Introduction This project takes place in the framework of the â€œEducation for Empowermentâ€? program of Prakriye, which targets adolescent Dalit girls in rural Mysore, creating a space for learning and experimentation to strengthen their leadership skills at home and in their communities. 15 students at Srishti engaged with four communities in a participatory design process, to come up with critical learning sessions that support the curriculum, exploring different perspectives to look at gender equality and how technology can play a role in facilitating a dialogue about self- expression, agency and autonomy.
This document compiles our learnings in different areas of the project, depicting a journey that not only took us to explore new places and new realities, but also represented challenges at the personal level and made us question our role and scope as creative practitioners.
On Design and Participation
Text by Pahi Gangwar Illustration by Maria George
We often have much more in common with people than we think, like the things that can make us smile, our fears or even our vulnerability. Sitting in the quiet space of the Aanganwadi school in Siriyuru, surrounded by the group of girls, I observed the younger ones leaning on my back looking into my notebook, the elder ones gazing at me and then shyly smiling away. I felt that even though their language was one that was unfamiliar to me, we exchanged a lot more through ways that perhaps small children connect to each other with.
As designers, we are met with this constant desire to create something revolutionary - something that has never been done before. But that remains sadly, in the interest of only the ones that assume certain roles of superiority. It is the human disposition that very easily gives in to the idea of being able to create change, but what is hard to hold onto is the fact that change often thrives in the smallest of initiatives, and we must keep reminding ourselves of that.
Cultural Dimensions On Gender Roles
Text by Ushoshi Syam Illustration by Nandita Ratan
Throughout this project, I came to the realisation that the notion of gender and the roles that govern it, have been very well defined for us and respond to the meanings and rituals of the specific society in which we live in. These roles create unwritten restrictions for both men and women, that are enforced not only by family and people in the community, but also by mass media. From an early age a man is expected to be strong, outspoken, in control and able to impose his will and a women is expected to be caring, beautiful, quiet, obedient and accommodating.
The notion of gender roles has been a major determinant of the power that men and women hold in the society, and the norms that perpetuate these notions make it difficult for many of us to think differently about our identities. At a larger level, such norms are creating social inequalities that we aim to make less imbalanced. The concept and the lived experience of gender is for us an opportunity for intervention.
Reclaiming the future Discovering the nuances of empowerment
Text by Anushree Chokappa Illustration by Rahul Rai
“Leadership is the wise use of power. Power is the capacity to translate intention into reality and sustain it.” – Warren Bennis. Power relations are deeply rooted in culture and social structures. In a patriarchal society, where men hold institutional power and women are considered to hold power only in the familial sphere, it is difficult for women and girls to imagine power as an aid in planning more effective strategies for change. Throughout this project, we aim to encourage the girls in rural Mysore, to look at power as a capacity that can bring about positive action and open up possibilities for leadership, starting with deconstructing the vast notion of a leader, as a process of learning & empowerment itself.
With our activities, Kishoris develop their thoughts on leadership at various levels. From analysing Sakhis as role models, to leadership as an individual’s process of self invention through dreaming and aspiring for the future. We aim to create a space for the Kishoris to partake in this journey of self-discovery so that their questions might grow into actionable ideas for the near future.
 (Bennis, Warren and Burt Nanus. 1985. In Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge. New York: Harper and Row.)
Reclaiming Our Digital Space
Understanding the approach of IT for Change
Text by Manjusha Muthiah Illustration by Nandita Ratan
The internet seems to render all users equal, yet a digital divide arises from imbalanced access to ICTs, and a knowledge gap is apparent in regard to the relevance of the content available online. By bridging this divide, we can move towards a more equal and fair society.
As a Kishori, stepping out of this identity by using ICTs is a political act. By creating and accessing information, they have the power to challenge existing power relations – and if done cleverly, they can make a step towards feminizing the local public sphere in a non-threatening manner.
“... [An] increased level of confidence to speak to male members along with the awareness about social issues and the ability to negotiate could be critical steps to create political empowerment for girls in the future.”
In between this struggle for justice, we, as creative practitioners hold a responsibility, given the enormous potential we have in using creativity to facilitate dialogues and design environments where the Kishoris can use technology in meaningful ways.
The Kishoris live within layers of identity (age, caste, class, gender, and location) that all work towards pushing them to the fringes of society.
 Unicef and ITfC’s “Kishori Chithrapata (KC)”: Empowering Adolescent Girls through Information and Communication Technology”, p20
Creative Documentation Discovering Meaning beyond Observations
Text by Arunima Jain Illustration by Nandita Ratan
As visual thinkers, we use drawings and diagrams as a key aspect of the learning process. During this project, we documented our entire process through a weekby-week list of activities: the tasks we undertook, the sessions we had with external faculty and even our reflections on a weekly basis. On group and individual levels we made charts with mind maps, drawings, collages and storyboards of our field visits, observations, insights and ideas.
