In A Spectacular Display Of Empowerment, This Mela In Delhi Smashed Gender Taboos

By Jyotsna Kalra:

Gender Mela was organised by Safecity with its partner organisation Action India on August 31, 2016 in Sanjay Camp, a neighbourhood situated in South Delhi.

A mela is about celebration, and in a similar way, we conducted this Gender Mela, celebrating the campaigns we have been running in that neighbourhood through active participation of the young members from the community. We personally feel that the Mela was also celebrating the empowerment, confidence, participation and awareness and the change these young ones have started to endure.

The main objective behind the Gender Mela was to create a space, through an event where the community understands the issues prevalent in their community, related to gender, which they must have either encountered or heard of, but never talked about before as one unit, as a community. The Gender Mela was a platform where the community joined hands and collectively understood and worked together against these issues.

The mela had different stalls on vast issues – Safe Spaces(Safecity), Know your rights, Career Counselling, Menstrual Health, One Billion Rising and Sustainable Development Goals.

The objective was to create a common space to talk about these issues and understand the deeply embedded roles and stereotypes, to sensitively consider one’s own actions in daily lives to counterfeit the same.

Each stall was coordinated and facilitated by our youth volunteers from Sanjay Camp and Dakshinpuri, who took this opportunity to initiate conversations about topics which have been considered a taboo with members of their own communities, both men and women, young and old, about issues that affect them and their growth. They explained to people the intricate details of the journey of the campaign, challenges faced, issues which arose, and interventions attempted. This also ensured empowerment of these youngsters, after all, they are the future of change.

Despite the rains, the Gender Mela was a possibility turned into reality only with the energy, belief and enthusiasm of these youngsters, who were struggling but with no reason to give up to make this event happen. This in itself implies how much this mela was felt like a much-needed affair by the young minds who braved the challenges nature and life have thrown at them.


The heavy downpour that we faced that morning seemed to challenge our itinerary for the day. But it wasn’t enough to dampen our spirits. The enthusiasm of our youth volunteers enabled us to make sure that Gender Mela went ahead as planned and this is how we began with preparations.


After two hours of setting up our stalls, we were finally ready to kickstart our Gender Mela!


Many organisations joined us in solidarity through their participation in the Gender Mela. One such wonderful person was Logna from OBR who brought happiness and infectious energy with her colourful ribbons and books! We also had SEWA and Haq who joined us for Career counselling and Child Right’s stalls respectively.


Our inspiring youth volunteers at the Safecity Stall, asserting the basic rights everyone is entitled to!


Our young emerging leaders displayed pride and ownership over Gender Mela while they facilitated various stalls. In this picture, the volunteers are talking to the Counsellor, taking him through the various activities conducted with them during the Safecity Campaign, unsafe spaces, mapping exercises and the various interventions.


Boys taking over the Safecity stall!


Yes, we made this happen! During the Gender Mela, we received an overwhelming and unexpected response from the community, with close to nearly a thousand individuals participating in the Mela of all age groups and gender talking about issues never spoken about before which affects them individually and collectively as residents of the same neighbourhood. Here in this picture, is the wonderful team that put in their all to make the Gender Mela possible. At the end of it, we were physically exhausted but mentally completely charged up with new ideas and a different energy and satisfaction!


Images shared by the author.
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