On 3rd June 2016, Ms Pratishtha Arora and Ms Suhasini Mukherjee from Centre for Social Research conducted an hour long gender sensitization training for the young change makers of the society. The training was facilitated in collaboration with Special Unit for Women and Children (SPUWAC), Nanakpura at Darbari Lal DAV Model School, Pitampura under their XIV Summer Camp 2016. The training had over 35 boys from class 5th to 12th in attendance. The SPUWAC staff was also present during the training sessions.
Under the summer camp program, SPUWAC has organized self defense training programs for women and girls, and gender sensitization programs for men and boys. The motive behind this initiative was to empower women and girls through training techniques where they can protect themselves by making best use of the things around them like handbags, pens, dupatta through some basic martial arts techniques. These trainings help them to build their confidence and morale to fight back in defenseless situations.
The training commenced with an introductory note about the training program, trainers and the organisation. Ms Pratishtha asked the participants their view about the training program where a majority of the students replied to the question “to generate awareness, to discuss on discrimination against women and to discuss about safety and security of women.”
Furthermore, the discussion was led on to the ‘Gender’ and ‘Sex’ binary debate. Prior to the debate the participants were asked about their understanding of the two terms whether these terms were similar in nature or different from each other? Some of the students replied that the two terms were different in nature but they could not express the actual meaning of it. To which Ms Pratishtha clarified the terms with their meanings, stating that ‘Sex’ is biological in nature whereas ‘Gender’ is a social construct which is inherited from society in forms like attributes, names, dress, colour patterns, roles, and responsibilities. Real life examples of the same were used to make the get the point across more effectively.
The discussion was taken ahead by discussing the stereotypical notions prevalent in society as a means of discrimination. This was led by Ms Suhasini sharing the experiences of various forms of discrimination between men and women. On questioning whether they would wear a pink colour dress or play with dolls, one of the participant replied that he likes to play with his sister and her toys, another participant replied he has clothes with pink colour. These statements by the participants encouraged many others to think upon the stereotyping which is usually not accepted by the society. This continued with discussion on how these stereotypes are produced and reproduced within various institutions of society like family, media and education. To elaborate upon institutional stereotyping an activity was conducted called ‘Hop the hurdle.’ In this activity three volunteers from the group were taken- volunteer 1, volunteer 2 and volunteer 3 and remaining participants were the observers. Here the pin bottles are referred to as hurdles. The pin bottles were placed in a line equidistant from each other. Volunteer 1 was asked to hop over the bottles (hurdles) 3 – 4 times so that he was well equipped with the directions and the distance between each bottle. After repeating it for 3- 4 times, he was blindfolded and was asked to repeat the act once again. Meanwhile, volunteer 2 and volunteer 3 were asked to remove all the bottles secretly (without any noise) so that volunteer 1 was not aware about the removal of the bottles. Next, volunteer 1 was asked again to hop over the bottles (which were already moved). After completion of the act the blinder was removed and he was asked to look back. The expression of the volunteer was of complete astonishment as he had not expected the removal of bottles.
Post the activity, everyone was asked to share their experience of the activity. Some of the participants shared their experience and stated that, this signified ‘humari zindagi mein joh rukawat hai unko badalna’ (to eradicate the barriers in our life), ‘purane raste to chodh ke naye raste ko apnana’ (to choose a new path by leaving behind the old path), to change the existing stereotypes by changing our mindsets were some of the responses.
Further, this activity was linked with the concept of Patriarchy and power. Participants were asked to share about their understanding of the term ‘power.’ Few responses from the participants were like ‘shakti, takat, kuch seekhne ki takat, kuch samajhne ki shakti, kuch badalne ki takat’ (capability to learn, capability to understand, capability to bring change in society) etc. Ms Pratishtha added that such notions define power as the ability of any individual to utilize the same and put it to best use. As students too we possess the power to change the nation; bring about an attitudinal change wherein we can restructure existing gender relations and be gender equal. The perpetuation of ‘power’ reflected the dominance of men in the patriarchal structure. The participants could visualize the positions attributed to men in the society. More emphasis was laid upon the concept with support of various illustrations.
The training session was concluded with the hope that all participants perceive themselves as agents of change to transform the existing gender stereotypes and power relations. In the end, it was observed that the young change makers were very enthusiastic and exuberant in coming together as a group to eliminate the various forms of discrimination and violence against women.
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