I am bit naïve even after attending so many workshops. I assume that people would prefer to interact for a longer time, which is not the case. This workshop too was over before the scheduled time – a usual practice. As the organizers had asked participants to book for ‘cheapest flights’, many of us were stuck at the venue. The workshop was over at 11.00 in the morning and my flight was at 8.50 in the evening.
The first taxi to the airport was to leave after lunch. Many local people had made their own arrangements, but the outsiders decided to have lunch at the workshop, chat for some time and then leave for airport. There were about 12 people, women and men, representing different organizations and government departments.
The workshop theme was ‘Empowerment of Women’. There were different perspectives regarding what is empowerment (whether it is primarily economic), the process of empowerment (whether it is primarily individual or collective), role of outsiders in women’s empowerment and so on. It was interesting to listen to people with different backgrounds and working in different states. Sometimes people agreed and sometimes they did not agree. Everybody was passionate about his/her ideas, but the basic respect for the ‘other thought’ was never lost in the discussion. The discussion was taking place in a very healthy environment. Now a days I hardly get a chance to participate in such open discussions (for me it is mostly ‘what to do list’ – though people generally don’t order me…) so I was fully enjoying it.
The post workshop discussion was on difference of opinions as it was a small group. People differed about whether microfinance should be an agenda of Self Help Group (SHG) and whether SHG Federations should work as microfinance institutes. People had different ideas whether gender aspects could be tackled through grassroots institutions. And some had strong opinions about whether livelihood challenge can be addressed through SHGs.
Suddenly I noticed that one sentence was appearing on the surface more often. It was ‘Come to our place and listen to women’s voices. I am saying what women in our area (meaning in my organization’s working area) want to say. We need to respect their ideas, thoughts and feelings’. People were honestly saying this, but I was just wondering why women have such different opinions and ideas and feelings – and that too about issues like microfinance, empowerment, livelihood etc.
Then the realization dawned upon me. Most of the times we allow only those people around us (especially so if they are ‘beneficiaries’…) who speak the same language and have the same ideas. Development practitioners generally facilitate things the way they want. That is the expected skill. The more successfully one can facilitate (meaning ‘push’) one’s agenda, the more successful one is and the more ‘market value’ one has.
This means we avoid ‘other voices’, we shun away from ‘different ideas’. We allow only those who agree with us, in the process we create ‘His/Her Master’s Voice’ which we wrongly interpret as support and understanding of grassroots realities. In our world we allow only those, who agree with us. Thus, by using HMV technique, we create illusion around ourselves. Then to believe that this is real, we try to find only similar minded people... we try to follow voice of some or the other Master… by creating HMV, we too become HMV….
It is fun to have contradictory ideas and perspectives in life. It is necessary that we question ourselves and bring in changes in life. Being HMV might be the key to success in this world, but by being HMV we do not grow in real sense. Instead of being HMV we need to listen to ‘Voice of My Heart’ (VMH)…
(I do not mean that you all listen to my heart... but your heart...)