Convening 3: Jaipur, India – Day 5 – Illuminating Equality
Today we were joined by beloved cohort member Patti Tototzintle of Casa de Esperanza. We faced a long day of travel, with a trek out to visit the Barefoot College in a rural village followed by another long bus ride to the airport, as tonight we head to Kolkata for the final leg of our journey.
On the bus this morning, we welcomed Patti by reviewing some of group’s main takeaways so far. A few of the themes that emerged included:
- What intersectionality really looks like in practice; the focus on the last girl
- The need for a broader, multi-dimensional perspective
- The importance of applying a gendered analysis to all social justice issues
- The global nature of gender inequality and of our movement
- The importance of breaking through old stories to tell the new
- Getting to critical mass
With these thoughts swimming in our heads, we arrived at the Barefoot College and had the most extraordinary visit with Aruna Roy.
Aruna Roy is a social and political activist who has worked on government transparency, food security and improving rural livelihoods. She is a founder of Mazdoor Kisan Shakati Sangathan (MKSS), which is an organization designed to strengthen participatory democratic processes, so that ordinary citizens can live their lives with dignity and justice. Aruna-ji spoke to us about her experience organizing communities and how her passion for addressing the most pressing issues facing the rural poor led her to advocate for the empowerment of girls and women. Our dialogue with Aruna focused primarily on strategies for movement-building. Echoing what we heard from Apne Aap yesterday, Aruna focused on the importance of public action and of organizing around those issues that are most in line with the people’s will in order to mobilize a critical mass of people whose voice will not be denied.
After the thought-provoking conversation with Aruna Roy, we were given the opportunity to tour the Barefoot college, an NGO that has been working to make rural communities self sufficient and sustainable. While there we had the opportunity to meet women from Sudan, Liberia, Peru, Malawi, Bhutan, Zanzibar Uganda, Nigeria, and Ethiopia, who are participating in a 6-month training program to learn how to develop solar-powered lights. One woman from Malawi told us that she will leave with the skills and materials needed to bring light to 100 homes in her village, which is currently completely dark. The magnitude of the transformation that she is about to make for her entire village — and for the status and safety of women within it — was awe-inspiring As was the authenticity, integrity and example of lived-principles that we saw throughout the day.
Woman Handmaking Rugs at Barefoot College
Women Making Solar Panels at Barefoot College
MEV Executive Director Jackie Payne and MEV Cohort Members Joanne Smith and Dorchen Leidholdt with Two Women from Malawi at Barefoot College Who Will Bring Light Back to Their Village
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