Meeting Digital Champions at Sadbhavana Trust

Shinjini, Tushaar and Ustati

Watching women and children express themselves in safe spaces is deeply inspiring and rewarding. We interacted with digital trainers- confident young Bushra and Samreen, who were once students at the computer and ‘perspective’ training classes at Sadbhavna for building leadership. We were amazed by the creativity and fervour with which they were creating content for Sadbhavana’s Lucknow Leaders Instagram page and more recently, consulting for and training other NGOs (Jan Sahas, Sahajani Shiksha Kendra, Point of View) and young women’s collectives on using social media for communication, designing campaigns, photography and videography. Every quarter the duo organise competitions or ‘pratiyogta’ for women to express themselves through poetry, art, songs and food- a recent competition on recipes using minimal ingredients was an effort to collect recipes from limited kitchen rations in the lockdown.

What struck me the most was the patience and warmth of Samreen (someone who was only ‘known’ in her class when she confirmed ‘present’ on her attendance register). Her digital trainees, often middle-aged women, have learnt how to change their phone settings for privacy, share their location, use type with your voice features (for those who can’t type), created e-mail addresses and will soon help them explore other tools on a smartphone. The thrill of learning these basics by her enthusiastic learners who are often traumatised survivors of domestic violence, single mothers and other women in difficult circumstances, also means Samreen receives several WhatsApps and emails from her students every day, each of which she cheerfully acknowledges and remembers.

In one of Sadbhavana’s community centres, we got a chance to witness the confidence and determination of young adolescent girls, attending various free classes set up by Sadbhavana (digital photography, English language, computer training, perspective building), to keep fighting their daily fight of changing the mind-set of their family members (parents, brothers and relatives) towards the expectation from a girl child which in many cases is driven by the path set out by a girl’s family- completion of primary schooling, early marriage and running households as a “bahu”. Their rigour and patience to focus on learning how to command their own space within their house without threatening anybody else’s authority- a key element of each program of Sadbhavana- was truly inspiring and pushed us to reflect on the need and importance of such a skill in any environment.