of the trainer” session had 7 participants to get trained along with the new set of adolescents who just wanted to experience the session. 

“Once in my school, the girls had a session on menstruation by Whisper! The girls came back to class, boys were laughing and constantly asking them questions but none of the girl responded. So when a boy asked me, I told them whisper is a pad which is used by girls during menstruation and also I explained why periods are important”

“Didi, whenever someone in library ask me questions related to gender workshop I answer them so when I girl asked me that do girls have periods during pregnancy-I answered”

“A girl asked me as to how babies are born- I explained her about sex and pregnancy”

“My friend asked me about masturbation, I explained it.”

It was wonderful to see Jazz, one of the participant from My Perch  facilitate a session on 'Identity' right after the 'TOT' session


All these conversations and stories inspired me and all the preconceived notions of how adolescents will react, will they understand? Just went away because they not only understood the concepts of sex education, gender, violence, they are engaging in the conversations beyond workshop space in their real life and now they are ready to take it one step ahead of being gender facilitator to their peer groups.   

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