Community Media/MARAA/Gender Resources/Gender Community

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Working with Gender for students and Community

Sharing Dowry Dialogues

Since there are many organizations collaborating to work with different communities to build the courts of women, it is essential to have clarity on the following points:

  • What is our long term objective of this exercise? (organizationally and with the courts of women as a continuing process)
  • What is our collective aim for the workshop? (community group and college)
  • Should there be a collective aim? Or can it be different for different organizations!?

For Facilitators

  • Arrive at intent of the workshop
  • Intent with the process
  • Awareness of self (facilitator self)
  • Develop module
  • Implementation of the workshop
  • Feedback and follow up

Objectives of the workshop

  1. Moving towards a gender-sensitive society and acquire willingness to accept difference
  2. Ability to differentiate between biological sex and socialized gender

Aims of the workshop

  1. Evaluate understanding and perceptions of gender and its relationship with love, marriage, dowry and violence
  2. Become aware of the implications of dowry in a personal and social context
  3. Collate feasible ways to negotiate dowry from the participant’s (subjective) perspective

Maraa’s approach to the workshops

  • Participative - feedback oriented
  • Multi-layered tools – through games, theatre, music, discussions, presentations, films…
  • Focus on process
  • Evaluate time span of process depending on the outcomes of the workshop
  • Document the process and revisit the structure of the process
  • Explore other possibilities and offshoots like interest in theatre, discussions on health, exploring sexuality etc.

Topics covered in the workshop

  • Gender role and identity- Self and collective probing, sharing and awareness to new perspectives
  • Love, resolution and conflict in context of gender
  • Marriage in context to gender
  • Concept of gifts and gifting in context of Dowry
  • Gender comfort zones (psychological, personal, emotional) - perceiving, realistic assessing and handling violence

Workshop Module

This is a collection of games and exercises adapted from several workshops and reference to Yuvati Mela, a publication by Akshara, Mumbai. This is an attempt to cover the above mentioned topics. We hope to use to use a combination of these exercises to suit the group depending on if it is a youth group or a community based group comprising of men and women of different ages.

The exercises are as following:

  1. Innovative Introductions
  2. Ice Breaker – Break the Myth
  3. Body Mapping
  4. Make up your own love story
  5. The Marriage Photograph
  6. Giving gifts
  7. Hoola Hoop-make your choice
  8. Role play to understand violence, power and tolerance
  9. Individual wish lists – illustrations or writings

Most exercises are group work followed by discussions which will be documented.

Innovative Introductions

Objective: To encourage participants to know each other and be comfortable within the workshop space.

Time Taken: 30 minutes

Exercise 1

Ask participants to pair up with someone they don’t know and share with each other. The pair interacts with one another for about ten minutes and they seek and find five interesting aspects about the other person. Everyone then comes back to the group and each one introduces their partner.

Exercise 2

Introduce yourself and greet yourself in any regional style like – Maharastrian, Assmese, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Bengali, Bihari etc. If the volunteers know each other then they can say one positive thing about the them.

Ice Breaker / Warm-up – Break the Myth

Objective: To ease the group to assess the level of the group and introduce the group to the topics to be discussed

Time taken: 40 minutes

The four corners game that children play is changed slightly. Chart papers with different myths written on them are hung on different corners (choose 4 or 6 corners with 2-3 myths on each). The same myths are written individually on pieces of paper and put in a bowl in the center. Participants run around in the center of the circle till the facilitator claps. On sounding the clap, the participants have to run and find a corner.

Then, the facilitator pulls out a chit from the bowl and reads one of the myths. The people who have occupied the corner will now defend their myth and the rest from other corners will try to argue against this myth to prove them wrong. When the argument gets heated, the clap is sounded again. Participants leave their corners and run again, only to reoccupy a different corner.

Possible myths

  1. Men are superior beings
  2. Women cannot do all the things men can
  3. Women should be home before dark
  4. Alcoholism leads to violence
  5. Domestic violence is a family matter
  6. Provocative clothes encourage men to harass women
  7. Public spaces are for men
  8. In a marriage, men always do a good job of bearing responsibilities
  9. Men are more intelligent so they are leaders
  10. Dowry is a social custom, it must be followed
  11. Women are the only carriers of culture and representation. If they stray, they endanger all cultural mores of society
  12. Women wearing western clothes is endangering culture

PS: Choose which ones you would want as warm-ups. Do not approach this exercise as truth testers or use only highly provocative and heavy gender myths. Mix them up according to the groups “content capacity” to handle as a warm-up.

Scope for discussion

This game is useful to highlight some of the common gender notions. We need to reflect on experiences and strategies to deal with these myths and stereotypes in a personal and social context. What may emerge how willing are women to accept or reject their gender roles as part of the socialization process.

