Day 2 in India:Think Globally, Act Globally
We only have to listen to the amazing people we have met with, many of whom have been influenced by learning journeys of their own, to be reminded of the significance of a global learning journey.
Today, we met with Gauri Choudury, one of the founders and the director of Action India, a voluntary organization based in Delhi that believes in the power of people to change society through education, awareness, and collective action. Her work is entirely local — she is so grounded in the community and has been since she began her work in 1975, that in response to a question about mobilizing, she could only say, “If you want to know how to get a group together, come live with us.”
Gauri Choudury, co-founder and director of Action India
Her work, however, has been influenced by other countries, including our own. She told stories of attending the Michigan Womyn’s Festival and finding connection and energy there as volunteer conferences in India were getting increasingly expensive and difficult to put together. The community health work of Action India is based on the Boston Women’s Health Collective model and she referred to “consciousness-raising groups” — a familiar concept in the U.S.’s feminist history — to describe the study groups that helped shape her political analysis.
Gauri Choudury with Movement Makers and others from Action India.
As we left Action India’s space, there was a buzz in our group. Some cohort members saw clear connections to the work and models that they implement in the U.S., while others left with more questions than they started with.
On our first day, too, we heard stories of global learning. Dr. Ruth Manorama, a leader of Dalit (lower castes) women’s rights and the president of the National Alliance of Women, reflected on the experience she had in global exchanges — exploring racism in the U.S. and apartheid in South Africa. She raised her fist as she said, “You say Black is Beautiful — we say Dalit is Dignified!” Throughout our conversation, the influence of Black feminist thought on her was clear, and the connection back to our culture was powerful.
Asha Kowtal, General Secretary, All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch (AIDMAM), also on yesterday’s panel, spoke to the ability to see things with fresh eyes when we put ourselves in a different context. We can read about violence, but it is a different thing entirely to travel internationally and seek out the experience of the most marginalized. With that information, we can see our own world anew.
Women from Action India share a song with Movement Makers.
We concluded today with a session focused on the December 16, 2012 Delhi gang rape. Maya Krishna Rao opened the session with a performance of “Walk,” a dance and spoken work piece rooted in the experience and performed dozens of times for groups of students and at protests against sexual violence. Then, Ruchira Gupta of Apne Aap; Shomona Khanna, a supreme court lawyer; and Bhuwan Ribhu of Bachpan Bachao Andolan–Save the Childhood Foundation reflected on how, in three months, the country was able to mobilize after a horrific event in order to bring about policy change.
In the coming days, we will continue to bring our inquiries and ponder how we can learn from our Indian colleagues and bring the experiences back to our work. We will continue the tradition of cross-pollination across borders and oceans, in service of a shared vision.
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