Read the following blog by Rougye, a volunteer at a recent school workshop in Gurgaon. If you’d like to connect with us – write to us at email@example.com or call us at 9560717965
This two-hour workshop led by People for Parity (PfP) has made for a very energizing day. This was my first experience of PfP’s in-school workshops, and it was an honor.
Despite some directional challenges, we arrived in good spirits and the team of four facilitators plus myself was well received. A Welcome Card was presented to the team, as well as a lovely plant, bright greetings from the children, and a special handclap – which seemed distinct to the school.
It was, from my view, a true testament of People for Parity’s work that they were invited into this school – with boys and girls in separate lines to transition through the halls, sex-specific uniforms, and many ceremonial pauses for prayers and pledges throughout the day – to conduct a two-hour workshop on gender sensitization.
By 10:30am we had divided nearly 100 students in 10th standard into three groups and began the workshop in separate rooms. While some groups were a bit rowdier than others, they all were engaged in the space from the beginning until the end.
The students were given multiple opportunities through activities & discussions to talk in small groups about their gendered experiences. As one session concluded, the facilitator pulled the co-ed group together and asked them to share. One female student, with the passion of a community activist, stood with paper in hand and started listing all of the gender injustices her group had experienced and compiled. They listened with joyful confirmation as she continued, noting such things as how the teachers’ scoldings were always gendered towards girls, never the boys.
Throughout all of the activities there was some wonderful insights that came from the youth. Many were excited to have their voice heard, hearing the views of others, and connect the real world to their peer experiences as students – these sentiments came from both the boys and girls. I truly enjoyed the energy that was coming from these exchanges amongst the students. Rather than the customary one-to-one dialogue they are often relegated to in a disciplined school setting, they could speak freely, and amongst their peers. This freedom was one some were hesitant to embrace, but by the end of the sessions, most all were excitedly sharing.
Each of the facilitators left that space and that school equally energized, drained and contemplative. The PfP team and myself quipped about how “smart”, “excited”, and “roguish” some of the children were. Above all, they were quite intelligent.
It was evident today the difference between workshop and class, as well as the difference between a facilitator and a teacher. While it had previously been requested that teachers do not attend the session, three or four eventually made their way into the room. First, they were there as observers, but they seemed to quickly fall into their teacher roles and “correct” students’ comments or behavior. This was an obvious hindrance to the students expressing and engaging freely, and the facilitators respectfully asked the teachers to refrain from such interjections. They obliged, but remained in the room – sitting aside, talking amongst themselves, and observing.
I was especially struck by how the workshop wasn’t just for the students; but also for anyone who came close to it, touched it, or was in its presence. Not intentionally, but it was so.
As we boarded the metro train to return to Delhi, I found myself more conscious of my space. I noted the way the men filled the space and I allowed myself to be comfortable doing the same – not to mimic them, but rather, to exist freely – to not be pigeonholed into space reduction simply because I am a female.