Gender role and identity- Self and collective probing, sharing and awareness

Body representations

Objective: To visually and alternatively map our conscious and unconscious understandings of how we “lay-out” gender mentally- given our cultural, social, personal inputs

Time taken: 90 min or more depending on discussion


Get participants to draw a body map of a woman and man (both genders by all individuals) on a fairly large spread of brown paper given out individually). Make sure to have pencils, sketch pens, markers and crayons. Each individual may draw all things that they think will make a man, a man and a woman a woman. Let them know that it’s ok to draw body parts if they think those are indicators. If clothes define the gender, ask them to draw them out and also put all symbols, or write them out as words, phrases. (Be well prepared to handle sexual content, depicted both in a honest or as an intended negative comment/attention). Then, ask them to depict, using pictures, words or phrases, all things that define the role of man or woman in society. Then, ask this question: In your opinion what is the one thing a man would have to do for all his lifetime? He would fail to be a man if he failed to do this. Eg for a man it may be financially providing for a lifetime. Eg for a woman she has to be the one to look after the kids. What would the woman have to do all her life? Hold up charts and talk about different people and their symbols of manhood or womanhood, masculinity, or femininity. List, at the back of the chart, all places/sources that taught him/her to be these things, ideas, symbols. Share with group

Scope for Discussion

From these exercises, the group will see diverse ways in which gender roles are perceived and identified. The sources of information of who/what makes a man and who/what makes a woman will clearly show the diverse media through which individuals are socialized into their respective genders. Gender roles and identity can also sometimes trap/bind/limit individuals from doing thing that fall out of that boundary or limit. This exercise may bring out points to discuss such limitations and ways in which they are resisted or ignored.

Love, resolution and conflict in context of Gender

Make up your own love story

Time taken: 60 minutes

Objective: To bring out subtleties and nuances of the idea of love and availability of choices and implications of decisions


Divide the participants into smaller groups. Some groups can comprise only women and some others can comprise only of men and a few can be a mix of men and women. They are all asked make up a love story from the time attraction starts just up until marriage. The story will have to include the following:

  • details of the location, setting and
  • the period/age
  • description of the place(s) where the attraction takes place
  • the situations/circumstances under which it happened
  • exploration of the other sex – physically and emotionally
  • when did attraction become love
  • how did the two express love to each other
  • some of the fights that the couple had
  • how did they make up to each other
  • how would they spend time
  • what was their impression in society
  • what were the changes that took place after falling in love
  • Best moments, memories of the relationship
  • Did they tell family about it, if yes, what and why, if no, why not. Was it a challenge or was it easy to tell family?
  • Did they tell friends or anyone else about the relationship, if yes, what and why, if no why not
  • Did the couple ever discuss marriage, commitment, if yes, what were ideas and dreams as a couple
  • What were the things they liked about each other?
  • What were the things they disliked about each other?
  • Did it end, if yes, how and why, if no, what else happened.

Scope for Discussion

Get the participants to discuss it from a personal space if they are comfortable with it in context to the love story they made up What the challenges of being in love – economically, socially and culturally Under what circumstances does love work and doesn’t work? How will they bring up their children in light of this discussion? How is love connected to marriage, dowry, violence and justice? In what manner does love change relationship with family, friends and co-workers?

Hoola Hoop

Objective: To get the participant to think about what she expects from her marriage and her partner, and to further draw upon her fears, aspirations and how she negotiates with choice or lack of it.

Steps: There is a square piece of cloth with 12 boxes coloured differently and illustrated with matrimonial description for the groom/bride. The participant will get three hoola hoops to make three choices in order of priority. These choices are descriptive of the partner.

There is a chart coinciding with colours on the square piece of cloth which have different situations listed on them like:

  • You have fallen in love, but your parents disapprove
  • Your partner wants you to have sex before marriage.
  • Your partner wants you to live with him/her before marriage.
  • You are in love with a boy from a different religion but he wants you to convert.
  • Your prospective husband is tall, dark and handsome but is unemployed.
  • Your fall in love with another man after marriage.
  • Your prospective partner doesn’t get along with your family.
  • You’re sexually attracted but you are not in love.
  • You’re partner wants you to change your style of dressing.
  • You are well settled in a job, and your husband gets a transfer to another city
  • You are in love with two people at the same time
  • Your partner is employed with a self owned house but has turned into an alcoholic.
  • You want a separate bank account after marriage but your partner insists on a joint account
  • You want to pursue your career after marriage, but your partner doesn’t approve of it
  • You do not want to change your surname after marriage
  • You are in love with someone from a different caste/community
  • There is an illness in the family, either you or your husband needs to leave work in order to be at home
  • You parents have found a groom for you, but he doesn’t look great
  • Your partner is smart and nice but is less educated than you
  • Both you and your partner are earning the same salaries

These are the situations that come along with the choice of the partner. The participant has to negotiate between the partner and the situation to make one choice.

Scope for discussion

Why is it that many of us are not asking ourselves what we are looking for in a relationship? How much are you willing to compromise – to what extent? Why do we unquestioningly follow the norm of women getting married, having children and looking after their home? Is it possible for women to balance their own lives, dreams ad aspirations with the demands of marriage and family? Why do women accept any person selected by their family members as their partners? What happens if there are differences in what women want in their partners and what their family think will be suitable for them? Is marriage the only option for a woman? In what manner does love change relationship with family, friends and co-workers?

