“Women are constantly judged on their physical appearance, and the way they dress, and the way they do their hair, the color of their lipstick, their careers….they have to be apologize and explain themselves, actually #sorryI’mnotsorry, because I am me”
What an exhilarating experience to be part of a workshop in an Indian university especially on Social Surfing. CSR’s Social Surfing workshops are the first of their kind to be conducted in India. Although the vast majority of university students know what social media is, and how to use it, the workshops are still a great opportunity to inspire students to see it as more than a platforms to keep in touch with friends, but as a powerful tool for change, change that they can enact themselves. We were there to guide students on their use of social media in a conscious way, remind them social media can hurt, and messages are interpreted differently depending on who reads them. But most importantly, we were there to reinforce the idea that access is empowerment, and that the best response to hate speech is better speech.
No matter what side you’re on in a workshop, as facilitator or participant, you always end up learning so much from each other. I’m glad to see that’s also the case in India, maybe even more so for me. Especially with students of mass communications who are already aware and well versed on most issues concerning social media it was a true exchange between both parties.
It’s amazing to see how engaged students are. This time, at IP University, the master’s students in mass communications were utterly inspirational. With approximately 70 students, they came up with truly moving and relevant campaigns. These students gave me a second wind of energy and reminded me why I am a social activist and why gender equality is my mission.
I clearly saw the struggles the students are going through, and particularly the girls, through the campaigns, the students’ comments, and how they used social media. I saw the struggles, but I also saw their desire and passion to work for change and remove obstacles.
What was really exciting was hearing from the students that they had already planned to go through with the campaigns whether they won the CSR contest or not. It was the exact development we were hoping for. We wanted to show or give tools to students in order for them to use social media in positive ways, and inspire them to provoke change in their communities. Well it certainly wasn’t taken lightly!
The campaign for sanitary pads dispensers on school grounds is happening, and the campaign to elongate hostel curfew for girls, has been a campaign for a year, and is hitting IPU with force. Another group will add their campaigns on being unapologetically themselves as women, to other existing ones, and was brilliantly defended by its founders. The exercise even inspired another participant to run a campaign of his own against racism in his campus and in Delhi. Projects were fiercely defended, and passionately explained. What a bunch!
These students were the quintessential examples of why we give women voices. Give young women a platform to express their ideas, needs and wants, and that is exactly what they will do. Give them the opportunity to voice their concerns, and unsurprisingly issues that are close to their heart will come up.
It was also interesting and great to see that groups with higher number of girls naturally ended up talking about gendered issues and about women’s roles.
I have yet another concrete example in my arsenal that proves that when women are given powerful or decision-making position, women’s issues come up naturally. How many groups with a majority of men would have chosen sanitary pads as a topic? Yet it is such an essential issue, which is slowly gaining ground and importance. This is why we need more women in decision-making positions, women wielding power, and in government.
It reminded me again the need for global sisterhood in feminism- the issues they cared about were the same as anywhere else in the world: the desire to change stereotypes, reconstruct body images in positive ways, change perceptions, work for women’s needs to be heard, such as menstrual hygiene, freedom of mobility, and from restriction based on gender, animal safety, free media and so on. These are the same struggles all girls around the world face, or have faced until batches of brave women and men united to make a change in their community.
These workshops have shown me yet again that equality is possible, that men and women are capable of greatness and when women are given the opportunity, they will shine, on or off social media.
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