Saturday, 14 July 2018

When ‘Identity session’ challenged us with gender stereotypes and questioned ‘inclusivity of classroom!

“I don’t want to take this sheet, can you give me another one” said one of the participant

“But why?”

To this question, not one but 4-5 boys said in unison that pink is the color of girls, we are boys and we shouldn’t take this!
We conducted our first workshop on “Who am I?” with another set of 30 adolescent boys studying in Government school, Dwarka sec-3, as part of gender, sexuality and reproductive health program. The session began with sharing our work at Sahas and details of weekly workshops on various thematic as part of program followed by the importance of the curriculum for adolescents.

Following the discussion on agreements, we did “Ek Ungli” energizer to bring the attention and energy of the participants in workshop space! It was very interesting to see many participants willing to do it again except one who refused to take part stating that he didn’t enjoy dancing. While playing the game, I saw a boy struggling with the steps – though I was instructing in a slow pace, he was finding it hard to grab and do it, and at the same time I saw another boy supporting him with the steps. I was taken aback, I always thought that this is the easiest game and seeing a child struggling to do the same hit my consciousness really hard. 

In the first activity the participants were invited to write answers to 15 questions based on “Myself”. As against the previous class, these boys were very calm, they took time to think and fill the answers.
In the second activity “Make your identity map”, the adolescents were asked to write things, words or sentences which they associate with themselves. After this, they had to share their identity maps in the larger group, in this process they had to pair with another person who shares one or more common points. This activity surprised us in many ways; there was constant mention of dislike towards fighting, one of them shared that he loved to learn new things, 2-3 boys said they love Hindi – for me this was particularly surprising because most of the time people find it shameful or they detest the language instead they take pride in saying that they know or love English. One of the boys shared his entire life story in the identity map- he had come from village to Delhi for studies, he shared his ambitions, also about his friend helped him to score good marks. This is actually the core of the activity that participants could figure out and relate their life and identity.  Few of the participants added an extra circle to add more words to their identity map. 

“I feel pity when I see poor people, so when I grow up I would support such people”

Here the participants didn’t just write hobbies as dancing but also choreography, just implying how clear they are- they not only want to learn but have the desire to facilitate that learning as well. I also noticed that none of them mentioned gender as their identity but most of them paired according to their ambitions or hobbies.

On asking how they felt being paired or not being able to find a person for pairing-

“I was surprised that he has written the same thing though he sat exactly opposite to me!”

“I was upset that I didn’t get a partner, I wanted to have a friend just like others”

“I was happy that someone has written what I wrote”    

What happened in the next activity “Changing identities in the life cycle” was shocking – it’s something that we never encountered in the past two years. The first picture was of a child- instead of saying that the participants argued that this is a baby girl because she looked like a girl, and then there was picture of a girl who was engineer- the participants kept on insisting that either she is a laborer or nurse or just girl! And for the third picture- instead of saying mother and child- they ended up saying mother and son. 

The issue of gender and socio-economic identity to an extent dominated the workshop pointing clearly the need for gender education in the schools. This was followed by sharing of the stories of Mahatma Gandhi and Rani Laxmi Bai when they were adolescents. The main objective being that during this stage, we have curiosities, we want to do things our way, we may commit mistakes, however it is important to understand and learn values because they lay the foundation for our life ahead and never be scared to ask questions!

In the next activity “Catch the ball and tell me”- participants shared their unique quality with the action- someone said dancing and he showed Michael Jackson’s moon walk, another one did a yoga pose, someone said he is good at skating, someone said cooking and so on.

In the last activity “Will you be my friend?” the participants were invited to get paired up with the person they were least acquainted with- then share answers on 6 questions, and finally present their new friend to the big circle. I was surprised and really happy to see one of the boys moving towards the other boy (who had difficulty in writing and reading) and making him his friend. Also both of them presented each other in the larger circle followed by loud clapping. Not only this, I could actually see how few of the students helped him in various places, motivating and waiting for him to participate- my heart was filled with joy! 

So, at the end the boy who appeared to be vulnerable, scared and looked puzzled was smiling looking at us, was playful and at that moment I thought that we have actually taken a step ahead towards co-creating an inclusive classroom

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