I first learned about PRIA’s Kadam Badao Campaign (KBC) and its activities in Jaipur, India as a PRIA intern from the University of Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. My experiences with KBC allowed me to better understand the issue of violence against women and girls both as a whole, even connecting to it on an international scale, and in India and Jaipur specifically. It was my first introduction to the issue on a more personal level, in a way much more grounding than the classroom environment. Given the breadth and complexity of the issue, there are many ways to respond to, prioritize, and prevent violence against women and girls (VAWG), but my experience with KBC showed me how individuals, youth, and communities at the local scale, institutional actors at the local and state level, and civil society organizations such as PRIA can engage with the issue to influence practical changes.
KBC has been active in five wards across the city, and I witnessed it at a time when campaign activities were the primary focus. Other activities included additional safety audits in schools, liaising with potential partner organizations and key institutional actors to increase the project support network, raising the project profile on social media and in communities, and lastly, GPS mapping of unsafe areas in two wards. During my time with KBC, I primarily assisted with the program’s youth theatre workshop, youth sports camps, and community roadshows – elements that were built into the program’s community-based campaign to address VAWG.
The youth theatre workshop was a great way to engage children as a group while also developing an adaptable campaign tool: a street play. The group met several times each week over the course of over a month. While the turnout mostly consisted of boys, there were some girls, and the mixed-gender setting helped to encourage the children to learn from each other and support each other, regardless of gender. At the same time, the play’s content, developed by an external theatre workshop leader, focused on the impacts of harmful gender stereotypes (such as the detriments of being born a girl). Over the course of the workshop, I saw the children learn from each other, and the workshop leader. I found this workshop to benefit the children, the local community, and the program itself, providing mutual learning for those involved.
Although regular attendance from all participants did present a minor challenge, over 20 children regularly attended and together they established a street play. This was performed for their local community roadshow in mid-November. The play was attended by family, peers, and community members, who also joined in a subsequent discussion and pledged to address violence against women and girls. During the discussion, one young boy vocalized the injustice of preventing girls and boys from playing together and from having the same rights and access. I think the play was useful to ‘break the ice’ and get community members talking more about the issue and visualizing themselves as able to make changes happen. It could also help to forge pathways for future interventions, events, and engagements by KBC. By the end of the workshop, there appeared to be a greater sense of cohesion amongst the children who regularly attended, and the consistent nature of the workshop helped to build the program’s presence in the community.
Another major activity I took part in was the community sports camp initiative in partnership with Pro Sports Development. Four separate sports camps were carried out in five wards from the 29th of October to the 1st of November. These took place in spaces that were previously deemed unsafe for girls during participatory safety audits facilitated by KBC with groups of girls and boys in each community. The goal was to reclaim spaces associated with danger, transforming them into places of recreation instead while breaking down barriers to girl-boy recreation and challenging stereotypes about gender roles and sports.
After each sports camp, the KBC team led a group discussion where we heard comments from the children about their experiences that day. Girls expressed enjoyment in playing outside of the home into the early evening, and both boys and girls shared that they had fun playing together; it was a rare occasion for many of the children. Many older community members gathered to watch the events, and I think it was beneficial for them to witness the positive, integrated play between boys and girls in public spaces. I later learned that the sports camp had given some girls more confidence to leave their homes more often, and that their parents were more accepting of it. Overall, it struck me as a valuable exercise to help change the mindsets of many – boys, girls, and parents – when it comes to gender relations and access and safety of spaces for girls.
The final major activity I took part in was the community roadshows, which included street play screening, group discussion, pledge campaign, and candlelight vigil. I feel that these helped to: spread awareness of violence against women and girls; show how theatre and other creative methods can be used to incite change; get people talking about gender-based violence and what they can do to help stop it; engage more people and make connections for future engagements; use pledges and a candlelight vigil to symbolize commitment and solidarity to the cause.
What I found was that this is a very ambitious and hopeful model to use to address VAWG. It works to engage youth, who hold the agency and power to reshape gender relations between men and women, girls and boys in the effort to end violence against women and girls. Based on my experience with the KBC program, I think that it holds significant potential – there is no doubt that the engagement and activism of youth today can have an enormous impact on the conditions for women and girls tomorrow. If young boys understand and practice respect, consent, and supportive attitudes towards girls and women, and girls in turn understand their rights to such treatment, an early partnership may bloom to carry equity and safety for women and girls into the future. I look forward to following KBC’s continued work in engaging young people and listening to community voices, but also in their work to improve institutional accountability and employ collaborative partnerships.
This blog post has been written by Roxanne Power, from the University of Victoria, who was an intern at PRIA for 6 months between July 2015 and December 2015.