Peace through Education- How WISCOMP is attempting to change the dialogue around gendered violence

Manmeet Kaur
Posted March 29, 2017 from India

1) I was shivering in broad daylight, standing in the alley next to school. I was franctically waving at my friend, hoping she would walk with me just a little further. I needed her company to make me feel safe. No one came to me to whisper

“Be brave, you’re a big girl.”

I instinctively knew there was nothing to be afraid of, but I was alone in convincing myself. I had no help, no ladder to bravery... only because I was a girl....

2) Just when Rahul was leaving the house, I wished to hug him like Mumma hugged me sometimes. I wanted to cry for a while and tell him how much I will miss him. It broke my heart to see him leave with the bat both of us had shared for five years. I felt a hand wiping the tears off my cheeks.

“Look at you, crying like a girl! Man up, little thing!”

I couldn’t bring myself to answer. I went and kicked the ball instead. It was my first forceful kick ever. I never understood how my tears transformed into this violent energy....

3) I knew there was a hand inside her skirt. She was too stunned to respond. Her face convulsed with every jerk of the bus. She pressed her hands against the back of the seat in front of her and thrust herself away from it. She was safe. She looked at the perpetrator, her eyes were telling. She stepped towards him and slapped his cheek. He moved forward, but she was out of the bus.

We had all seen it. We stood still. We did not laugh. We were not so insensitive....

4) That girl wore a turban to the office.

“Isn’t that a boy- thing? Do they force you to wear this?”

“Doesn’t that make you sweat?”

“I wonder how you pull that thing off with all the work in this crappy office. Must give you a headache.”

I wonder why she never told them. I wonder why she just smiled. She was probably sick of the questions.

I wonder why I never told them...

I wonder why they even asked? Why? Why are we so bent upon fitting people into liitle boxes which they cannot escape, which we cannot enter? Why is our curiosity so misguided?

Let’s take a minute to reflect on each of the above situations. What’s wrong? What failed? How did we manage to create a community of clueless individuals, struggling to break free of the barriers they created for themselves? Or worse, the ones who spend their entire lives closeted by an existence which stifles their natural potential, without ever realising how choked they really are. Are we living in a society which simply doesn’t know how happy it can be? Have binaries managed to crush every hope of harmony?

As a young feminist committed to engage with the the country’s education system to bring about gender- neutral and peace oriented modes of learning, effective ways of reaching out to children to achieve such an end have always been a precious resource for me. One such resource which I recently encountered at a Delhi event, is WISCOMP’s training package for the young minds. As an organisation working at the junctures of peace, gender, and education; the training material developed by WISCOMP comes as a fitting response to the lacunae in our curriculums and materials of engagement. Consisting of numerous pragmatic tools aimed to put both the teacher and the students at ease with the subject at hand, the package is a reservoir of targeted and impactful modules. Launched at the Saahas Awards ceremony hosted by WISCOMP at IIC, Delhi on 16th March 2017, the toolkit consists of multiple components:

  • En-gendering Education: A WISCOMP Handbook of training modules designed to build the capacities of teenagers and young adults to counter GBV. It is a learning-cum-doing resource, which school and college educators as well as facilitators and practitioners can use, to initiate workshops with participants in the 14-to-30 age-group. It offers over 100 hours of training and engagement on a diverse range of issues such as gender socialization and violence, masculinity and femininity, female foeticide, child sexual abuse, sexual harassment in public spaces, the role of popular culture in advancing gender equality, and others
  • Resisting Violence: An Annotated Bibliography of reports, manuals, and action response guides to end violence against women in India.
  • Re-Imaging Frames of Empowerment: A Multimedia Presentation on the changes in visual media messages following the rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi in December 2012. This includes advertisements and public service announcements which appeared on television and social media from 2013 to 2016.
  • When Women Write… (in words and pictures): A digitized mobile exhibition-in-a-bag on an intersectional understanding of the diversity of women‟s experiences and the contexts in which they unfold. This may be used for advocacy and educational projects.
  • Saahas ke Chaar Adhyay: A film on life, struggle and ultimate triumph of four outstanding individuals from diverse backgrounds and different parts of India who braved great odds to counter gender-based violence.

(Source: WISCOMP handbook)

An infant’s smile to a total stranger is enough evidence to prove the innate kindness all human beings are born with. WISCOMP’s training package is an attempt towards reviving this intuitive sense of compassion, inclusivity, and self realisation which we all possess. With its targeted and experiential approach, the package aims to nurture young minds in order to help them discover their version of themselves. It aims to start a thoughtful dialogue on gender, sexuality, consent, violence, and intersectionalities in order to facilitate a holistic understanding of these issues for a peaceful and inclusive social structure.

The package aims to help trainers and institutions to engage young people in a gender sensitive dialogue and help them re-assess the role of gender and gender roles in their own lives through interactive activities and modules. The activities in the toolkit, the videos in the multimedia toolkit, the frames of the exhibition - all seek to usher a spirit of questioning. They urge the participants to reflect on social norms, beliefs, behaviours, attitudes, approaches & responses and their relationship to gender-based violence. The package empowers young people to become effective agents of change and begin the process of change with themselves.

The girl in the alley should not be scared. It’s her school, her space, her day, her night, too.

The boy should be able to weep at his friend’s departure. He should not be forced to resort to violent means to release the emotional energy.

No one should be violating anybody’s body, or space. Even if that happens, bystanders should not be passive. It’s our collective humanity, and it is at stake.

The girl in the turban should not have to answer all those questions. Her difference should be acknowledged, respected, and ignored if so be her comfort.

Our society has clearly moved away from these ideals. WISCOMP’s training package is a small effort towards changing this sad reality.

If you wish to procure the curriculum package or know more about it, please get in touch with the WISCOMP Team at wiscomp2006@gmail.com.

How to Get Involved

If you wish to procure the curriculum package or know more about it, please get in touch with the WISCOMP Team at wiscomp2006@gmail.com.

This story was submitted in response to Hopeful Moments.

Comments 1

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Tamarack Verrall
Mar 29, 2017
Mar 29, 2017

Dear manumit,

What a tremendous resource WISCOMP has made available. You have brought it even more life with your thoughtful, thought provoking set of stories, leading us through to deeper thinking on similar situations and your call for us all to step forward to intervene when we are witness to cruel treatment. It is so encouraging to know about the work being done through WISCOMP.

In sisterhood,

Tam