Pizza and aerobics at Ambedkar Nagar

Written by  Anjula Srivastava

We weren't very hopeful of finding many participants for our workshop as we ventured into the dalit-dominated  settlement of Ambedkar Nagar in Market Yard, Pune, on a hot summer afternoon, with temperatures soaring to 40 degrees. We had scheduled a 2-hour workshop in the Baudhha Vihar at Ambedkar Nagar for women who knew almost nothing about the internet.

We were pleasantly surprised to find the Vihar unlocked and kept ready with the carpet laid on the ground. A young woman welcomed us and assured us that more participants would be joining us ‘shortly’.One hour after the scheduled time, we had a group of 17 women in the age range of 11 to 30 years. Although the younger ones (upto age 15) were all students, even they had never used the internet. Only two sisters in the group were familiar with mobile internet but they were keen to join the workshop because they thought they had only a ‘basic’ understanding of the subject.

The workshop took off with an introduction to CCDS, our project, and the purpose of the workshop. Our short campaign video, located in a chai-shop in a basti which is derelict since everyone in the neighbourhood is now flocking to the internet recharge-voucher shops, was screened as an ice-breaker. The short helped us start a conversation with the new audience, and got the women talking about all the different things one could do on the internet.

We moved into our animated audio-visual learning module. This module, designed for the ‘digitally illiterate’, tells the viewer what the internet is, how to connect, how to conduct a simple search, and how to visit some popular websites. The session was made interactive by pausing the video at several points and allowing the participants to respond to simple questions based on the module. Our first success was hearing women who have never used the internet respond correctly to the questions! This gave us confidence that the video was keeping them engaged.

Then it was time for the practical session. The group was divided into 3 sub-groups, each group with a member who had some familiarity with mobile devices. We handed out one internet-enabled tablet to each group and asked them to enjoy using it. The excitement on the faces of the women was a ‘Kodak moment’! Soon the women huddled-up and were searching and finding online mehendi designs, hairstyles, necklines for blouses and kurtis, and the like.

Let's look for a chicken curry recipe online, we suggested. Who doesn't know how to make chicken curry, they laughed. And proceeded to look up pizza recipes.

One of the participants, a mother of two, wanted to know about physical exercises for her children. What excitement when we showed an aerobics video on Youtube! "The children can exercise with music! Kiti chaan diste," said the mother.

The workshop was to conclude with the screening of another campaign video which creates awareness about using the internet to draw attention to local/neighbourhood issues and get them addressed. But the participants were too busy with their tablets, and no one focused on our video.

Though initially planned for 2 hours, the workshop stretched on – the women wanted to know much more and noted down a few websites of their interest to experiment with later.

-- Posted by Anjula Srivastava, May 2, 2014 

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