Women’s Empowerment Workshop on 3rd December 2018: Ashwini L

YUVA organized training or capacity building workshops under Migration Resource Center (M.R.C.) these capacity building workshops for basically on the issues sensitization, awareness about various schemes, value building, governing systems. Mrs. Shanta had planned a Workshop for domestic workers on Gender Justice. There were 30 women present for that workshop. They represented the different self-help groups.

 

The workshop was conducted by Deepa Pawar. She has a Masters in Social Work. She has been working with deprived youth since she was 14. She has an experience of almost 18 years in the field, Deepa has worked with youth, women, communities, NGOs, colleges, as well as local and state governments on the issues of gender, health, rights, community development and sanitation among others. She works as a trainer with adolescents, youth, NGO workers, government officials, teachers, health workers on gender, leadership, democracy, health, sexuality, violence, mentoring, advocacy, community development and movement-building. She is a core team member of the Right to Pee campaign in Mumbai for safe, accessible, affordable public toilets for women and girls. She is the founder president of Anubhuti, a feminist organization working to build socio-political leadership of youth towards a more just, equitable and democratic society.

The women who are present for the workshop do not appear to be comfortable. It seems as if they have been forced to attend the workshop. Our patriarchal system does not grant any freedom or decision-making to women. Mrs. Shanta was trying to arrange this workshop from last two weeks but the women were not ready to come. She invited 50 to 60 women for workshop but now only half number were present. These women were sitting silently and when asked questions, they simply smiled and refuse to say anything. They were hesitating to introduce themselves. Deepa noticed it and along with me and Mrs. Shanta, she started singing two to three community songs. This singing activity helped break the barrier of communication. Deepa started her workshop with one activity, where she divided the women in two groups. She asked them around 10 questions like Do you know any singer, sportsperson, social worker, film director, political leader? She asked if anyone was aware about any people’s movement or any legal provisions? Though the questions were gender neutral in nature. The answers given by the both groups were male names. And with these answers Deepa started her workshop, she told them that these are the true reflection of our society. Our patriarchal system only highlighted the importance of men and put women under societal pressure. Do you know any political leader? Why answers were not Indira Gandhi or any female political leader. Deepa raised questions and no one could answered. Then after she started second activity, she wrote on board with bold letters WOMEN and asked everyone tell her the first word came in their mind. The word list start from the mother, teacher, beauty, bravery, homemaker, housewife and so on.  Then she wrote the word MEN and asked same question. The list start with the word addictive, fighter, pillar of home, bravery, power, protector and so on. She asked everyone is there similarity in the both columns. The answers were yes. Women should be brave, powerful protector and fearless and also men can be lovable, affective, emotional and homemaker too she said. Women were fully agreed with her and she succeeded to take all the women on right track.

Then Deepa came on body politics. Even if every woman has a uterus, she has a choice to not give birth. She raised a question of Right to Pee, even if everyone has the same urge for urine. Why money is only being taken from women in public sanitation unit or in government toilets? Public toilets are free for the men and they urinate on road too but what about women? In every city there are lack of availability of toilets and if any, they charge money only from women. Why it is not free for them too. Deepa not only raise the question but through Right to Pee campaign she is fighting for it. She raised this issue at higher levels authority of government. Then she explains about the food sacrifice in family, if one full fish cooked in home and this fish is divided into four parts to four family member, who will be the first priority. Obviously answer came by women was husband, second priority was boy and third daughter. Finally, whatever is left over will be acceptable by her. Then Deepa brought a twist in it. She said, “Surprisingly some guest came to your home, you would give them some food to eat, whose part you will give to guest? All women ready to sacrifice her food for guest. They also said that it was their duty to sacrifice. Deepa not only asked them question but also gave answers. Some answers may not be accepted by them but we have a believe in little change at their level. If little changes happen at their level, like women always ask her husband and children what they want to eat but she never thought about her own wish. She also wants to eat by her wish but she never cooks by her own choice. From tomorrow if she starts to cook by her choice, it is a worthwhile change. Also in our society we never invite widows and women who do not have children as society think of them as bad omen. These things do not have any value but these irrational things are followed from many generations. From today onwards if these women are invited to social functions then the goal of the workshop was achieved. On behalf of YUVA, I am grateful to the coordinator Deepa giving us a way to think differently and I am also thankful for the women who were present and graced the event.

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