2011 LEADers Menuka and Sharmila were selected to receive full scholarships to attend Action Aid Global Platform’s Creative Activism Course. Menuka shares with us how the Course went:
All set with my bags and with great enthusiasm to learn, me and my friend Sharmila headed for our 5 day creative activism course. The name itself was enough to attract me to this course. It challenged us to think out of the box, imagine another world and develop our creative skills. Through stenciling, designing posters and stickers and ad busting, amongst other tools, we learned how to motivate people’s desire for social change. Since it was my first residential course, I was super excited about it. We got there a day earlier to get comfortable with the environment. The place where we were supposed to live was super lavish and awesome.
Most of the people showed up on the main day: in total there were 15 participants. There were people from different backgrounds and most of them were older than us. Our facilitator introduced us to the 5 day schedule and the 4 modules we would be focusing on. The first day started with our introduction to creativity and activism. Everyone had their own opinion about creativity and activism. We watched a documentary “Women are Heroes” which narrated the lives of women across the globe. During the activism portion, we learned about the basic principles of movement building. It might be really easy to start a movement but it’s hard to maintain the same impact for the long time. With the tactics and basic principles of activism we came to know about different creative ideas for activism like flash mobs, street art, satire, music, fashion and many more.
The course was not just based on theoretical knowledge but there were some interesting tasks too. We were all divided into groups of 3 and our task was to raise 200 rupees within 2 hours. Everyone was super excited about it. My team and I went straight to the road, bought a packet of 12 pencils for 50 rupees. We told people that we were selling pencils for charity and asked them to help our cause by buying them. It was not as easy as I thought because people avoided us as if we were thugs. But at the end of two hours, we managed to earn 370 rupees, which was decent money for us. When we headed back, most of the teams were able to increase their money and their ideas were also great. It was a tiresome day for all of us but since it was a residential course after dinner we all sat together and shared our experiences.
The last task for us was to create our own zine on a specific topic and give it to other people in the street. A zine is a non-commercial booklet which is given to people raise their awareness about a specific topic. There were 3 topics: justice, peace and optimistic people. I was in the justice group so our task was to create a zine on justice. There were 4 members in my team and we all brainstormed ideas about what we wanted to include in our zine and what our message should be. We didn’t want our zine to be about people not getting justice but we wanted it to more positive, where we would stories about people who stood up for their rights and took a stand.
According to our plan, we divided our work, and after the completion of all the articles we stuck it all together. For the marketing, we thought that instead of going to random people we would hand these zines to people who are responsible for giving justice. As per the plan, we went to a police station, traffic police and a law house to distribute our zine. This way we were able to interact with people and even hear some stories about their fight for justice. Everyone was tired after a hectic schedule, after 15 minutes rest we all sat together to share our experiences and peoples’ reactions. Hearing others’ experience and sharing ours made us realize that we as individuals can also make a change in our community. Since it was our last day in the course we were all a bit sad because in those 5 days we used to eat together and be with each other for 24 hours but we were all happy with what we got from this whole experience. We got a certificate and instead of getting the certificate from our facilitator we gave the certificate to each other and told the other person why they deserved it. At the end, we all took pictures and gave each other hugs. We felt like creative activistas!