Last week, I enjoyed having some beautiful conversations about Caster Semenya and Malala Yousufzai with seventh graders at Ecole Mondiale World School in Mumbai. These were part of a workshop I was invited to facilitate.
The topic assigned was gender bias and women’s empowerment, and I had a lot of fun designing the session. We began with a game that got the students to think about how gender stereotypes limit life choices, creative expression and material opportunities.
A large part of our time together was devoted to talking about consent, access to public space, male entitlement, and the prison of gender roles. These concepts were not addressed in an abstract fashion but in relation to real-life cases of acid attacks, restrictions on women living in campus hostels, body shaming faced by people of all genders, and the indignity experienced by queer people.
Empowerment can have various meanings. I wanted to focus on community initiatives that invite people’s participation, so I introduced the students to the work of Girls at Dhabas and Pinjra Tod: Break the Hostel Locks.
We concluded the workshop with stories about a knitting group that includes people of all genders, two gay men who chose to have a baby through surrogacy, and a lesbian woman who decided to separate from her husband and embrace her sexuality.
It was a mature, thoughtful and compassionate group of students. I loved the experience of working with them.