The screening was scheduled for 7:30pm, but by 6:00 around 50 young girls and boys had gathered before the big white projector screen that had been set up on an expanse of dirt in the Delhi slum of Madanpur Khadar. As the start time neared, more people crowded into the space – mothers cradling infants, gangs of teenage boys, girls in pink and red and aqua-colored saris – until nearly 200 people were pressed tightly together. Organized by Women and Girls Lead Global and Magic Bus, a non-profit organization that mentors young people in the slums of Delhi, the event featured a screening of Revolutionary Optimists. The film profiles a group of adolescents in the slums of Calcutta who are being groomed as community organizers by a lawyer-turned-activist named Amlan Ganguly. Because the WGLG India campaign focuses on challenging harmful gender stereotypes as a way of addressing gender-based violence at the roots, one of the key messages that was highlighted at the screening is the mutual respect of the boys and girls in the film, and the exemplary way that they share power and leadership roles.
When the film concluded, Magic Bus’ youth leader, Arvind Kumar, led an activity designed to heighten the audience’s awareness of traditional gender roles. He divided the audience by gender, then announced that he would read several statements, and asked them to raise their hands if they found the statement to be true.
“I can stay out on the road until 10 o’clock at night,” he said. Most of the males raised their hands.
“I cook four times a day,” he said. Now the women and girls raised their hands . . . but at the same time, some of the young men waved their hands frantically in the air, laughing and insisting that they, too, sometimes cook.
In the discussion that ensued, audience members were asked what they might do to ensure that girls and boys were treated equally.
“Girls are not allowed to play the way that boys are, they are always doing chores,” said one of the mothers in the crowd. “So I’ll make sure that the girls in my house are not restricted like that.”
A boy of about eight pledged that he would make an effort to help his sister, to speak up when she was discriminated against, and to make sure that no one harmed herStatements like these reflect the kind of changes in attitude that Country Engagement Coordinator Abhishek Srivastava hopes to make with his WGLG campaign, The Hero Project. “We aren’t setting out to shame men for their ideas about masculinity,” says Abhishek. “We’re encouraging them to redefine masculinity in a more positive way – and in the process, to redefine what it is to be heroic.”