To make sense of the process, we also included media like photographs, sound recordings and videos from the field visits and the classroom sessions. For instance, when we met the Sakhis for the first time, we recorded our conversations and then, we translated the audio into storyboards to identify relevant aspects of their stories and opportunities for intervention. Using different methods to visualize the process has helped us identify tiny nuances when we revisit our progress. It helps us to move from the explicit level of observations, towards a more intrinsic, meaningful level of significance and transcendence.
Pedagogies for Change Applying Experiential and Skill Based Learning
Text by Sagarika Bhatia Illustration by Rahul Rai
Pedagogy is any “conscious activity by one person designed to enhance learning in another” One of the pedagogies applied on this project is that of J.H. Pestalozzi, that concentrates on the overall development of the child. Pestalozzi believed that education should develop the powers of ‘Head’, ‘Heart’ and ‘Hands’, which correspond to cognitive, emotional and motor skills. We have also applied “Imaginative Play”. This method allows children to role-play and act out situations which may or may not have happened to them. Imaginative Play has been used in several of our projects, where the children play with their identity and have a safe space to express it.
For my project, I have applied the above pedagogies using Origami as a medium to enhance both motor and cognitive skills, making it a productive and fun activity. One of the challenges faced when implementing these pedagogies, was that Kishoris found difficult to fictionalize themselves in the character of an animal, hence some other tools had to be introduced, to guide their decision-making processes.  Mortimore, Understanding Pedagogy: And Its Impact on Learning, 1993  Rich, Origami for kids, 2014, https://www.tofugu.com/japanorigami/
Ecosystems for Empowerment
Designing pedagogical materials and their ecologies
Text by Nikhila Nanduri Illustration by Manjusha Muthiah
When designing our interventions, it was important for us to keep in mind that they would have an impact on the Kishoris, not only during the class but outside of the classroom as well. In this regard, we focused on the ecosystem that our project would fit in. â€œEcosystemâ€? refers to a system of activities, materials and tools that constitute a training module. Ideally, they make sense in the social systems that the Kishoris are a part of: their families, friends, popular culture that they are exposed to etc. By designing our interventions in a way that factors in these systems, we hope to transcend the learnings, into experiences to apply in real life scenarios. This systemic approach represents design implications at various levels. One is the need for strategies to keep the content updated and relevant for the specific
moment, another one is the creation of supporting materials for the girls to reflect or keep track at home, another implication is the need for future suggestions. For example, my project uses a local television serial as a tool for intervention. The ecosystem constitutes the serial and the Kishorisâ€™ interaction with it after the 5 sessions that I had designed. The serial could go out of trend in a few years; in which case my activity would lose its poignancy. To ensure that my project would stay relevant over the span of a few years, I created materials to engage with any media form: magazines, books, movies etc that might exist in the future. In addition, to allow the Kishoris to engage with my intervention, I designed pedagogies for the girls to remember the learnings when they watch the serial in their homes.
The following materials were created by students: Kishori as Captain Modules on building leadership Anushree Chokappa
Understanding Menstruation Using puppetry & guide books as conversational tools Nynha D’Cunha
Road to Radio Show Sharing local personal experiences collected and curated by the Kishoris Arunima Jain
The Card Game Allowing the Kishoris to acknowledge their feelings and channel them into expression Pahi Gangwar
Where is my Colour? Building communication and negotiation skills Dipanshu Srivastav
Exploring Giants A brief journey through our solar system Rahul Rai
Flying Pencils Tools for storytelling & creative expression Madhav Nair
Dialogues on Gender Understanding the Kishori’s personal connection to their gender Rhea Iyer
Let’s Speak Up! Advocacy for empowerment Manjusha Muthiah Namma Jaaga Discovering nature and enjoying the public space Maria George It’s no Big Deal! Workshops on puberty using creative pedagogies Nandita Ratan Namma Dharavaani Television serials as a tool to enable self-reflection Nikhila Nanduri
A Space to Imagine Using games and narratives to re-imagine public space Rushouti Kanade Folding the Stories Self-expression through origami and imaginative play Sagarika Bhatia Making and Breaking Power Using collage & humor to question positions of power Ushoshi Syam
In the envelope attached, we have included 15 ecosystems designed by students. Each ecosystem corresponds to one training module, that usually includes several sessions to be held with the Kishoris. The ecosystems propose creative pedagogies and digital tools, not as individual points of interaction, but as components of larger frameworks of meaning. They also include suggestions of supporting processes for the specific training module. All the ecosystems correspond to the materials, kits and instruction manuals crafted. We hope they contribute to make each pedagogy sustainable over time, and help the girls to navigate and question their realities during the designed workshops, and in the daily routines too.
Acknowledgements We express our gratitude to the organizations, the communities and to the people that supported the project. Project guide Catalina Alzate Facilitators from Prakriye Field Centre Anupama Suresh Chaya Harish Kumar Shreeja Shabhareesh Suvarna Somashekar Tilak Rajkumar IT For Change Deepti Bharthur Nandini Chami Publication Design Madhav Nair Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology Information Arts and Information Design Practices Yelahanka, Bangalore November 2016