Friday, 14 March 2014

Reality Gives Events - “a woman has so many things in her heart, but does she ever get to share it?”

This previous Saturday people across the world came together to mark International Women’s Day and here in Dharavi it was no different.

At the Community Centre our Youth Empowerment Program students presented speeches, posters and plays about influential women (ranging from hockey players to astronauts and politicians), on the football field the Dharavi Girls Football Program got together to send a message out to the world and the Reception Centre hosted an exhibition of photographs taken by five women from Dharavi, whom were unequivocally, the stars of the day.

Can you work out what the Girls Football Team is spelling out? Keep in mind the acronym of the day and kindly forgive Marketing and Fundraising Director, Joe, for not climbing a higher wall to get the picture!

These five women, Amrita, Anuradha, Kaveri, Nirmala and Shobha, are graduates of ‘Ladies Only – Stories For All’, a five week photography workshop by Dharavi Art Room which is a collaboration between Reality Gives and Bombay Underground. This workshop was conceived when on a field trip one of the young students told Bombay Underground social worker, Aqui Thami “my mummy never leaves the home”. From this offhand statement, through in-depth interviews with women in the community an idea percolated and a program was born with the aim of showing Dharavi through a woman’s perspective. 'Ladies Only - Stories For All' was charged with ‘celebrating womanhood and claiming a space not just for surviving but for being’. With Dharavi so often shown through an outsider’s or a male’s point of view, this program aimed to show an altogether different side by giving the women the skills and the forum through which to tell their own stories.

Jyoti (left) our Community Centre Manager introduces the women to the audience
Reflecting on the program, Kaveri says “I come to the art room to learn photography and it’s also an escape from all the work at home” whilst we’re also told “when I see my friends here and when I hold my camera I forget all the pain, all the bondage, feels like I am young again”. The affect on the women has been palpable.They stand tall, shoulders back, head up. They're confident and engaging, enthusiastic and hopeful about the future. This newly realised sense of purpose is also affecting their families as they tell us, “I could not go to school but why should that stop me from sending my daughter to school. She will learn. As long as I am here she will go” and that “If worse comes to worse I will sell off all my jewellery but will not stop sending my kids to school”.

So, as they stood with in front of 40 members of the community (including many of our YEP students), people listened. Comfortable in front of this crowd of community members they spoke passionately about their experiences and how the program had empowered them. They told us how they are now pursuing other opportunities to develop their skill sets and learn. With determination and focus they asked us, “when can we do more!?”.

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