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Networks & Neighbourhood 03

First activity with a group of local women in the park.

Waiting for me were eight women between the ages of 20-50; four were new to the group, having joined it the previous evening. I brought coloured origami papers and coloured sketchpens, that everyone appreciated. They seemed pleased to see me. We sat on benches in a circle so that it was easy to chat. In earlier discussions they had talked about how they negotiated public spaces in their village environments, how it contrasted with how they negotiated public space in their daily lives in the city. They had also discussed how social rules had to be negotiated, even simple things such as tattoos on their arms could be seen as violating convention. The activity focused on the idea that each woman experienced variable mobility through the day.

I first asked them to make tic-tac-toes with the paper. They were all enthusiastic about this, and the younger women helped the older ones who found it a problem to shape the paper. Meanwhile some other local women, non-participants, came by and stood around, trying to understand the skill of manipulating the paper, and asking the group why they needed to do it.

The second step was to write on the tic-tac-toes four words connected to the familiar spaces the participants travelled to in the morning – e.g., kitchen, bathroom, dairy, threshold to buy vegetables from vendors, etc. They then wrote eight words connected to the local spaces they travelled to all day, e.g., kitchen, school, market, park, clinic, etc.

After this there was animated 90-minute discussion about how, when and where women could move around in the locality, with and without restriction. The participants were initially confused because prior to this activity they had never had to scrutinize their daily mobility patterns. I then asked each participant to identify a space personally indispensable and visited frequently each day. In the next session I plan for each woman to narrate her relationship to that space and explain why it was significant to her daily experience.