Two-way learning on gender violence

Two-way learning on gender violence

Education initiative

In a small classroom in St Marks School in Harsh Vihar, a social initiative conference is conducted. This school is near Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border, between the Mandoli Central Jail and Saboli gaddha. Delhi auto rickshaws cannot enter Harsh Vihar, only UP ones can. Around 40 people (mostly from age grup 15 to 30), gather in the classroom to discuss a new campaign called ‘School of Life’.

The populace consists of professors, students, abuse survivors and young people from slum clusters nearby.

“We are here to learn about life and how to cope up with abuse. There is nothing academic in this course,” says Krishna Menon, associate professor, department of political science at Lady Shri Ram College for Women.

‘School of Life’ had started with another name, ‘Women and Law’, in Miranda House in 2013., where the same people came to study gender violence. The concept is trying to bridge the gap between formal academic institutions and communities living in highly congested and underserved settlements in Delhi.

There is a specific module designed for the course which is spread over eight days. An adequately sized mobile tent has been designed to represent learning space. “Children will be sharing their experience of violence and will learn from mentors coming from specialised domains and “they will also mentor us sometimes,” says Bijaylaxmi Nanda, brainchild of this initiative.

The module claims to be based on a collaborative two-way learning. “We (urban women) also face abuse at home and otherwise, but the way we see it and the way they do is different. We have seen that their coping mechanism is stronger, we can learn a lot from them,” she adds. Nanda specialises in Political Theory and Gender studies.

The campaign tent plans to resettle itself every few months. The Harsh Vihar area is not particularly downtrodden but backward so to say, people who live here are not close to what most English speaking, school-going Delhiites will relate to. And, ‘School of life’ aims to unite the two class of people through a short ‘crash course’ on gender. Some of these children are lucky as they are still continuing with their regular school and have taken this as an add-on course. But most of them realise the significance of taking such a course, as they are intertwined in its cause and its effect.

Pooja Kharvar emphasises on the fear she felt when she saw her friend getting beaten by her father, when he came to know that she wants to attend this course. “My friend could not come today even when she wanted to, her father started beating her when he came to know it is because of this course,” says 15-year-old Kharvar.

She says that she hasn’t seen domestic violence in her own house, but in her close relatives’ homes frequently.

“I can't do anything about this alone, I have to gather more people when I see an act violence,” she says.

Sonu, another participants,  says that people  from the community would often come to his home to inform him about this course ongoing at Miranda House. “I think this course is important because before this I didn’t know what is gender violence. If my father would beat my mother, I did not know it is abuse. Even if I am coming here now, I don’t think I can still do anything about abuse in my house,” he says.

But the 16-year-old wants to know everything about gender inequality. He comes from Saboli gaddha, which is literally a large pit where people live. Whenever it rains the place gets half submerged in water. Sonu says that he always wanted to do something about it. This initiative may help him to voice his opinion against other odds too.

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