Skip to main content

Empowering rural Gujarat girls: Themes - body, autonomy, expression, choice, desire

By Sanjay Dave 

'Mari Patang Mari Dheel’ was a transformative initiative to empower girls from Patadi and Mahisagar districts of Gujarat – centred around the themes of body, autonomy, expression, choice and desire intersected with their participation in the digital world. The initiative aimed at creating a celebratory spirit by engaging and inspiring young girls through experiential activities and perspective-building sessions. The goal was to create a safe and supportive environment where girls could explore their identities, gain a sense of agency, and develop a deeper understanding of critical issues related to their well-being and rights.
The three days of the event 19th – 21st December 2023 brought the girls together to participate in a variety of interesting sessions at Neembadi Learning Pathways, Sanand taluka, Ahmedabad district, Gujarat.

Theme: Expressing the Self: Choices and Desires

Session: Why Our Choice Matters? Expression Of Gender

The idea of choice was introduced by asking girls to introduce themselves through a unique movement and sound. It helped them dwell on important questions such as: Do we know ourselves? What do we like and dislike about ourselves? The session helped them understand that choice is a definitive aspect of our interaction with people, relationships, aspirations. Exercising choice in spaces of interaction like markets, play grounds or even a family kitchen is essential. However, the understanding of choice underlies the idea of safety that no longer remains the same for each girl. Here, the dynamics of the space the girls engage with, and their choice to engage with determines the idea of desire and safety. Hence, imagining how we want to shape these spaces is an essential quality of active choice making.

Session: Women’s Health: Burnout, Wellbeing and Care

The session began with the idea of self? What does it mean to be a girl? The responses highlighted that the girls learnt about their gender through restrictions and abuse arising from societal norms and rules such as restrictions on clothing, care and house work as primary duty, schooling, forced marriage, girl child is often considered a curse, girls should not go out at night, etc. were shared by the girls. A reflection about how girls feel about their situation revealed extreme emotions of anger, frustration, feeling like running away, sadness etc.

Session: Sexual Violence in Public Spaces

Harassment (mainly sexual) is a rampant issue faced by girls. In cities there is some focus however in rural public spaces the harassment faced by girls is a silent pandemic that the burden of which girls and women suffer in silence. At a session on public space sexual violence attended by about 52 girls, 100 percent admitted to facing sexual harassment. Most maintained a strategic silence, as they fear being blamed or stopped from going out if they were to inform families. Very few took help from parents, teachers, or aunt. Very few confronted the abuser as either were scared or wanted to avoid a was heartening to note that in cases where girls confronted the harasser they not only could shame and scare the harasser but also felt stronger and more confident after that.

Session: Personal History, Trauma, Desire

As part of this session, the girls build a story of an abandoned house that has gone through a traumatic event. The story involved a response to 3 questions; a) who lived there? b) what was the traumatic event? c) Where did the residents go after facing the traumatic events? The stories pointed towards the diversity of interpretations and experiences of trauma that the girls are exposed to. The girls had first-hand experience of the kind of shame, guilt and humiliation that families go through when their girls elope with a loved one. They also articulated how families become extremely vulnerable post a medical crisis and a consequent financial crisis because of which they are forced to sell all their resources and leave their home in search of new prospects in life.

Theme: Body and Autonomy

Session: Consent and abuse

The session essentially attempted to enfold conversations around sex, intimacy and consent, and how the lack of it transcends into different kinds of violence faced on an everyday basis, across institutions like family, marriage and health. While the topic of intimacy, love, and desire brought giggles in the faces of the 27 young girls as they acknowledge them as need, drawing boundaries and navigating the greyness in romantic relationships to understand the fine line between projected love and abuse became essential. Here, the girls were able to locate where lies the power, and how does the powerless (in this case being them) suffer, that is, giving into the excuses of partner to indulge in sex for the fear of violence, breakup and/or exclusion.
Almost all the girls were glad to have a space to talk about the 'hush-hush' topics that they seldom get to share with even their own friends.

Session: Digital media Safety and Security: Why phones are important, why we resist giving phones to girls and how that impacts them

The norms and rules that govern the real life of the girls are extended to the reel life as they take new forms, such as, the restrictions from accessing social media, criteria for having a certain display picture on WhatsApp to sharing of passwords with family members as an act of surveillance in the name of trust. The mapping of these norms became a segway to understanding the technical aspects in protecting ourselves and maintaining our privacy became a central learning for the girls.
While not all of them have access to personal smart phones, they have enough experience from their environment to understand the precautions of engaging in the internet web. However, it is not mere precautionary measure but also their entitlement to access this knowledge pool.



देशव्यापी ग्रामीण भारत बंध में उतरे मध्य प्रदेश के आदिवासी, किया केंद्र सरकार का विरोध

- हरसिंग जमरे, भिखला सोलंकी, रतन अलावे*  15 और 16 फरवरी को निमाड के बड़वानी, खरगोन और बुरहानपुर में जागृत आदिवासी दलित संगठन के नेतृत्व में आदिवासी महिला-पुरुषों ग्रामीण भारत बंद में रैली एवं विरोध प्रदर्शन किया । प्रधान मंत्री द्वारा 2014 में फसलों की लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव देने का वादा किया गया था, 2016 में किसानों की आय दुगना करने का वादा किया गया था । आज, फसलों का दाम नहीं बढ़ रहा है, लेकिन खेती में खर्च बढ़ता जा रहा है! खाद, बीज और दवाइयों का दाम, तीन-चार गुना बढ़ चुका है! किसानों को लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव देने के बजाए, खेती को कंपनियों के हवाले करने के लिए 3 काले कृषि कानून लाए गए । 3 काले कानून वापस लेते समय प्रधान मंत्री ने फिर वादा किया था कि फसलों की लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव की कानूनी गारंटी के लिए कानून बनाएँगे, लेकिन वो भी झूठ निकला! आज जब देश के किसान दिल्ली में आपको अपना वादा याद दिलाने आए है, तब आप उनका रास्ता रोक रहें है, उनके साथ मारपीट कर उन पर आँसू गैस फेंक रहें हैं, उन पर छर्रों से फायरिंग कर रहें है! देश को खिलाने वाला किसान खुद भूखा रहे, क्या यही विकास है?

