Last night was the first time I could genuinely accept any of the girls’ accolades. While the team definitely carried the workshop as opposed to me carrying the team, I feel very accomplished with the results of the workshop. First of all, attendance was way higher than I ever expected it to be. At the beginning, I was aiming for up to 25 participants, but even as low as 10. There was no day, however, with less than 23 adult participants. The average was closer to 34 and we peaked at about 40 adults. That’s not including the droves of kids that came out! On the last day we about 60 children show up. While I didn’t give out the gifts I had planned to the kids because of how many came, they still each had sweets and probably snuck away with a few markers and pens. Still, all of this is just to explain how blown away I am by the turnout and reception the workshop and I received (a shoutout and most of the credit for this goes to the field organizers and the Dilasa team who recruited participants – thanks guys!).
As an observer on the outside, I was also impressed with the value the women placed on the workshop. They did a really thorough job of laying out what problems confronted them and what solutions could address the topics we assigned to them. More visible to me though, was how especially nicely the women dressed last night; their saris were extra beautiful and patterned, and it was clear to me that the women presenting the posters were proud of their work and wanted to shine in their moment. It was really neat, and definitely similar to what it’s like to see public speaking empower students 😊 (shout out to debaters/forensicators!) Check out the presenters in the slideshow – they really did do a fabulous job!
All of this is particularly rewarding to me because when the workshop began, I didn’t really know what to expect. As I mentioned in a previous post, I was super nervous before leaving, to the point of doubting why I had even received a grant. Given that I didn’t even know what to expect, I’m sure the feeling was mutual with the attendees; on the first day there were some uncertain faces in the audience and the women were reserved. Although some discussion broke out when we started talking about how the rains have changed, there wasn’t as much back and forth as I had expected.
The workshop could have also just as easily been a psychological experiment for me. It made me realize how conditioned we are as students to certain activities:
- Breaking up into groups. It literally took 10-15 minutes just to explain that we would be breaking up into groups and the participants should count off in order to do so. Even then, I’m not sure exactly how the groups were divvied up (if I’m being completely honest)
- Making a poster. I bought a ton of markers, colored paper, post-its, pens, etc. for the women to design and make their poster. Except they didn’t use any of it and just took one marker to make lists of items. The most well-designed poster had two different color markers. Reflecting on that, I realized how engrained it is in American students’ minds on what a poster is and should be. My automatic reaction when I’m asked to make even the most basic poster is to use different colors, make a large title, and draw some pictures. Instead, this conception of poster making was very foreign (and kids were helping too)
Some things are the same though:
- Everyone prefers presentations that are short on words and long in pictures. I don’t think I have met anyone anywhere in the world that would rather have the opposite
- Being in the same circumstance as somebody else – even thousands of miles away – still evokes the same sympathy you would feel for your neighbor. The women related to climate change and drought in other parts of the world and were interested in it; they just hadn’t realized that the droughts they faced were globally spread
- Find a topic people are interested in and they will put in the work. Allow me to reiterate that the women voluntarily took a group project home. I mean, can you find students that do that??
- Also, all of the attendance was completely voluntary. Even on the fourth and fifth days there were new faces 😊 and nobody completely stopped coming – that’s a success in my book!
The last anecdote I want to share is the reaction of the women when I asked whether they felt responsible for adapting to climate change, or whether they would wait for somebody else to fix the problem for them. As I posed the question, I joked that in the US, we withdrew from the Paris Agreement, meaning we were pushing responsibility onto somebody else. The women apparently mentioned that they were a bit better than us – they aren’t waiting for somebody else to intervene, and they are willing to change their farming practices to conserve water and become more sustainable 😉
I’ll probably share some more feedback from the participants as my trip continues (and it gets translated), but overall I am very happy with the workshop’s outcomes, and I look forward to hearing if the women are able to implement any of their ideas. Furthermore, I’m hoping the response to the workshop will help Dilasa pitch climate change related workshops and role plays as future projects in partnership with the private sector. Even if it’s a “soft” project, the outcomes are just as important.
In the meantime, I will be staying at Dilasa until the beginning of August. While we won’t be replicating the workshop due to constraints on time/resources for the Dilasa team, it will hopefully serve as a model for future projects. I’ll stay busy by helping them work on social and digital media (and doing some sight- and food-seeing 😉)