Society

Only one school in all of India is participating in Pride month celebrations

Children of Tagore International School, Vasant Vihar support pride month

Children of Tagore International School, Vasant Vihar support pride month   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Delhi’s Tagore International, Vasant Vihar, is the only school in India that has registered for pride month’s #21DaysAllyChallenge

Vedica Saxena speaks of how difficult it is to convince schools to do workshops on matters concerning gender and sexuality. “I used to call them LGBTQI+ sensitisation workshops, but I realised the word was taboo, so now I call them gender-sensitisation workshops,” says the Project Director at Tagore International School, Vasant Vihar, Delhi. There are still challenges: “It can take me upto a month to even begin to engage with a school, and they’ll ask if we will use words like sex. I say yes, but we use them with the utmost respect.”

As an extension of the social awareness projects and campaigns Tagore International is already undertaking as a part of their Breaking Barriers initiative (@breakingbarrierscampaign on Instagram), 32 of the Vasant Vihar branch’s senior school students will be a part of a #21DaysAllyChallenge. The ‘break a thinking pattern/form a habit’ campaign, to commemorate pride month in June, is being organised by Pride Circle, a Bengaluru-based organisation that helps companies and institutions foster a culture of diversity and inclusion. The aim is to build meaningful engagement over a long period, though there is also an element of competition with a leaderboard reflecting everyone’s participation points, and prizes to be won.

Registrations for the campaign can be done individually or through an organisation: So far, there are 88 companies (IBM, Philips, Infosys) and institutions participating (Miranda House, Law Schools’ Queer Alliance) across 32 countries.

Srini Ramaswamy and Ramkrishna Sinha of Pride Circle

Srini Ramaswamy and Ramkrishna Sinha of Pride Circle   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“The premise of the challenge was based on three things: what does it really mean to be an ally, acknowledging that in today’s context allyship is more important then ever because safe spaces in the physical world have been taken away with the added anxiety of the pandemic. Pride marches are cancelled, so it’s important we build a platform where we can come together as a global community,” says Ramkrishna Sinha.

Pride Circle, which had started work as a collective in late 2015 and began officially in 2017 picking up pace in 2018 after homosexuality was decriminalised, is represented by Ram, an engineer who is from the community, and Srini Ramaswamy, an HR professional and ally. They act as a bridge between companies and the community, aiding in recruiting and setting in place both policies and programmes that will help in building a workplace of equality.

The campaign will be spread across three buckets: of information (the law and the history of the LGBTQI+ movement, for instance), of getting in touch with community influencers and organisations, and of acting upon the new knowledge and becoming an ally (like sharing on social media in order to reach other people). Individual challenges will have different formats, from material to be read or a film to be watched, to the act of posting a picture celebrating pride or following an LGBTQI+ influencer on social media, or even supporting a community business.

The duo says the exercise of breaking a pattern of thinking and subsequent behaviour change takes place much before and after the 21 days. People need to be open to the idea of learning something new to register, and they will take new knowledge into the spaces they inhabit, whether online or offline, becoming advocates of equal opportunity for all, irrespective of gender identity or sexual orientation. “There’s the element of self-reflection,” says Srini. At some point through the challenge, people will begin to understand that many of us may be “operating from a position of bias, stereotypes, and micro-aggressions. I sit and introspect on those. My next step would be to adopt and learn these new pieces of information that’ll help me to neutralise these biases.”

Parmesh Shahani, who heads Godrej India Culture Lab in Mumbai, is an influencer listed for the challenge, as someone who people can reach out to and connect with. He hopes the new normal that’s been forced upon us by the lockdown will be about equality and inclusion, a transition to which companies will make when they realise it makes business sense.

Parmesh Shahani

Parmesh Shahani   | Photo Credit: Amit Thakur

“This pandemic has taught business people to be nimble and innovative, and there’s a correlation between these and diversity,” says Shahani, referring to diversity at different levels: gender, life experience, age, social backgrounds. “For example, if you don’t have a person on your team who maybe in a wheelchair, you’ll never know what the lockdown has meant for that person. Maybe there’s a product dying to be made for that community,” he says, adding that now is the time to consider building resilient, future-ready organisations.

His association with Pride Circle has been since the organisation’s inception, and they form a part of his next book, Queeristan: LGBTQ Inclusion in the Indian Workplace. Part personal journey, part manifesto, it’s due in time for the second anniversary of the 2018 ruling. Parmesh hopes that the #21DaysAllyChallenge will “give people the impetus they need to rise up and act.”

Join the movement and campaign at Thepridecircle.com/21daysallychallenge

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Printable version | Jul 8, 2020 4:00:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/celebrating-pride-month-in-june-with-the-21daysallychallenge/article31720256.ece

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