Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Building understanding on "Gender based violence" with the teachers of Naoshera

“It’s not only women who cook food, have you seen that in the 5 star hotels, or most of the renowned hotel, chefs are Men!”

“But, in the hotels and restaurants, people are paid to cook food, whereas women cooking in the home is not even considered a job, it is counted as a responsibility!”

The second session as part of our two day “gender sensitization training and capacity building” for the teachers of rural government schools, Naoshera Tehsil was based on understanding gender based violence and then dwelling into the issue of child sexual abuse.

The session began with few statements being read by facilitator and then participants were invited to share their opinion as to whether they consider this statement as violence or not.

Molestation and eve teasing happens because of modernization- girls wear short clothes, do late nights/wear makeup
With the very first statement, the focus came on the recent “Kathua rape case” in which a minor girl was gang raped and brutally murdered. The discussion began with the thought that the context of the place does matter, so here in a small village- people will stare or talk if a girl is wearing jeans forget about shorts however, the same girl can wear whatever she wants in metro city, no one will raise a finger. But then immediately this point was counteracted with the number of rising cases of molestation in metro cities. The discussion was concluded that rape/molestation/eve teasing has nothing to do with what a girl wears, at what time she goes out, or what her age is simply because women in sarees, clad in burkha, barely few months old, elderly woman of 70 years have been raped and not to forget about the violence that women are subjected in their own homes.

“Boys shouldn’t cry”
All the men in the workshop unanimously agreed to the fact that this statement itself is violence, because even men are human beings, they have emotions and letting them out when they are hurt is no crime. Since childhood, boys are taught not to cry, not to be weak, so all this emotions keep piling up and there seems no way to let it out so many of them resort to some sort of intoxication and many of them become emotionally numb too.

“Women should cook food”
All the participants were shocked, and were looking at each other with disbelief. Few of them immediately refuted stating that violence is a strong word and cooking is a household chore so it can’t be equated to violence. But this statement turned out to be the most debatable, interesting and engaging one. There were arguments like
“If a man is working throughout the day, then what will a woman do if she is at home doing nothing?”
“A woman even if she is working, pregnant, ill, or in any namely circumstances, the responsibility of cooking falls on her”
“We are taught to cook food and do household chores from early age with a warning that if we didn’t learn that our lives would be miserable, we are not even given options. Are boys told something like this as eligibility for marriage?”  
“I think marriage is about compromise, if we keep fighting over small things like I have cooked today then the husband should cook tomorrow if not then there will be fight, that’s not our culture!”
“What if you are asked to cook food for coming 10 years for all three times with no pay. Don’t you think that would be violence?”
“You are right, cooking is a thankless job! We take it so for granted, don’t even bother helping, we are always making demands”
“Mam, after this discussion, I guess most of us will go and help in cooking food for our family”
“Thank god, this discussion is not going live on television, otherwise from tomorrow we all have to engage in household work. I didn’t even know how to chop vegetables”

Touching a student inappropriately (be it male or female) without their consent
All the participants unanimously agreed that this is violence

Men doing household work or cooking food are zoru ka gulam
The discussion over this statement took a hilarious turn when one of the  male teacher said that he doesn’t mind being called one because he really loves his wife and helps her in all the household work. Also, they shared that it’s not just men who use derogatory statement towards other man who supports his wife, but even women say this. Many a times, their own mothers have stopped them from helping wife, sometimes wife says that you are not a woman to engage in this work and also the kind of nasty comments men are subjected to when they want to support the women in their lives, so yes this also is counted under violence.

Repeated negative comments about a person’s appearance (fat, thin, black or too white) , sexual orientation , lifestyle, family, or culture
It was one of the most intriguing discussions where a  participant shared how due to his religion particularly in this part of Jammu, he was subjected to violent threats by people and also his own colleagues didn’t support him and he almost lost his job. There were lot of sharing on how being a male or a female teacher also put them under judgments by other staff members or parents and the consequent struggles. 

Taking the cues from the elaborate discussion, gender based violence and its various types were defined and explained. 

In the next part of the session, an animation film “Komal” by Child line was screened followed by building an understanding on “child sexual abuse” and “POCSO act”. This was very crucial because the cases of child sexual abuse have become rampant and children consider their teachers as trusted adults so they must be equipped with adequate knowledge on the same.

While I was leaving, a teacher came to me, she held my hand and with a small smile said, “I can’t tell you how proud your parents must be, they are so lucky to have a daughter like you. The way you facilitated the session, I could understand things clearly. All these issues are so crucial, we as teachers struggle with them on daily basis, many a times very helpless. But seeing you people engaging on these issues bring so much hope. I can see the change happening and I feel proud”

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