Saturday, 14 July 2018

Deciphering “Who am I?” by negotiating between given and desired identity

“I want to create Robots and become a big scientist one day”

“I like English language, I also like to hear and listen to English songs and one day I will go to America”

“I want to become richer than Bill gates”

We began our “Gender, sexuality and reproductive health curriculum” with 40 students of Government school, Dwarka sec-3 with our first session on “Who am I?” The 2 hour workshop began with the sharing of the intention of the curriculum, a brief account of our work at Sahas and why we are working with adolescents! Then we engaged on the agreements with the participants which are pre-requisite for creating safe sharing spaces for this workshop and coming ones so that they could share their curiosities, questions, doubts and experiences without the fear of being judged. 

To bring the focus of participant’s energy and attention, we played “Ungli Dance” and suddenly they were smiling, giggling and seemed lot relaxed as the barrier that was there because of uncertainty just melted. In the next activity, the participants were invited to dwell more on their identity by filling a sheet of 15 questions individually – questions like who is your favorite teacher, what you like most about your school, who loves you most?, what is your dream or whom do you hate most?

After this, the participants were invited to create their individual identity cards, which are different from the usual identity cards that we have. Here, they were asked to fill the words or things that they associate with themselves- like what they like to do, their hobbies, or anything they associate with their identity. This activity reflected in detail the socio-economic identity that the participants associate with themselves. Their dreams and aspirations were unique, unlikely of mundane jobs like becoming a doctor or Engineer, also the curiosity to earn money, learning English indicated how they want to change their socio-economic identity. 

For me, it was wonderful because they were not scared to dream irrespective of their socio-economic class; however it was scary at the same time because to have these certain notions may lead them to fall in the rat race forgetting their own skill sets or values, they may become over competitive and lose the very innocence which made them endearing.

Another aspect that stood out during these conversations pointed towards peer pressure- there were so much expectations on how their friends should be- one of them even suggested that the friend should be smart and good looking.

Few points that caught our attention were-
One of the boy mentioned things that he doesn’t do and don’t like in his identity – not even a single sentence had “I like to.”
Few of them said they love cooking.
None of the boys mentioned “Being boy” as their identity.
Most of them constantly pointed out that they don’t like fighting, they dislike that so many fights happen in the school, also teachers many a time don’t stop these fights, one of the person stated that he really liked attending parties and dancing in the parties

I was particularly amused when a participant shared his likes with a constant post word as “Mazza aata hai  

Then we engaged on how identity changes during the course of life- it was interesting that the participants could actually decipher it without much help. In the next part of the workshop, to help them understand how important is adolescence and dwelling into their identity and values at this point – we shared stories of Gandhi ji and Rani Laxmi Bai when they were adolescents.

“So, Girls are not weak, they can do whatever boys can do” a boy shared after hearing Rani Laxmi Bai’s story.

In the last activity “catch the ball and tell me one thing” was beautiful and struggle some in many ways- the participants were finding it so difficult to share one good quality about themselves and they either ended up sharing their dreams or regular sentences like “helping others”. 

This workshop was very different in many ways- the boys were thinking deeply and were engrossed in writing the “Myself” questionnaire as well as identity map, I was glad that they could focus on themselves and be honest at the time of sharing. It seems like the journey with these 40 adolescent boys would be a unique roller coaster ride !

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