Painting a Change in Bhalswa
Jyotsna is a Lawyer in the making and is surrounded by various books which are beyond her area of study. She has aspirations and dreams for a better world with better lives for all. Showing deviance, she would personally prefer to go towards this journey of change not through the legal structures but on ground work. Due to scenarios in her childhood, Jyotsna is more driven towards and passionate about gender issues. Safecity is the first and the only organisation that she has worked with so closely. Safecity according to her, is a platform where any individual who wishes to bring a change will be allowed to do so in a manner that they would prefer, with flexibility within its ambit to create and implement one’s set of diverse ideas.
Painting a Change in Bhalswa
I live in North-West Delhi and have been born and brought up here. Having spent almost the entire twenty two years of my life in Delhi, I used to be sure that I knew all the places here, even the hidden treasures which others would not be aware of. When I re-joined Safecity my horizon widened. I realised how I had never seen many places, especially those which were beyond the beautiful and comfortable spaces of Delhi I was used to.
A month back, Safecity decided to step into North-Delhi for a campaign. When I was told that we would be working near Jahangirpuri, I was really excited and confident, it being ‘my area of expertise.’
On the first day of the campaign we entered Bhalswa in North Delhi, an extensive area which was far different from my expectations. It had huge patches of isolated land amidst the residential complexes. It was then I realised how ignorant I had been all these years of this huge region named Bhalswa which was barely fifteen minutes away from where I lived. I had never even heard of it before; neither of the place nor of the struggle of the people living in this community.
When we launched our campaign here, we faced challenges building trust especially with the older members of the community. We began with tiny steps by engaging with the youth. Though they were shy initially, we gradually started building a relationship with them, which was knotted firmly and tied together by a mutual feeling of reclaiming spaces around us. It made them feel secure, accepted and safe.
While conducting sessions with these youngsters I could sense their discomfort in the beginning talking about the issue of harassment in their community, which had always been taboo because of the stigma attached to it. Fortunately, this is where art came to our escape. We divided them into teams asking them to draw what they thought sexual harassment was and the areas in which they had observed it. Their drawings depicted a wide range of issues like catcalling, unsafe spaces around the public toilets, abuse within the family and so on.
I remember one girl who stated a simple but an impactful message on her poster- “Be the change you wish to see”. Though a common quote, considering the fact that she had chosen this specific one to depict an issue that had affected her and restricted her, her entire life, was really moving and inspirational to me. It is little things like these that help us remain positive while we struggle to address an issue which is time consuming and requires immense patience.
The same girl also wrote about her thoughts on the injustice against women and girls. I quote a few of the lines –
“In between the development of our nation, what about the development of girls and women?”
“Whenever a girl wants to step out of her house for the sake of work, she is stared at with doubtful and questionable eyes. Why?”
Honestly, whenever I read it, I am reaffirmed in my views about how gender based violence and discrimination affects every girl and woman irrespective of location, values, customs, religion or economic status. No matter who you are or where you live, if you are a woman, you must have faced harassment of some kind; you can relate to it and this is what brings all of us together, beyond boundaries.
In our last session, we decided to take the youngsters’ artistic skills a step ahead and decided to involve them in painting a mural.
A toilet complex in the area nearby was selected as the location for the mural painting. This in itself was a huge step because the same public toilet had been recognised as a popular hotspot during our discussions and drawing workshops.
More than 25 children participated in the activity with everyone excited to be a part of it. They all wished to leave their impact through a stroke of colour. The energy was infectious. When they were asked to continue painting after their lunch they even insisted on skipping lunch because of how much they were enjoying it.
As we began painting, the caretaker of the toilet complex also joined the young ones. An issue like harassment in public spaces, which affects everyone, needs the participation of a unified community to bring about a change. As people started gathering around the toilet watching the mural evolve, it ignited a conversation and discussion around the issue which for a very long time had been ignored, silenced and normalised.
In a region like Bhalswa, filled with houses and a conglomerate of different settings of people, bringing the young ones together and uniting them for a common cause was pleasing to the eyes and satisfying to the heart.
Moreover, it is infectious to see how these young people are so packed with energy and enthusiasm, and if it is channelised in the right direction, I see everything around them being conquered by change.