Gender Justice in the Pandemic

1

On 22nd  February 2022, One Future Collective hosted an IG Live on the theme of ‘Gender Justice in the Pandemic’ hosted by Advocate Sonali Shelar. She was joined by Kashina, assistant director at Prerana who heads the Anti-Trafficking Interventions; Kanksshi who is the founder of NETRI foundation; and Ayushi who is the co-founder of The Gender Lab. The conversation provides unique insights into how different on-ground activists and workers who deal with the issue of gender closely faced the challenge of the pandemic. 

 

The conversation started with a critical look at the economy of India and how it has one of the worst gender gaps in economic participation and opportunity according to a study by the World Economic Forum. To that, Kanksshi added that women’s participation in the economic and political sphere has always been low in India. She also pointed out how most quantitative studies miss the perspective of counting per capita income and do not account for women’s work that is not in the organized, formal sector. She raised questions about how India could have the aspirational idea of becoming a $5 trillion economy when 50% of its population is not considered to be working. She also added that most of these statistical measures and data did not account for irregular or seasonal work or work which was disrupted due to maternal or health factors. 

 

Ayushi added that during the pandemic, the distinction between men and women became more pronounced regarding who goes to work and who stays at home. Women had to engage in increased unpaid care work during this time. Even outside their homes, they had to work as ASHA workers in a gendered role. She mentioned that there is a need to incentivize women to work rather than simply creating jobs – the entire mindset surrounding women and work had to be changed.  

 

Kashina, speaking from her own experience at Prerna, spoke of the number of families in Maharashtra who lost a male member due to Covid-19. As a result, the women of the families were forced to enter the job market and were desperate enough to join any job to sustain their families. Thus, they required upskilling and adequate training to become employable rather than relying on the monthly assistance scheme by the government. She mentioned how the process for procuring the financial assistance was long-drawn and not sustainable in the long run. 

 

The conversation then turned to how women’s participation in governance processes (such as in the Panchayat) can create a difference in their lives. Ayushi spoke about how the community or the school should create a space for adolescent girls to allow them to place their opinion to bring change. Providing these girls with a platform and allowing them to exercise leadership can counter harmful patriarchal narratives about how their voices don’t matter. Kanksshi added on to that citing a study where communities with women-led MLAs had a better administrative experience. She spoke of women MLAs from Bihar and Telangana who had a strong system to help the people from their constituency during the pandemic. These MLAs physically ensured that rations were sent out and that the ration kits also had sanitary napkins in them – a necessity that is often forgotten. 

 

The next topic of the conversation was the effect of the pandemic on young girls’ and women’s lives in the context of human trafficking. Kashina spoke of how human trafficking for sexual exploitation is a disguised action with intergenerational support. During the pandemic, the families living in margins became even more vulnerable and the number of child marriages increased. The children who were rehabilitated became vulnerable again and there was also a stark lack of data. 

 

Then, the conversation turned to how The Gender Lab has been coming up with creative solutions to help young girls even as the schools were shut. Ayushi emphasized that listening to the invisible voices was important for figuring out the solution. Many of the young girls had mental health concerns, fear of child marriage, and abuse or violence. A lot of girls also left school to attend unpaid care work at home as they were also worried about the financial situation of their household. Ayushi mentioned how The Gender Lab focused on preventive work rather than immediate response work. They created a workbook for the girls named ‘My Safe Space’ through which they could feel that they are cared for and should not accept reality as it is. Kanksshi stressed that policy-makers must hear the voices of young girls too to make a more inclusive policy that benefits them. 

 

The conversation ended with a short discussion on the ongoing judgments about marital rape and the participants hoped that the One-Stop Centre scheme would become powerful enough to help women quickly. They also stressed the importance of increasing awareness about laws, policies, and programs, especially among marginalized women.

Mapping and negotiating power

Uncuff India Episode 10: Dimensions of conflict and peace: visioning a utopian world

Uncuff India Episode 9: Civic space and dissent: A pathway to social justice

Education for First Generation Learners with Eklavya

On 20th February 2022, One Future Collective hosted an IG live on the theme “Education for First Generation Learners with Eklavya.” Deepa, a Development Professional with a clinical counselling diploma from TISS, acted as the Moderator and was joined by Raju Kendre, Founder & CEO of Eklavya India Movement, Komal, a First-generation learner & Master’s student at Azim Premji University, and  Smita, a SBI Youth for India Fellow & Deputy Head at Village Council.

 

The conversation covered first-generation learners’ experiences, feelings, and journeys in India. In addition to that, the session also aimed to understand the state of implementation of current educational policies and changes that were necessary to uplift marginalized communities.

 

The conversation started with all three speakers’ sharing their journeys to pursue higher education and the challenges they faced as they were the first to pursue higher education within their communities. Komal admits to the immense impact Eklavya has had on her educational aspirations as she received guidance on how to fill up forms and apply for scholarships to overcome financial restraints. She shared how all her classmates from school were currently married and managing an entire household with children at a young age. She spoke of a lack of awareness and the quality of education in her village, which was quite dismal. 

 

Smita recounted how she used to walk home from her hostel for 5 km as there was (and still is) no bus route to her village. Despite the language barrier, a lack of confidence, and financial constraints, She enrolled in a BSW degree. She worked part-time to support herself. During her graduation, she learned about Eklavya, where she got exposed to diverse courses to choose from to continue her education. 

