Gender and Self-learning: Autonomy for the Vulnerable During Crisis

Because making a choice is always a political decision. And when systems do not allow for that to happen, no amount of agency building exercise will be fruitful.

Our programs and processes have been built upon the vision of enabling self-learners.

Self-learning is a process by which the learner takes charge of her learning journey. This manifests in the form of choosing what to learn, when to learn, from whom, how, and to what extent. While the self in self-learning may sound like everything is dependent on the individual, it is not a lonely activity. The emphasis on self emerges from the need for placing the agency of choice-making in the hands of the learner as opposed to a system or an institution determining the best pathway for an individual to achieve their goals.

However, having the ability to make choices or having a vision to craft one’s learning pathway doesn’t always go hand in hand with the individual’s ability to make it come true. Because making a choice is always a political decision. And when systems do not allow for that to happen, no amount of agency building exercise will be fruitful.

It’s one of the main reasons we focus on creating systemic change in education and skilling, working with everyone embedded in it, so as to try and alter the existing structures to allow the learner more leverage.

The autonomy born out of this has a profound dependency on the individual’s gender and socio-economic status. In other words — their identity.
Identities are oftentimes the source of violence. Like Amartya Sen, an economist and philosopher, once said:

“Many of the conflicts and barbarities of the world are sustained through the illusion of a choiceless and unique identities…  The result can be homespun elemental violence or globally artful violence and terrorism.”

Sen, A.(2006). Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny, Penguin Books

The autonomy for self-learning and gender is related. We’ve seen it play out in numerous ways, but none as stark as young women navigating deference and enfranchisement. 

The identity of being born as a girl or a woman becomes one of the hurdles for girls and women to have any kind of autonomy in life. It stays as the single most popular reason for oppressing women in virtually every sphere of their lives. 

Drawing references from our experience of working with adolescent girls in 200 villages across Jharkhand: their voices are suppressed in families and communities early on, resulting in early marriages, early pregnancy, dropping out from school. These girls grow up not being part of the education system or the labour market.

As part of one of our intervention, we created spaces — youth clubs — for adolescent girls to develop a sense of community, foster friendships, look within to build meaning for oneself and share aspirations with one another. The core of this is rooted in critical pedagogy, which lays a lot of emphasis on introducing questions for groups to discuss and find answers, and contextualize information grounded in their lived realities.

Author: thelearnerbyquest

Quest Alliance's space for reflection on the education sector

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