Good training is the art, not of putting ideas into people’s heads, but of drawing ideas out
Two years as a gender trainer at MFF has taught me greatly, and become a more effective participatory trainer. Start from where the learner is. Understand the issue. Value the learner’s prior knowledge. Relate my everyday experiences of gender to that of the learners’ experiences – this was my cue to introduce the link between gender and violence resulting from discriminatory gendered relations in family and society. My lens of gender and everyday violence related to differences between men and women.
Recently I attended a training on sexuality, in which I participated in an activity – one which I have used as a trainer many times. I came to understand the same activity from a different lens. This has given me much food for thought. For me, gender was a notion constructed to determine and distinguish men’s superior role and women’s weaker anatomy. I knew gender as a social construct, one which we can change if we are willing to. But, like gender, our sex too is a construct. It has been fixed by science. And who tends to build these scientific theories? Men do!
One of the primary purposes of training is to gain new knowledge and, as a trainer, reflect on my training methods and concepts. Today, when I reflect on gender as a spectrum which entails the dimensions of body, identity and expressions, I question myself: have I in subtle ways been reinforcing patriarchal norms by focusing on the binary of man/woman? By choosing a lifestyle of our choice, we become more gender fluid, and our perspective of our bodies, identities and expressions widens. How do I introduce this new knowledge I have gained in my training activities, projects, and training? What is the right audience, the right age to receive this information of gender fluidity and its influence on violence? Should I introduce this only in my trainings with urban youth and not in rural settings? When is the right time to introduce it? If I give this information, will the learners feel comfortable in talking openly in group, or will it be too private a matter for open discussions on lived experiences of gender fluidity? Should a discussion on sexuality come first, before building an understanding on gender fluidity, violence and the everyday experiences of violence?
How, when, where and with whom – these are the questions which bring me back again to where I was two years ago, struggling to understand how should I reach the learner. I’ve come full circle as a trainer — but I feel the better for it.