Only 15% businesses provide employees real-time sustainability dashboards: Study

Kyndryl in collaboration with Microsoft has released the findings of The Global Sustainability Barometer study. The study, conducted by Ecosystm, finds that while 85% of organizations place a high strategic level of importance on achieving their sustainability goals, only 16% have integrated sustainability into their strategies and data. A Kyndryl note: *** Kyndryl (NYSE: KD), the world’s largest IT infrastructure services provider, in collaboration with Microsoft , today released the findings of The Global Sustainability Barometer study. The study, conducted by Ecosystm , finds that while 85% of organizations place a high strategic level of importance on achieving their sustainability goals, only 16% have integrated sustainability into their strategies and data.

How the slogan Jai Bhim gained momentum as movement of popularity and revolution

By Dr Kapilendra Das*  India is an incomprehensible plural country loaded with diversities of religions, castes, cultures, languages, dialects, tribes, societies, costumes, etc. The Indians have good manners/etiquette (decent social conduct, gesture, courtesy, politeness) that build healthy relationships and take them ahead to life. In many parts of India, in many situations, and on formal occasions, it is common for people of India to express and exchange respect, greetings, and salutation for which we people usually use words and phrases like- Namaskar, Namaste, Pranam, Ram Ram, Jai Ram ji, Jai Sriram, Good morning, shubha sakal, Radhe Radhe, Jai Bajarangabali, Jai Gopal, Jai Jai, Supravat, Good night, Shuvaratri, Jai Bhole, Salaam walekam, Walekam salaam, Radhaswami, Namo Buddhaya, Jai Bhim, Hello, and so on.

Violent incidents in Haldwani: CPDRS on dubious role of Uttarakhand government

By DN Rath  Center for Democratic Rights and Secularism (CPDRS) unequivocally condemns the dubious role of Uttarakhand Government and its administration in the incidents that happened in Haldwani of Nanital district of the state.

Tamil Nadu brahmins are at cross roads, their future scenario remains uncertain

By NS Venkataraman*  For over 70 years now, brahmin community in Tamil Nadu have been abused, insulted and even physically attacked on some occasions by those who claimed that they were part of the so called dravidian movement. However, brahmin community silently and helplessly ducked under pressure and showed no signs of resistance or fight back.

Ethiopian ruling classes, political masters in West have their hands soaked in blood

By Harsh Thakor  Over two hundred were killed in recent weeks in Ethiopia’s Oromia and Amhara region. After peace-talks between the Oromo Liberation Army and the Ethiopian government did not materialise tensions are escalating in the Oromia region. Earlier, on November 22, least 25 civilians were massacred in a government aerial drone strike, in Chawaka districts of the Buno Bedelle zone. This incident took place only two days after a fierce battle arose between the OLA and governmental troops in the Sulula Fincha district of the Horro Guduru Wollega zone.

Soviet army crossed rarely transcended barriers in Leningrad to overpower Nazis

By Harsh Thakor  St Petersburg -- previously Leningrad -- has been commemorating the 80th anniversary of its complete liberation from the Nazis and the conclusion of one of the most brutal sieges in history. 80 years ago, a spectacular turn of events in Leningrad played major role in shaping the destiny or determining the path of the Great Patriotic War.

Regretful: Kapil Dev retired not leaving Indian cricket with integrity he upheld

By Harsh Thakor  Kapil Dev scaled heights as an entertainer and a player upholding the spirit of the game almost unparalleled in his era. In his time he was cricket’s ultimate mascot of sportsmanship On his day Kapil could dazzle in all departments to turn the tempo of game in the manner of a Tsunami breaking in. He radiated r energy, at a level rarely scaled in his era on a cricket field. Few ever blended aggression with artistry so comprehenisively. Although fast medium, he could be as daunting with the ball as the very best, with his crafty outswinger, offcutter, slower ball and ball that kicked from a good length. Inspite of bowling on docile tracks on the subcontinent, Kapil had 434 scalps, with virtually no assistance. I can never forget how he obtained pace and movement on flat pancakes, trapping the great Vivian Richards in Front or getting Geoff Boycott or Zaheer Abbas caught behind. No paceman carried the workload of his team’s bowling attack on his shoulders in his eras muc

Landlords' armed bandits launched merciless attack in Brazil but face resistance

By Harsh Thakor  Armed bandits called the “zero invasion movement” comprising of landowners, gunmen and police marched into   Bahia with support from the PM [Military Police]. On January 21st, indigenous Maria de Fátima Muniz, known as Nega Pataxó, shaman of the Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe people, was shot dead in the Caramuru Catarina Paraguassu Indigenous Land and chief Nailton Muniz was seriously injured by gunshots, as were others indigenous people during an attack by the notorious  paramilitary group.

Landslide early warning system: Odisha Govt, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham collaborate

By Divya Saini  In a strategic move to mitigate the impact of landslides during storms, the Odisha government in collaboration with Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham is gearing up to establish a user-friendly Landslide Early Warning System (EWS) in Gajapati district. This initiative aims to provide advanced information, especially regarding landslides caused by disturbances in the natural stability of a slope.