On the third day of the conference I could actually relax and focus on the talks. And what high-energy talks there were – first Kiran Vissa on agriculture and farmers and then Geetha Ramakrishnan on the rights and struggles of unorganized sector workers. Continue reading
Moving along, in the late afternoon there was the follow-up session on 10xAID, after which the Executive Board and Board of Directors presented the Annual Report and then Kamayani and Ashish talked about their work in Bihar. They talked about MNREGA and other issues of workers’ rights, village level discussions with women as well as with men on gender equality, and about the nirman work they were starting with children’s education.
And then there was dinner. Not just any dinner but the Reunion Banquet. Some of the folks from the early years of AID came along with their families to share stories from the times when they were all roommates dreaming up schemes for the future of India, or how to dumpster-dive a Xerox machine and make it produce the first copies of Dishaa, the AID newsletter.
So the interesting thing about having everyone stay in the hotel together is that after coming back from the conference we conferenced some more. In the hotel lobby, a small group gathered round to ponder questions of caste, class and gender in a discussion format similar to what Ashish and Kamayani use in their village workshops. Rashim had circulated a short list of questions earlier, with the title “Did you ever wonder?” It seemed like people really need to talk about these questions and rarely take the time to do so. I used the opportunity to share something I had no other place to share, regarding the trials of the police officers charged in the Freddie Gray case, and what our feelings about the verdict say about our own place in society. What would we do if we were in the place of the police? And why is it that none of us is?
Shyamala, Lakshmi and Sonika got the conference to a bright and melodious start with a welcome followed by “A Chal Ke Tujhe,” a musical gem from the sixties, beckoning us towards a future of peace, hope and love.
For two days in Gainesville, Ravi, Khiyali and I had the opportunity to attend the Asha conference and absorb a sense of the prevailing concerns that volunteers felt regarding education. For example, Anurag Behar, one of their speakers Saturday morning stated that “education is fundamentally a socio-political issue.” What then would be the indicators of a good education? Could we apply these indicators not only to individual students but to the social and political climate in which they pursued education? Could we look also at the socio-political climate of the classroom itself – who questions, who answers, who listens, and who learns? Continue reading
In chapters and at annual conferences, volunteers of AID have discussed forms of injustice stemming from various social identities such as gender, patriarchy, and sexual orientation and our own role in questioning the injustice and understanding how we take part in perpetuating them. Two years ago discussions on gender identity and sexual orientation led to a conference session as well as an amendment to the volunteer code of conduct. While amending the code volunteers included caste as a basis of prejudice to be eradicated. Continue reading
Young people have always played a role in AID. From the time of the Austin conference of 2004, where months-old babies Arjun and Khiyali attended their first conference, and every year since, there have been children of various ages at AID conferences, growing together and looking forward to meeting every year. Continue reading
During the break yesterday a young man approached me and said that there would be a follow-up meeting on Youth in Movements tonight at 10. Though I had to decline I learned from Suresh that they did meet and talked till 1am and planned a youth convention for early next year. More power to the youth! Yet another refreshing change from earlier NAPM conventions. Continue reading