Public spaces of education: The complicated nexus of shame, agency and resistance

For most of my life, public domains have not felt like a space I had any say or ownership in. They have always made me feel like a fidgety traveller. They were just places that I was existing in, in their liminal corners and not a place where I could express myself fully or that made me feel ‘belonged’ in any capacity. 


When I was in school, I used to check my skirt multiple times before catching the bus. I would adjust it until positioned perfectly so that it covered my knees. I’d check the tightness of my shirt, tucking it out a little bit by bit so that it didn’t hug my growing, puberty-stricken body too visibly. I did all of this because on most days I was fearful — fearful that I’d get caught and be made to stand outside of the line during the morning assembly in a corner — too prominent against the red-bricked walls of the school. It was like losing shreds of my dignity every time that happened and not knowing what I did wrong. On most days, the school wasn’t a place that uplifted me because of how good of a speaker I was or for being on the student council. Those weren’t my identities. My identity on most days was reduced to being less of a dignified woman because of the length of my skirt. They weren’t running a school, but an assembly of shame. This story is relevant here because when you step out of school and into the ‘real’ world, all of your surroundings turn into that school assembly. I can assuredly say that in most public spaces and at most times, a large majority of women (close to all, if not all) can feel a constant stream of holes being burnt into their bodies due to uncomfortable gazes. A gaze that closes up your throat and shrinks your bodily autonomy. A gaze that makes your body shiver with the realization of the scrutiny on you and your criminally bare skin. 


And it’s not a suppression of just our bodily expression, but voices too. These voices belong to women, young and old, married and single, mothers and grandmothers, or just women even without these aforementioned identities. Their voices are muffled down in most public spaces, be it in restaurants when the bill arrives and is given to their fathers, brothers, husbands and male friends; it is stifled in offices, metros, parks and on the road in a car when people (mostly men) talk over women, mansplain and condescend. 


Hence, resistance becomes an everyday act and any place outside your own body is unsafe and uncompromising and sometimes even within it. Resistance becomes something like breathing, an involuntary act that your body gets accustomed to as you learn how to resist gaze and passive oppression. 


I started to resist and negotiate when I found a space, which for the first time wasn’t trying to pull me down and tug at me until I came apart. It did not attempt to disembody me from my identity as a woman. It was a place where I could breathe without having my guard up and feel more empowered than ever because of a collective feeling – a feeling of womanhood, of struggle, of achievement, of destabilization and alas, resistance. This place was a women’s college, which ironically, I did not want to go to in the first place because of questions like — how would I grow in a homogenous atmosphere, how would I learn to survive and fight amidst just women? I don’t know if it is the patriarchal narrative or the society that weaves these notions and made me think those things, but I can say that it was in the company of those unknown, strange, yet strong women that I felt as if I was in the presence of some kind of power. It was like living one of those hypothetical, utopian realities of what the world would be like without men? In one word — it was easy. 


Ironically, even though I never had to resist anything in that space, I did learn how to resist better there on account of the ideas and agency that flowed in the air there. It also made me realize that I fully accepted my gender identity, in fact, I was proud to be a woman and I was happy in my skin. I had never felt more like a woman and a feminist before coming to that college. It was in the absence of having to constantly fight the world outside, reclaim spaces and ask for my rights that I realised what feminism meant to me. It was because of that college that empowered me and allowed me to express myself that I could compare it to the other end of things — the not-so-utopian reality —  and understand better what I and many other women should have on an everyday basis, what kind of a space they deserved in this world. 


As for resisting the oppression that we face every day, the biggest act of resistance sometimes simply becomes showing up and not being bogged down. It resides in those little acts of courage people perform every day when they don’t deter or crumble under a gaze, a harsh voice or any other form of systemic oppression. Resistance also entails the process of unlearning the norms of patriarchy; in unlearning the stereotypes, sexism and bigotry. It is about rejecting ideas like ‘asking for trouble’, honour, dignity and who a good woman is. For me, it is also about unlearning the internalized shame that this system imposes on women and other marginalized communities.

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

16 days of Activism, 2022 at One Future Collective

Started by the Centre for Women’s Leadership in 1991, 16 days of Activism against gender-based violence (GBV) is used as an organizing strategy by individuals and organizations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. 

Each year, One Future Collective participates (OFC) in this campaign under the United Nations 16 days, which begins on November 25 (UN-designated Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) and ends on December 10 (World Human Rights Day).


