Education that is Multicultural - Gender, Sexuality and Education

Blog # 6

January 6, 2017

This blog is authored by Study Abroad in India student Meghan Cuadro who is an undergraduate student at the City College of New York pursuing her bachelors degree in international studies. In the future she would like to work abroad in maybe helping or teaching children in developing countries. 

Waking up on our 7th day in New Delhi, I was faced with the task of writing the blog today.  As I got ready, I reflected on what we did yesterday, and how today's activities could be a continuation on the different ways the RTE legislation is being implemented to gradually get all children in India to go to school. Today's topic was the girl child, and how India is trying to make a big impact on the lives of young girls.

The overall goal is to help girls and women get an education and to become more independent. Socially aware citizens want to get rid of the social stigma that has seemed to plague the life of young girls and women here, but this was not always the case. In ancient history, women were very much appreciated and involved in politics. They were warriors and scholars. With the development of patriarchal societies, women have fell back, and through feminist thinking women are now again fighting to regain equal positions to their male counterparts. This message resonates with me because in my own personal background. I have studied in  institutions that were only open to girls. Therefore, I know the significance of empowering girls and women first hand. As breakfast came to a close,  I thought I would bring my own personal experiences to our class discussion. We sat for a little over two hours, and had a wonderful conversational lecture. The lecture seemed to flow organically and each of us were very enthusiastic to ask questions and to give insight on the various topics of our discussion and chapter four assigned which was the assigned reading of the day. 

Once the lecture was over we were off to an NGO that specializes in working with girls. This NGO is called Nirantar which means "ongoing" in Hindi. Their work is continuous so the name has a proper fit. The men and women who work at this NGO are doing amazing work not only with young girls, but with older women as well. We all know the importance of educating a child, but we very often leave out adults. That struck me because throughout the seven days I've been learning about education in this course, I had never thought about education for adults. The speakers expressed their efforts to bring literacy to women who were not able to learn as children because of various circumstances. They wanted women to feel empowered in themselves even if they could not be helped out of certain situations such as arranged marriages and domestic abuse. Literacy is an important aspect of education. Nirantar has also expressed the right  to entertainment and abstract information. I loved that because many people and other organizations provide marginalized women with knowledge and skills to become a better woman, wife, and mother. This speaks volumes because women are human; not property or objects just to serve men.

Nirantar has reached out to 10-15,000 women and young girls when it comes to teaching literacy, but they do not pride themselves in quantitative statistics. They do not believe that they need to prove anything numerically because they know  their  work is good, and impacts made by them are little victories that accumulate. They started the only newspaper that is written and produced by women, which is printed in seven different languages.  It is called Khabar Lahariya. Nirantar is an NGO at the grassroots level, but they are creating sparks of change not only for girls and women, but also spreading awareness that is self-sustained to men of the areas they reach. Patriarchal ideals and stubborn mindsets are being changed and that is just a small percentage of the work Nirantar is involved in. Overall today was about empowerment and changing mindsets about gender and sexuality, and I am glad that work is being carried out by the young socially aware population of India. 

11 responses
Before coming to India most people who I told about my trip started critiquing females; labeling Indian females as weak, silent, and following the patriarchal ways. I challenged these statements, but had no proof about the female empowerment. Now, when I get back to New York I have the ability to make the Americans surrounding me knowledgeable of female power and success in India. This female empowerment is very beautifully shown and taught at Nirantar.
Can anyone say GIRL POWER?! This visit was probably my favorite so far! I work for an Non-profit in nyc that works with marginalized groups in Africa and Asia and focuses on women's education and empowerment. It was such a great experience to see how an NGO in India with a similar mission implements their agenda. I also loved that Nirantar is mostly (if not completely) staffed by women and that Nirantar trains teachers from the communities they serve. This is so important because it ensure quality advocacy for the uneducated girls and women and also makes their programs, like their adult literacy program, replicable and sustainable. I have been so pleasantly surprised by how wrong my idea of women in India was prior to this trip. Indian women are empowered trailblazers and far from the docile, oppressed creatures the West portrays. I am so inspired to see women empower other women.
GIRL POWER Lilai! I totally agree that visiting Nirantar made my day not only because of the wonderful work they do with the young girls and women around India, but also because they are doing this so differently. Most NGOs would want to provide certain services and show data just to get funding. However, I was so proud to hear that Nirantar resists quantifying these girls' and young women's experiences because they feel what they learn is unquantifiable. I do hope they will continue to find funding after this year and be able to continue this great work.
Nirantar is an amazing NGO that empowers through education. I love how they educate beyond reading and writing and also educate on women issues that are relevant, for example, health issues, women anatomy, confidence etc. The energy is so uplifting walking into all of the NGO's we have visited thus far. You can definitely feel how passionate these people are about the work that they do.
I agreed guys! Something to add to your comments, is that the curriculum is made based on the students. The fact that they get to know the students first and then create materials that are relevant to each particular student. This brings me back to philosopher John Dewey, who believes that teachers should have a relationship persona with their students and get to know the students on a deeper level. That way they can be able to create a curriculum, which start off at what the students know and then add a continuing of new materials. This is significant and as teachers we should all implement that.
The thought of women empowerment touches my heart. Being friends with a group of 9 girls back at home who all are very passionate about feminism, this really warmed my heart. To know that from India, women of India want this for other women of India. Knowing they may get bad lash back on themselves, they still work passionately and hard for the women of India to understand their worth.
Great blog! Nirantar was an amazing experience. The fact that they believe in enabling empowerment through education especially for young women from various communities was just so powerful. They promoted formal and non-formal learning through hands on learning and visuals. Too see how involved and happy they were to invest thier time in this great movement was incredible to see! Made me feel proud of being a woman! Amazing job! Although thier funding is being cut off soon, I hope they find a way to continue on with thier journey. Its a life changing process for many women.
Nirantar was definitely and educational visit for me. It was refreshing to see how much this NGO works to empower and educate women across India, allowing them to break out of the cultural and societal stigmas that is common in many areas of India. I was impressed at just how far they would go to reach these women, especially travelling to areas that haven't been properly mapped out.
Wherever I travel, I seek to understand a country and culture through the lens of women. Through this lens I want to hear about counter narratives to traditional submissive and oppressed portrayals of women. That's exactly what we learned at this visit. I was blown away to hear that they identify as a feminist organization and that they value the whole woman instead of solely investing and supporting women because they are mothers and wives. That idea is revolutionary! It is a feminist position that many women based organizations in the US feel uncomfortable embracing. Having the opportunity to meet with Nirantar and hearing about the work they are doing both with girls and women was an empowering experience. I realized that I didn't need to ask them to share experiences where women were challenging the status quo. Nirantar itself was the inspiring counter narrative.
Whether it's Pratham working with organizations more specialized in special education/disabilities or Niranthar working with other NGOs that have an outreach beyond the Hindi Belt, I really appreciate how much NGOs are willing to see the bigger picture, and collaborate with other organizations to meet an ambitious goal. This illustrates beautifully the spirit of interdependence in India, that we've been reading about.
I was pleased to see the works and efforts being taken to help young women and girls in India. As I listened to the young women speak, I was able think of how important these women must feel to know that someone out there is working so hard to make their future great. One thing that stuck out to me was the fact that they also use drama and skits to help women get through issues of life that may plague them.