International Women’s Day in Dharavi

International Women’s Day in Dharavi

International Women’s Day in Dharavi

This previous Saturday people across the world came together
to mark International Women’s Day and here in Dharavi it was no different.
At the Community Centre our Youth Empowerment Program
students presented speeches, posters and plays about influential women (ranging
from hockey players to astronauts and politicians), on the football field the
Dharavi Girls Football Program got together to send a message out to the world and
the Reception Centre hosted an exhibition of photographs taken by five women
from Dharavi, whom were unequivocally, the stars of the day.

Can you work out what the Girls Football Team is spelling out? Keep in mind the acronym of the day and kindly forgive Marketing and Fundraising Director, Joe, for not climbing a higher wall to get the picture!

These five women, Amrita, Anuradha, Kaveri, Nirmala and
Shobha, are graduates of ‘Ladies Only – Stories For All’, a five week
photography workshop by Dharavi Art Room which is a collaboration between
Reality Gives and Bombay Underground. This workshop was conceived when on a
field trip one of the young students told Bombay Underground social worker, Aqui
Thami “my mummy never leaves the home”. From this offhand statement, through
in-depth interviews with women in the community an idea percolated and a program was born with the aim of showing Dharavi through a woman’s perspective. ‘Ladies Only – Stories For All’ was charged with ‘celebrating womanhood and claiming a space not just for surviving but for
being’. With Dharavi so often shown through an outsider’s or a
male’s point of view, this program aimed to show an altogether different side by giving the
women the skills and the forum through which to tell their own stories.

Jyoti (left) our Community Centre Manager introduces the women to the audience
Reflecting on the program, Kaveri says “I come to the art room
to learn photography and it’s also an escape from all the work at home”
whilst
we’re also told “when I see my friends here and when I hold my camera I forget
all the pain, all the bondage, feels like I am young again”
. The affect on the
women has been palpable.They stand tall, shoulders back, head up. They’re confident
and engaging, enthusiastic and hopeful about the future. This newly realised
sense of purpose is also affecting their families as they tell us, “I could not
go to school but why should that stop me from sending my daughter to school.
She will learn. As long as I am here she will go”
and that “If worse comes to
worse I will sell off all my jewellery but will not stop sending my kids to
school”.
So, as they stood with in front of 40 members of the community
(including many of our YEP students), people listened. Comfortable in front of
this crowd of community members they spoke passionately about their experiences
and how the program had empowered them. They told us how they are now pursuing
other opportunities to develop their skill sets and learn. With determination
and focus they asked us, “when can we do more!?”.