Friday, 5 January 2018

"Gender conversations through snakes and ladders" by Adolescent facilitator Raj :-)

I believe that it’s important to keep having changes in the way we work not only to challenge the monotony, but to also introduce entropy in the structural way of performing a particular task before we get too comfortable with the settings. 

For the past one and half year we had been working with the adolescents of various communities and government school so with the increasing demand and curiosity among the participants and collaborating organizations we thought it’s a good idea for the participants to take facilitator cap and engage in the conversations around gender, sexuality and reproductive health with the adolescents of their own age.

These conversations have already started in two communities under My Perch in Noida and Choti si khushi in Dwarka as part of collaboration for “Adolescent gender facilitator program”. But the real fun began when we participated in the Learning societies unConference organized in the last week of December in 2017 in Bangalore. It’s a space which seeks to bring together all kinds of people who are co-creating diverse learning communities, sustainable learning spaces, creative un/learning processes. So, we thought instead of Sahas hosting any session on gender, why not have our young facilitator take the lead and host a conversation on Gender!

Raj, from My Perch (our very first circle) seemed very enthusiastic to host “Gender conversations through the game of snakes and ladders” which was quite visible while he prepared a chart paper with the topic written and pasted on the appropriate part of the wall, asking questions, discussing probable points of discussion and there was calm smile on his face. I was actually very excited to see him facilitate for the first time! I was preparing messages for the game when one after another curious people gathered to know what I am intending to do! These conversations actually motivated me further.

As the time of the session began, lot of the boys from Creativity adda joined the workshop, with 1-2 girls sitting little distant from the circle. Raj introduced the session and explained how the game progresses with all the requisite details. As an when someone reached the stairs or the mouth the snakes, they read out the questions aloud and had discussion over it.

“So the girls shouldn’t go to kitchen when they are having periods” statement said
“I don’t know what periods are?” asked one of the participant
Immediately Raj explained about periods and how this is a biological process and part of growing up in girls and it has got nothing to do with going into kitchen or to temple. I was proud!

This was followed by a statement “eve-teasing girls is cool!”
“No, it’s not right, because there is no consent, they don’t like it!” said one of the participant
“But what I feel not right is that they don’t raise their voice, instead they move away from the place” said another
“But don’t you think it may be because they are girls and if they say anything, they might be scared that someone might harm them, their parents might scold them”
“I don’t like this, I would never do that, instead I will tell girls to raise their voice”

Another statement which resulted in amazing discussion was “Doing gyming, having 6 pack abs makes you look cool”. To this most of the boys agreed and said that they do it so as to impress girls!
“But I don’t like the boys with such body, I would prefer a boy who is nice to me” said the girl who was sitting distant from us.
“My friend has an amazing body but not because of gym but because he is into martial arts.”
“I agree with her, but I have seen that both boys and girls prefer to be in the company of such boys who have good body because they look cool”

An interesting turn came in to the workshop when the statement “Smoking is cool!”
Immediately everyone said No and also emphasized that they don’t smoke, however I just asked them to be honest and then one by one they blurted out.
“Yup it’s cool”
On being asked why do they feel that it’s cool in spite of the fact that they know that it’s not good for health, the answer was straight that because their friends smoke, so in order to be part of the group and attempting to look cool, they smoke! We left them with a question “Do you think you should smoke because your friends do? Or you should do things because you like doing that” Change in the expression on their faces spoke so much!

It was beautiful to see Raj facilitating the questions, answering the doubts and also giving his opinions in the discussion. We were also bombarded with the questions related to sexual identities, there was so much curiosity around “gay” “lesbian” “third gender” etc.

As the session progressed towards closure, Raj immediately bought a chart for feedback, I could just smile because none of us actually thought about it, but he remembered every aspect of the session.

I have never sat for so long in a session, it was amazing I learned a lot in the session”
“I had questions around many of these statement, I couldn’t discuss with my parents but here I could openly discuss and ask questions”
“What we talked about 6 packs abs and smoking, I never actually thought in that way!”

I was elated that one and half hour saw such fruitful discussions around various curiosities and questions around adolescents being facilitated by an adolescent! No wonder it’s said “some changes are inevitable and inspiring at the same time”

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