Marriage in the context of Gender

Marriage photograph

Objective: To use image of marriage and trigger responses on ideas and experience of marriage. With youth groups, preferable to keep it to concepts, notions, wishes, expectations, since they would not have gone through a marriage. For married older groups, structure questions of then and now, past, and present.

Time taken: 90 min depending on discussion


You will need to have with you at least, one picture of a married couple. You could create a story, or an album with different “types” of marriage couples (cultural symbols), or use different kinds of marriage photographs- group photographs, etc.

Pass the picture(s) around and give people some time to study the picture(s).

Possible set of questions you could ask (try to create a chart of responses as they come, either through words, phrases, or symbols)

  • What do you see? Who is getting married?
  • How does a marriage happen? Do you want to describe it?
  • What are the joys and pains of this event?
  • What sort of marriages have you seen? What do you observe about marriages? How does the couple usually look? Do you imagine them to be happy, in love? What emotions do they seem to show out?
  • How have you envisioned your marriage? Has it changed over time?
  • How have ideas of marriage changed around you and how has the concept changed within you?
  • Who is actually getting married in a marriage? In an Indian marriage? How does that thought make you feel?

Scope for discussion

This exercise will probe further into the question of marriage and address question of choice. Further, this exercise is a good entry point to the personal decision making process. Are opinions, ideas, issues different for others and the self? Do we think enough about our self, if yes, then do we execute what we feel? If not, then why?

Concept of gifts and gifting in the context of Dowry

Objective: To personalize the concept of dowry and its implications.


How do you present a gift?

Ask someone to mime giving someone a gift. Ask them to feel how they would feel/ what they would say. The person receiving the gift could respond to that. Discuss concepts and contexts of gifts and gift giving with the groups

Ask another volunteer to come over and fight for this gift with the receiver trying this in different ways- aggression, manipulation, sweet talk etc

Check with the group on how and where they think this could be happening. If dowry comes up as a response, discuss ideas of Dowry and ask people how they understand this gift.

  1. How and why could it have been given?
  2. Who has the “right” over it?
  3. How is it given in their communities? Do they know? Or have they accepted it as traditionally from girls family to the boy?

Collate/document all responses to notice thought patterns within the collective

PS: As facilitators, there sometimes is a tendency to be poked into response due to perceived “wrong” attitudes emerging from the group. Please refrain from “informing” the group of your opinions of right and wrong while game goes on. Let others who are participating respond to it.

Scope for discussion

By physically handing over gifts and questioning the concept of gift taking and receiving, the concept of dowry is introduced. Not many may be aware of the forms of dowry and economics of marriage. Language for dowry is different in different cultures and it gets hidden more than noticed and gets lost in its subtleties. However, some other forms of dowry are obvious and dangerous. By listening to one another through this exercise, participants will be able to become aware of various form of dowry. This will lead to a continuation of discussing implications of marriage and will open the house for violence.

Gender comfort zones (psychological, personal, emotional) - perceiving, realistic assessing and handling violence

Proximity, intimacy and personal safety

Objectives: To experience and observe how individual psychological and social concepts allow and affect gender interactions


Get two volunteers of the opposite gender, preferably. Ask the man to approach the woman. Get the woman to say STOP when she thinks he has come too close. Try this with a few volunteer pairs. If the group is fairly co-operative and not shy, try to give the pairs roles. The approaching male becomes stranger man, brother, friend before marriage, male friend after marriage, father-in-law, lover/boyfriend. Try with standing space, walking space and sitting space. Discuss with the others on what they observed with different pairs and their permissible limits of personal space. Ask them to share experiences (if they feel comfortable) where they felt this was violated.

Scope for discussion

This exercise allows a person to experience and bring to consciousness, one’s own personal space and how she/he handles it. Let’s keep in mind we are not talking of victims or assaulted groups. We are talking of young men and women groups and we also want them to develop healthy concepts of personal space while they interact with the other gender (in different contexts of relationships). This exercise will have two components, ones who are exploring and testing this personal space and the others who are observing. A healthy discussion could emerge based on ideas of women and men in private, domestic, private space and how their bodies and emotions negotiate a comfort zone. Some may have skills in this area, others maybe clueless. So the act of observing and sharing can also throw up tools that can be used in everyday interactions. This exercise could also lead to sharing personal experiences where they felt their space to be invaded. A healing and emotional space could thus also get created for some.

Using voice and tone

Objectives: To introspect on how tone and content of communication could affect us independently and yet, subconsciously

Get some volunteers to call names of their partners in different ways: friendly, angry, demanding, irritated, shouting, pleasant Then ask the volunteers to ask/request/demanding for things in different ways and tones of voice. Share on how different tones made different people feel

(Comment.gif: Work in progress)