SELF, a residential annual leadership development academy, has been cultivating leadership, self–confidence and self–reliance within girls and young women about their bodies and sexuality to live independently, free of violence and make informed and independent decisions. CREA resumed SELF Academy in August 2022 after a long pandemic-induced break.
This year’s SELF Academy focused on the pandemic and its unfathomable impact on structurally excluded communities. Girls and young women have faced multidimensional challenges that directly affected their access to resources, information, mobility, and communication. They experienced violence within domestic spaces. Lockdown had a direct implication on their well-being, affecting their confidence and diluting the shared space with other young women and girls within their communities.
‘Usha Dadi ne mujhe chanchal banaya’ (Usha Dadi made me playful)
‘main pant aur shirt phenti hun to log mere bare main bolte hain’ (I wear pants and shirt people talk about me)
‘khud par haunsla hona bahut zarori hai’ (It's important to be self-motivated)
‘filter ko badlo’ (Replace the filter)
The Academy was organized in Delhi with 30 young women and girls within the age group of 18 -25 years from rural interior pockets of Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar. Many had stepped out of their villages and travelled to Delhi for the first time. During six days (01 August- 06 August 2022) of the residential academy, facilitators invited from different organizations fostered dialogue on several concepts drawing parallels from participants’ shared experiences. The sessions shaped their perspectives around gender, sexuality, consent, pleasure, and gender-based violence through an intersectional lens. In addition, they learned about multiple uses of their mobile phones, including reporting issues in their communities and digital storytelling through social media. This includes technical handling of the device and understanding social media. They learned how they could use art as a tool to express themselves and as a medium to create a safe space for one another. The art session each day gave participants a platform to reflect on their learnings on their drawing sheets. They used paints, sketch pens, and markers to express themselves. Young women participating learned different ways to create a safe and enabling space for themselves and others within their village. In a fun way, young women and girls spoke about pleasure, flirting, their likes/ dislikes, and consent, among others.
SELF Academy has been a space for honing and developing skills of young women who use them in their community work and share with their peers. The skill building in artivism continues to be one of the only places to start for many young activists that we will follow up on in the year!
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