SDG Goal 5: Navigating paths that contribute towards establishing a gender equal world
Project Coordinator (Documentation and Communications)
Ms. Azra Qaisar joined Prerana in 2018 and has been a part of our team for over two years now. She is the Documentation and Communications Manager at Prerana, working with the Anti-Trafficking Center. She assists the diverse project teams in the documentation. Since 2019, she has also been facilitating sessions on gender sensitization for the team at Prerana.
Goal 5 looks at achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. In what way do you think Prerana is contributing towards this goal through its programs?
Prerana has been working on eliminating inter-generational trafficking into the sex trade, with women and their children from the red-light area, and girls rescued from the sex trade for a few decades now. It is important to note that Prerana looks at the issue of rehabilitation from a rights-based perspective. Girls are encouraged to be independent and empowered to make their decisions through consistent support. This is a key step towards equality by ensuring that women have control over their lives and are free from exploitation. We are linking Goal 5, to Goal 12 (Reduced Inequalities) through our interventions.
As a facilitator, you’ve covered various issues during the gender sessions at Prerana, such as gender identity, intersectionality, COVID-19 and its impact on women, sexual orientation, understanding feminism, to name a few. Can you share any instances of how these sessions have helped Prerana’s employees in implementing the programs in a gender-equal manner and how they have helped the children as a result?
In 2019, Ms. Priya Ahuwalia, our counselor, and I were tasked with initiating sessions on gender sensitivity for Prerana’s staff. A key challenge in these sessions has been to break down complex concepts into a language that everyone can understand. I remember after few sessions, one staff member shared that she felt more comfortable discussing issues of menstrual health in front of male stakeholders. Another staff member shared that a parent of one of her clients was unwilling to let his daughter get an education. In his words, he had said “Ladki jaat hai didi, kya karegi padh likh ke?” (It is a girl child didi, what will she do with an education?). The staff member shared that earlier she may not have engaged in-depth into changing the mindset of the parent, thinking he’s set in his ways and so she should just work with the child directly. Now, she felt that it was important to help the father understand gender equality as well. The impact may seem small but it will pave way for more change gradually.
You have also conducted sessions on gender and sexuality with children who stay at Children’s Homes. Do you feel the understanding of these concepts helps in the holistic development of children?
Our social and cultural conditioning determine the kind of belief systems we have. They affect how we see the world and more importantly, how we see each other. If a child is taught from a young age, that they deserve to be treated equally, and must treat others the same way, it will perhaps create an adult who won’t discriminate. In 2020, we did a session with youth on understanding consent, and I think that is a conversation that we need to have with everyone to prevent gender-based violence. In that session also, we had questions from some male participants, asking questions like ‘Didi, why does the girl smile if she is not interested in a guy?”. Children learn a lot from pop culture, and the representation of women and romantic relationships in cinema and television is often sexist. When we start these conversations, we create an alternative dialogue to counter that narrative and help them understand how to treat others better.
You have been involved in strengthening Prerana’s Online resource center. Please share how has this center promoted Goal 5?
Every year, we join the 16 Days of Activism by UN Women from November 25 (International Day of Elimination of Gender-based Violence) to December 10 (Human Rights Day). Prerana’s online resource center has been participating in the observance since 2016. Last year, we shared stories on domestic violence as observed in our work. Our blog section also features field observations on working with children to end child marriages, further rehabilitation, and further gender equality.
Do you think NGOs should have sessions on gender sensitivity irrespective of who their beneficiaries are? How do you think these sessions help build perspective and change attitudes within the team?
I think regardless of the sector, we need greater interventions on gender sensitivity. When we look at India’s performance globally in filing the gender gap, the data portrays a grim reality with India ranking at 140 out of 156 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021. Sessions on sensitivity are the first step to addressing inequalities, followed by systemic changes in making that a reality.
At Prerana, these sessions help in seeing our work from a gendered lens and be mindful of the same in our interventions. It may also provide a vocabulary to share any concerns of discrimination or inequality. It would be a mistake for us to assume that the staff was not sensitive before the sessions were initiated. I think the sessions help in enhancing sensitivity and mainstreaming the idea of gender equality. The impact of the discourse may seem small, but it is important to keep having the conversation frequently to reinstate those ideas. From the feedback we have received so far, the sessions also act as a platform to collectively share issues and strategize on how to address them.
As I said earlier, awareness is the first step to bringing change. Priya and I started the sessions in 2019, and to take Prerana’s commitment further we have also recently drafted a policy on gender sensitivity for our staff and those who work with us in any capacity.
This is the first interview in the 10-month long series on Prerana’s commitment to sustainable development goals. Watch this space for more.