The women leaders from 10 villages in Chengalpattu and Kancheepuram district came together to participate in a one-day workshop aimed at empowering them. The workshop, facilitated by Ms. Sangeetha from Katradi NGO, encouraged the women to sing, dance, and play, breaking their silence and allowing them to discuss the challenges they face and how they overcome them. The workshop was both enjoyable and informative, providing the women with a better understanding of important topics such as sex, reproductive health, and gender equality.
Background of the Workshop:
The workshop was attended by tribal women from 10 villages. These women come from villages that are severely affected by poverty, relying on daily wage work or the 100 days work scheme for their income. Many of them have limited access to education and depend on their families for their daily expenses.
Various activities were conducted during the workshop, including name with action, introducing neighbors, enacting different situations, expressing feelings, dancing, and engaging in group discussions on the challenges faced by women. Additionally, there was an activity called “spot the body part” where participants had to identify different body parts.
One interesting activity involved the trainer posing in different roles, and the women had to identify the gender associated with each role. For example, driving a bike, washing vessels, washing clothes, and drinking alcohol were some of the poses where the women identified the gender based on societal norms. However, the trainer explained in a humorous manner that women should not differentiate gender based on activities, but rather challenge stereotypes through effective communication with their family members.
Separation and Oppression of Women:
Women are often segregated based on their gender and restricted from certain activities that are typically associated with men. For instance, if a woman speaks up for herself or other women, she may face separation from her community. Similarly, if a woman expresses interest in learning how to ride a bike, her own family members may suppress her due to societal backlash.
Challenges Women Encounter in the Workplace:
Women have voiced numerous challenges they face in their daily lives, such as sexual abuse and gender-based discrimination. Many women have expressed their desire to enter the workforce, but they encounter obstacles that prevent them from doing so.
Lack of Education:
A significant number of women have expressed their wish to receive a basic education. However, due to various circumstances such as the loss of parents or family situations, they are unable to continue their education. This lack of education acts as a barrier for them.
Women have also mentioned that early marriage is a major hindrance to their ability to work. Having children at a young age forces them to prioritize their family responsibilities over pursuing a career.
Lack of Choice/Freedom:
Even if women desire to work, some choose to prioritize taking care of their families and children. Additionally, many women do not have the freedom to make decisions for themselves and are dominated by the men in their families.
Ms. Sangetha provided a comprehensive explanation to women about their menstrual cycle, reproductive system, and how to take care of their reproductive health. She emphasized the importance of teaching this knowledge to both sons and daughters aged 12 and above, so they can take care of themselves and others.
A brief discussion was held to educate women about what constitutes sexual abuse, different scenarios of abuse, and the significance of teaching children about appropriate and inappropriate touch within their families.
The women were provided with awareness on how to advocate for themselves and their fellow women in cases of violence within their families or other settings. The significance of refraining from gossiping about their fellow women and avoiding discrimination against them was conveyed through relatable examples, ensuring that the women could comprehend the message.
Saraswathi from Kalliyampoondi expressed, “The workshop was incredibly beneficial, and I thoroughly enjoyed the session. As a mother, I aspire to provide my daughter with the best education and help her become a doctor.”
Vasantha from Vinayaganallur shared, “I was recently going through a period of great depression as both my husband and I were unwell. However, on this particular day, I felt immense happiness from morning till evening and forgot all my worries. I generally have a cheerful disposition, and today was one of those days.”
Selvi from Kalliyamboondi revealed, “I had a love marriage, and unfortunately, my parents passed away when I was young. My husband is addicted to alcohol and used to physically abuse me in front of my own family members, but no one would question him. Now, my husband has passed away due to alcohol-related issues, and I have a child to take care of. This workshop has helped me spend a day without any worries. I am grateful to Ms. Sangeetha for organizing activities that allowed us to enjoy the day.”
Priya S from Kallankollai expressed, “I appreciated the way the instructor spoke about the menstrual cycle. I was unaware of it before, but now I have a better understanding of how my body works. Thank you for that, ma’am.”
Overall, the meeting served as an enlightening experience for the women from the ten villages who were previously unaware of their basic needs and how to address them. The workshop provided the women with valuable insights on menstrual hygiene, sexual abuse, reproductive health, social issues faced by women, and how to identify and overcome challenges in their daily lives.