Swarna Jyoti - A feminist leadership program for women activists with disabilities
Swarna Jyoti, an annual programme, was launched in 2021. It is the first of its kind feminist leadership programme for women activists with disabilities from across India to deepen conceptual, legal and practical knowledge of disability justice and feminist principles. The programme is designed for grassroots activists and is conceptualised with Hindi as its core language.
In our first year, we had 25 participants from 10 states across the country, bringing diverse contexts, experiences, and knowledge to the cohort. In 20201, in its 3 month long virtual avatar, the programme comprised a nine day training conducted over three weeks followed by a field project undertaken over a period of 2 months in the location of the participant. The training addressed topics including gender, patriarchy, violence against women, laws, policies. This feminist training provides space and support for disabled women activists to address local issues pertaining to women with disabilities through a critical lens that looks at the layered impact of gender and disability. While strengthening understanding about disability justice, participants learnt and unlearnt about patriarchy, gender marginalisation, power and hierarchical social structures of oppression and control. They unpacked their own lived realities and located women with disabilities and their issues at the intersections of rights movements.
Armed with new knowledge, they were assisted to conceptualise and execute field projects to lead the work and bring the desired social and structural changes for women with disabilities. They received intensive mentoring, resources and monetary support to independently design and lead field projects geared to inclusion and change. As part of these projects, they organised workshops, research, campaigns etc for social change.
Swarna Jyoti aims to create waves of change, and in this first year we with our 25 young leaders succeeded in reaching 339 people out of which 223 were women and girls with disabilities, 73 were men with disabilities, 11 were boys with disabilities, and 31 parents and caregivers. From lack of information to learning about feminist ideas to further imparting these ideas has led to significant change in the individuals themselves. This has created ripples in the kinds of conversations we can have when women with disabilities lead the dialogue. This program will year on year continue infusing grassroots disability rights movements with feminist principles so that we truly leave no one behind.