I was asked to speak to a group of first year social work students today about working with groups in poor Indian communities. I asked them to role play a group of village women upset by boys harassing their daughters on the street. The students agreed this was a common problem for women, and almost everyone in the class raised their hand when I asked if they had been harassed or touched by boys or men on the street.
The students very enthusiastically put on a skit illustrating how the women might get together and plan a strategy, which included talking to the parents of the boys involved, to the police, and eventually to their local village council, the “panchayat”. Their social work classes are taught in English, but I encouraged them to make it realistic and speak i Tamil. They appreciated that I could understand what was going on! This is the end of their skit, where they are playing empowered village women who are planning to meet with the council and demand action.
Next we had another role play, where two social workers are meeting with a group of village women to tell them about a new government program to help buy and operate auto rickshaws (scooters with a large covered back seat that transport people like a taxi). The village women were reluctant but curious- some said their husbands would not let them drive a transport vehicle- others had questions about how much they would make, whether they would have to carry male passengers, and what would happen if they had an accident. The young social work students did a good job of explaining the program and encouraging women to join. (This is happening in parts of India to help women get work. These special “autos” are red, to distinguish them as female drivers, so that husbands and brothers can’t take their auto from them!)
I taught the students the raised power fist as an emblem of people power. At the end we had a group photo with many raised fists!