  • About One Future Collective 

OFC is a feminist social purpose organisation with a vision of a world built on social justice, led by communities of care. We exist to nurture people’s feminist and rights-based leadership and influence their micro-communities and ecosystems to achieve social justice: through an alt school, advocacy lab and feminist justice project. 

Here are the events held by OFC during the 16 days of activism:


  1. Online awareness and knowledge building 


  • Tweet- a- thon on “Trauma-informed support for Survivors of gender-based violence”

OFC conducted a tweet-a-thon on “Trauma-informed support for Survivors of gender-based violence” in partnership with Nyaaya, Breakthrough India, Point of View Mumbai, The Gender Lab, Dream a Dream, and Gender IT. This tech-based interaction invited conversations on what trauma-informed means, and why it is necessary for the context of engaging with survivors of gender-based violence. 


OFC shared a note on the terms survivor, victim, and patient/ client. The terms survivor, victim, patient, and client are used interchangeably to refer to a person who has been subjected to any form of gender-based crime. We understand that their experiences are unique and do not intend to universalise or generalise individual processes in any way. We also understand that using the word “victim” can often take power away from the individual, relegating them to the role of someone who has only suffered. On the other hand, using “survivor” in the early stages after someone has experienced abuse can deprive individuals of their experiences and harm caused with the expectation of being an immediate survivor. Alternatively, “patient or client” is often used more professionally but can be seen as detached and cold.

The tweet-a-thon highlighted multiple ways the need for being trauma-informed in everyday life, specifically with survivors of gender-based violence. 


  • An interactive workshop on Alternative Justice 

An engaging workshop on December 1, from 4 pm to 6 pm IST, was a space for exchanging thoughts, critiques and reflections on exploring Alternative forms of Justice. Discussions began with how the notion of ‘justice’ itself is unique to each individual while navigating the meaning and difference between carceral and abolitionist feminism. The exchange of dialogue paved the way to delve into the essence of restorative and transformative justice and a part of alternative justice. 

The workshop ended with understanding the difference between compensation and reparation, situating various examples in the contemporary and past of India. 

Alternate justice workshop by One Future Collective

The workshop on Exploring Alternative Justice


  • Instagram Live: Discussion on Gender-based Violence in Online spaces 

An Instagram live was hosted on November 27, 7 pm to 8 pm IST with Shabana Praveen from Counsel to Secure Justice and Sohini from TechSakhi, POV Mumbai

The discussion focussed on the intersectionality of GBV on online platforms, including conversations around accountability, cancel culture, freedom of expression and opinion, and current security systems in India. You can access the discussion using this link.


  • Panel discussion: Dissent, Fascism, and GBV

The panel discussion by Raisa Philip (Manager- Programs and Innovation, CREA), Samreen Mushtaq (Ashoka University) and Meghna Prakash focussed on how women and other sexual minorities are seen as a threat to structures that governments go out of their way to stifle dissent, how identities interact with fascism and its effects on a community, and the socio-cultural barriers that exist in India.

17 folks were part of this discussion.

Panel Discussion | Fascism and Dissent by One Future Collective

Panel discussion on Dissent, Fascism, and Gender-based violence


2. Community Spaces 

  • Conversation space for cis-men and boys to discuss GBV

It is essential to include everyone, as a community, when we talk about GBV. Due to their identities, cis-men and boys often may not get this space. On November 30 from 6.30 pm to 7.30 pm IST, Devanik Saha facilitated a conversation space for cis-men and boys addressing GBV with them. 


  • The Colourful Language 

The colourful language was a community space for folks, mainly survivors of GBV,  to come together and use art as a medium of reflection and joy. On November 27, individuals from multiple cities met online to foster this space with a sense of togetherness, community, and care. 

Colourful Language - a space by One Future Collective

The colourful language


  • Dance movement and Music sharing 

On December 10, from 6.30 to 8 pm IST, Vishakha Shivkumar facilitated a space on Dance movement and Music Sharing. The only rule was to dance like no one is watching, and to shake it off! The session ended with folks making a collaborative playlist to listen to and enjoy, and an OFC community member trying and sharing their tunes on a guitar for the first time. 

