All women should be given the opportunity to reach their potential and fulfil their aspirations. As women, we relish in sharing our experiences with companions and relating to one-another, solidifying our own understanding of feminine essence.
In developed nations, women easily take for granted freedom of speech and the privilege to discuss with peers openly about the common threads of daily life. These regular conversation pieces maintain balanced, grounded individuals with seasoned convictions and perspectives about what being a woman entails, and how their roles are important in society at large.
The Barefoot Enriche Program has revealed that women’s access to practical knowledge and skills relevant to their lives are foundations for success in their ambitions. We have invested in women because building their confidence and understanding of their importance in society greatly aids in developing their communities for the better.
From December 2017 to February 2018, we welcomed nine hundred women in 60 villages to join us in a 2- day workshop known as ENGAGE. Here, community workshops are held involving these four intimate topics:
- Gender Sensitivity and Awareness
- Financial Literacy
- Women’s Reproductive Health & Wellness
- Human & Child Rights
ENGAGE community workshops offer a safe platform for women to connect on subjects relating to their day-to-day lives, encouraging a sharing of common feminine experiences. Typically, they are illiterate and semi-illiterate home-makers and daily wage earners with busy, preoccupied lives. The personal stories they are able to share create a safeguarded environment that they are seldom at liberty to construct.
Our findings demonstrate that rural Rajasthani women spend their entire day working, without any break or afternoon nap. They have longer working hours than their male counterparts, yet; are referred to as the ‘less productive’ sex in their societies. During the day, they are busy working their family’s fields and businesses, taking care of children, supporting a never-ending list of in-laws and in the night they pleasure their husbands- with or without their consent. Yet, they choose to sacrifice two days of paid labour to attend our ENGAGE workshops at our Tilonia campus.
At first I wondered, amidst their extremely hectic and struggling situation, what motivates them to make such a sacrifice? I found the answer in their receptiveness. – Ruchika Kanoi, Barefoot ENRICHE Outreach Coordinator
The residential workshops consist of two full days of activities that enable women to breathe and feel free! Without the worry of their chores or social pressures they create a safe space to talk, laugh, sing and dance as they please. In a society where a woman is not able to speak her mind freely, our trainees find a space which they can own. Our workshops act as a catalyst to start the conversations around Gender Inequality- something which is extremely prominent and embedded in their hardcore patriarchal society. For most of them, it is the first time they share their personal stories and hear them from others.
Self-Love and Awareness
This section of workshops includes fostering women’s awareness, an often neglected area in societies that treat women as baby-making machines. Many topics are covered, such as:
- Menstruation: processes, hygiene management, biological significance, and breaking taboos
- Rumour reduction: demystification, awareness of roles, raising young women to love their bodies’ natural processes, and becoming change-agents
Household skills are familiar to the attendees, and enable them to conduct their families better while bulding their confidence. Workshops include:
- Spending management, household budgets, and avoiding cyclic loan issues
- safe space for discussion about traditions and customs that may affect happiness and peace
- farming skills: organic composting
Safety and Community
Caste and religion dissolve as societal divisons are stripped away and transformed into deep, immersive connection full of empathy and collective understanding. ENGAGE harbours safe space for progressive discussions, including:
- motivational conversations that fight against the dominant structure
- discussion about rights, and ending violence
- awareness through shared experience, listening, and solidarity
- collaboration and trust-building
Women attend the workshops to absorb information, sing, dance, laugh and talk their hearts out. This is how they silently challenge patriarchy one workshop, one smile, one laugh, one song and one dance at a time and loosen up the shackles which hold them so tight.
For more information on the Barefoot ENRICHE program, contact Ruchika Kanoi at firstname.lastname@example.org or contribute to support more women empowerment workshops.