On the 1st of February, Safecity was invited by MAVIM to conduct a workshop on gender and sexual violence with 19 women at Dharavi.
This workshop was done as a part of a training of women in the community to build a self help group. Before this workshop, they had opened up Bank accounts in their names, and planned to take up, as different groups, a skill based job.
It was a short workshop lasting just over an hour, however the conversations continued long after it was over. We discussed the social construct of gender through an activity where descriptive words are given to the participants and they must associate them either with male or female. This is used to point out how many of these associations are constructed by society, and many of them do not have a basis in reality. Such as for the word “leader”, even though most participants associated it with men, many pointed out how women can also be leaders.
From this the discussion moved to how these distinctions lead to various forms of gender discrimination. The participants shared many experiences from their youth, mostly focusing on the restrictions girls face in the home.
The discussion also included how gender oppression works, and why power is used to control women. This included forms of violence- not only obvious forms of physical violence, but also emotional and everyday forms of violence.
We also spoke about how oppression is not limited to gender alone but also can work through caste, religion, class and so on. The discussion became serious as we discussed how identities can either give you power or make you powerless.
From not knowing what gender was, by the end of the workshop the participants had a good understanding of how structures of power work in their everyday lives. Given that these women are on the threshold of building a strong economic life for themselves, one hopes that this workshop helps them break down the oppressive structures in their lives- bit by bit.