Dance movement and Music sharing with One Future Collective


  • Exploring Activism through Art and alternative mediums 

The language of activism can have multiple forms including songs, poems, graffiti, and more! On December 2, from 6 pm to 7 pm IST OFC facilitated a community space on navigating art and alternative mediums to activism in today’s world. From reflective tools to studying the history of types of dissent (for instance right from the times when India was under colonial rule to now, poems have been a strong force of activism), the space welcomed discussions and encouraged sharing different platforms where folks have come across activism. This included Hannah Gadsby’s “Nannette” to Faiz’s “Hum dekhege”. 


3. Launching OFC’s resources 

OFC is delighted to have launched the following resources during the 16 days of Activism


  • Gendered Household and Care Work in Urban India 

OFC launched the study on Gendered Household and Care Work in Urban India on December 10. Historically, the division of labour for household chores and care work has been gendered, where women have to contribute significant time towards this activity. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has shown a significant hike in the amount of time spent on household work. OFC conducted a study examining the incidence and impact of gendered differences in time spent on unpaid care work before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically between 25th March – 31st May 2020, in India.


Our key findings indicate that women performed significantly more unpaid care work both before and during the pandemic. We also identified ways in which tasks were gendered through the assignment of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ values. 

You can access the study here: Gendered Household and Care Work in Urban India Study | One Future Collective


  • Conversation Cards on Domestic Violence

OFC believes in the power of conversations as a driver for social change. To this day, domestic violence is a topic that is not openly discussed.

In light of this, we hope that these cards can serve as anchors for you to initiate conversations in your communities, for addressing domestic violence and ideate on building trauma-informed pathways to support survivors.

Such conversations can become the beginning of change and inform the actions of individuals, communities, and over time, systems.

You can sign up for free and access the conversation cards here: Get a Digital Copy of Domestic Violence Conversation Cards [One Future Collective]


  • Relaunch: A self-paced course on Economic Violence as Gender-Based Violence

OFC re-launched the self-paced course on Economic Violence as Gender Based Violence on November 5. This online course explores

  1. How economic violence can manifest as a form of gender-based violence, 
  2. The legal framework surrounding economic violence;
  3. The relationship between economic violence and mental health;
  4. The role of larger systems of oppression in fostering economic violence.

33 participants are part of this course. 


We also launched the Social Justice Zine “Where do we go from here”s first edition on “The Culture of obedience”. You can access it here: Get a Digital Copy of Where Do We Go From Here Zine – An Interactive Magazine [One Future Collective]


  • Zine Edition 1: The culture of Obedience 

Often as we grow up with multiple agencies of socialization, we may internalize discipline and obedience, on an individual and socio-cultural level.

The zine unpacks how obedience is defined, rewarded, and what it looks like as an experience. You’ll find community insights into various institutions including schools, media and religion.

The zine ends with a reflective and interactive toolkit. 

It can be accessed by filling out this form: 

This zine is a part of the “Where do we go from here” series, a community-driven space- stringing together pieces of our stories, everything from the rugged edges to the softest centres.

This resource is curated by Shefali Gupta & Vandita Rungta


4. Peer Support Program 

OFC launched its pilot Peer Support Program on December 9, which will go on till January 6. 

Taking cognizance of the stigma and socio-cultural barriers to seeking mental health support in the country, most people may feel more comfortable talking to a familiar peer than a professional stranger. Since providing peer support emphasizes treating everyone as an equal, it reduces the chances of having a power dynamic between the sharer and the listener. Thus, it does not limit an individual’s mental health to their personal responsibility; it finds value in relations as a way to bring about transformations. It views the sharer-listener relation as a partnership that inspires learning and growth. 

More details can be found here: Peer Support Progam | OFC 


The cohort of the Pilot Peer Support Program


5. In-person sessions 

OFC held a workshop followed by a sharing circle on Invisible forms of GBV at K.C. College, Mumbai. Additionally, we facilitated a session on Gender sensitization for the crew members of Tiger Baby Films. 

Workshop and Sharing Space for students of Gender Issues Cell, KC College on ‘Invisible forms of gender-based violence’

Workshop and Sharing Space for students of Gender Issues Cell, KC College on ‘Invisible forms of gender-based violence’


We turned 5 this year! You can read our impact report here: OFC turns 5! 2017 to 2022

Meanwhile, we have some enriching Cohort Based Courses scheduled for the coming year, you can read more about them here: Curriculum Outline | CBLP | One Future Collective – Google Docs




Stay engaged with us! Follow us on:

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