SSB caught up with Mona and Purvi for a freewheeling interview about their work, dreams and challenges. Here are some excerpts:
In the broader societal context, what is the role of Sahas that you envision?
Mona: In the longer run, we would like to see gender education as an integral part of school curriculum. Even in 21st century India, gender issues are dealt with frivolity. During my 10th grade, our teacher just skipped the lesson on sexual reproduction, because she felt too embarrassed discussing it in front of boys. If Sahas can change the discourse around gender education, our work will be done.
How do you think these workshops are going to help? What are your support plans for workshop participants?
Purvi: We feel that at this stage, information gap is the primary challenge we want to tackle. We have a two strands to our approach – knowledge delivery and capacity building. With the right type of knowledge, these teenagers are ready to ask the right kind of questions and remove the taboo around these topics. We select ‘gender leaders’ from the participants. These gender leaders go back to their communities and work with other children to impart them the learning. We provide them with resources, session plans, etc so that they can conduct these sessions seamlessly.
What keeps you motivated about your work?
Mona: I always imagine myself answering to ‘future me’. If she asks me, what did you do for an issue which you feel so strongly for, I don’t want to go blank. This keeps me motivated. Other than the bigger picture of my work, I enjoy little things we do at Sahas, like creating session plans, designing the flow, creating the resources, sharing my own stories, questions from the kids. These never let my energy down.
Are girls and boys equal stakeholders in your workshops?
Purvi: I feel, gender knowledge is more important for the boys than girls. They are the main perpetrators in most of the cases of gender violence. They need more support in understanding themselves and these gender issues. It is also important for them to support the females in their lives, sisters, mothers, wives and raise a collective voice against the gender issues.
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