Staff Development Workshop
As a part of the CEHAT staff development, a workshop was conducted at the YMCA International, Mumbai Central, speaker Ms. Pramada Menon, a queer, feminist activist, standup comedian and the co-founder of CREA was invited for it. She is also well known for her performance on "FAT FREE and FEMINIST".
The session started with some ice breakers where she asked team members to group themselves based on religion, gender, marital status, Board of Education, Minority, Disability and as an outcome of the same, the staff realized as to how the society validates everything and we behave to conform to the standards and the norms to fit well into that society. While discussing the kind of groupings such as “us” and “them” are done in society we also do not acknowledge disabilities that may be present amongst us. Simple things such as having a weak eyesight can be a disability.
She asked participants the difference in gender and sex, while most stated that gender is social context and grooming of people as men and women, whereas sex is a biological trait which cannot be changed. A discussion ensued on whether sex is only male and female. Pramada discussed the concept of intersex and how such babies may be assigned a certain sex at birth as male or female ; later these people may experience a dissonance with the sex assigned to them. Hence even sex is not a binary and we need to learn to accept variations in biological sex. She facilitated the staff into the flow where now she discusses about the sexual parts and how one should ought to be "okay", talking about the same just like the other body parts. She was also able to draw an upsetting picture where we as society and not humans, decide as to what is normal/natural and acceptable, but never thinking as what is not natural for us can be natural for other people and vice versa. The mention of how society manipulates and validates the very existence of normal/ natural in our day to day lives, left all the people thinking.
ost lunch exercise was given to enable participants to reflect on their own value system. And look deeper into how we behave when put into a certain situation, she did this with a case study where the staff was put into a close ended situation with the three options to the rescue:
Study: You and your husband stay in a village which is on the opposite side of the river and you go to the other side each day after your husband leaves. One day, it rains cats and dogs and there are only three options:
1) Dive into the river and die
2) The boatman offers safe rescue in return of consensual Sex
3) Take the bridge where the rape accused resides
Majority favored the third option saying it is just a risk, 99% of the remaining chose to have consensual sex and reach safely and 1% would choose to die in lieu of not cheating on their husbands, concluding it with a heated up discussion and debate where each group tried to convince the other.
The speaker then mentions, how in the lateral world also we think of the society more than ourselves and leaves everyone with air of confusion asking everyone to give it a thought. Moving on towards the end an exercise where all we and in mind about sex had to be jotted down on chart paper eg: positions, toys, types etc.
This is how it ended leaving the audience with a lot of confusion which the speaker feels is a great ending. She says "if the audience leaves confused, means i have achieved what i wanted, if not then that is a problem".