 

Eklavya, as a not-for-profit organization, aims to contribute to Phule and Ambedkar’s movement of democratizing education. Raju talked about how the number of people from rural and marginalized communities in the development sector were relatively minor. Most of the organizations consist of people from metropolitan cities instead of including people with lived experiences of social problems. He said, “Eklavya worked to fill the gap by conducting residential, 1-day workshops and orientations for students from tribal communities”. Raju further spoke of how nobody guided him about the opportunities that students can avail, so he wants to inspire other students and help them become educational development leaders. 

 

They discussed the available data by the All India Survey of Higher Education of an increase of 1,350 per cent in enrollment of students and if that was an accurate representation of the ground reality. They said that the data was quite incomplete and it was important to check what kinds of institutes it included in its ambit. Komal showed skepticism about the data and discussed how her lived experiences were in stark contrast to these numbers. She mentioned that while there are schemes like ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ or ‘Balika Samriddhi Yojana’ on paper, the students from marginalized communities are mostly unaware of these. Raju remarked how the tribal belt that he comes from has no college within a distance of 200 km. According to Raju, there is massive inequality in higher education as private institutes rarely have students from marginalized backgrounds. 

 

As the deputy sarpanch of her village, Smita spoke of her plans to increase literacy and higher education. She mentioned how she used her powers to add a sports institute and fix a regular bus timing in the village to travel safely. 

 

They further discussed the impact of Covid-19 on Eklavya’s programs and how the digital medium was inaccessible to most students. Due to the closing of schools, most SC/ST students lost out on education and socio-emotional learning, and peer bonding. Raju spoke of how Eklavya tried to create workshops on blended mode and adapt to the situation.

 

All the speakers agreed that the system does not enable students from marginalized communities to pursue higher education but holds them back actively. Smita mentioned how the current schemes must be implemented properly and improve the existing infrastructure. Raju spoke of how there needs to be a change in societal views as Eklavya often had to intervene and talk to the parents of young girl students. He talked about the need to decentralize central schools and universities and encourage interdisciplinary courses. Smita agreed that most students do not have the social or financial capital to even dream of studying in private institutes like Amity or Ashoka university. 

 

Closing the discussion, Komal discussed the kind of changes that could be made to bridge the higher education gap. She spoke of the need for developing soft skills like public speaking, communication, and creative writing, so they could aspire for and pursue higher education. She concluded by discussing how education is for all, and there needs to be more awareness-raising and capacity-building for students.

Link to the video: https://www.instagram.com/p/CaNFxnKrm74/

Mapping and negotiating power

Uncuff India Episode 10: Dimensions of conflict and peace: visioning a utopian world

Uncuff India Episode 9: Civic space and dissent: A pathway to social justice

The Hijab, Muslim Women’s Freedom and Leading for Change

1

On 17th February 2022, One Future Collective hosted a live on the theme “The Hijab, Muslim Women’s Freedom and Leading for Change”, where Karishma Shafi, Senior Program Officer at One Future Collective acted as the Moderator and was joined by Shaziya Shaikh, communications professional, a writer, and a creative facilitator and Fatima Juned, Research Associate at a policy think tank based in Delhi. The conversation navigated through the everyday experiences of people with intersectional identities through the lens of Muslim womxn. Especially what happens to the everydayness of marginalization in the face of extraordinary violence. 

 

Karishma started the conversation by talking about how we view minorities through pigeon holes, where each identity has a separate hole. Being a woman and being Muslim are viewed separately, instead of looking at their overlap in life. They set the tone of the conversation to focus on the intersectionality of these identities. Shaziya points out how intersectionality appears in layers in her daily life, as more layers keep adding, it becomes more restrictive. There’s a layer of being a woman, another of being a Muslim woman, and then another of being a queer Muslim woman. 

 

The conversation delved into how Muslims are perennially aware of their appearance in public- a decision on how ‘Muslim’ they want to look in public is made every day, now more than ever. The Hijab row has come to affect the entire community – an act of extremism under the guise of protection. Structural violence creates unequal spaces within the community. Karishma says, ‘I fear presenting this identity because my words will be challenged.’

 

The panellists discussed how targeting Muslims is no new event in this current regime – The hijab row is one among many but with grave repercussions. For those working in the development sector, it is going to become harder convincing Muslim women of their basic rights. The sights publicized from the last few weeks will have an indelible impact. A Muslim girl stopped from entering an educational institution will make others correlate hijab with denial and violence.  

 

They point out the importance of showing solidarity for those who exist in able spaces and for Muslims to celebrate their identity and whatever form it takes. On some days it’s basking in Muslim joy and on others, it’s collecting petitions and wearing your hijab proudly.

 

The Idea of the hijab, they discuss, may have patriarchal roots but ideally must be a choice one makes as an adult, that the hijab has numerous cultural embeddings.

 

They highlight the importance of knowing your constitutional right. Education is one way to bridge that gap. As are more conversations around the current intolerance and countering it. ‘If we don’t counter out of fear, then it will keep happening. They will feel whatever they say is correct’, says Fatima.

 

The panels agree that the most effective way to combat hate and othering is to include more people and what their experiences are in their day to day life. Forming safe communities is monumental- not just a Muslim community but with others. This way the focus is not primarily on differences.

 

Instagram link: https://www.instagram.com/p/CaFXNw8PIqI/

Mapping and negotiating power

Uncuff India Episode 10: Dimensions of conflict and peace: visioning a utopian world

Uncuff India Episode 9: Civic space and dissent: A pathway to social justice