# September 2020. Response to DA/W4P Questions
### General observations
There are some challenges and questions that have emerged during this project. The complications of having something like this entirely online has changed in the way it has progressed. Physically being in the village, getting an immersive experience by just taking a walk would bring in so many stories and connections - this is a noticeable constraint in designing the activities. So, it become much more important to look at our communication strategy, on how we reach out, how do we build a relationship, how do we behave once we get off the call, are we available to them in other ways - all these matters.
Though workshops and trainings are organized on virtual classrooms with the mentors, we understand how much we have to lean on the local facilitators - Neha and others from MMU. She visits Dih Ganjari village, then co-ordinates with the households and girls to gather, sometimes it also involves speaking to parents / elders, to let them know about our activities. The enthusiasm and the excitement of the girls is very noticeable, when they see their faces on the screen, and the curiosity with which they ask doubts is a good indicator of interest.
If the facilitator doesn’t visit the field, however, then the girls hardly gather, or even if they did, the attendance reduces due to parental disapproval (of outcome?). There have been questions from many a brother or mother about our activities and asking why they should engage with us. This possibly wouldn’t have been the case if we were to be physically present there. We also see that there is stigma associated with girls autonomously using phones especially in Dih Ganjari village (DGV). This was also a sign for us to further explore the “Webinar Pi”, which could be a safe online space. It would be one where we could also include the families and extended people to gain confidence of the communities.
However, this hesitation isn’t a generalisation. The situation is not the same where local girls become leaders of the groups - the Garima Girls area (GGA). They are equally enthused about virtual meetings and activities as well as the real ones. This definitely is very different in DGV, as mentioned earlier, this is related to the dependency on the local facilitator, without whom we have faced difficulty in organizing or co-ordinating with the girls. When there is no mentor on the ground with them, they are reluctant to participate in activities on the web. This might not be a complete explanation, however. Activities are visualised to have group leaders who motivate others to be present. This ensures a peer-based support system to make those spaces safe for them. They also have devices that they can go back and explore. This drives up the excitement for more virtual activity as well. It also goes to show that even though the program has been affected, it is not necessarily a bad thing. Even if a group could be present there, we would still need to gain the confidence of the community. Of course, the situation has changed but we shouldn’t forget about what we would do if we were there physically.
Local spaces might be prejudiced. Therefore it might be a good thing that they are now not limited to that physical space. They are including people they like into extended conversations - even some of us. They often share what they did during the day. Because it is a virtual engagement, they can share something about their family issues that are limiting them. Other personal issues which they didn’t / couldn’t articulate with their immediate peers now seem to be opening up for discussions. The immediacy of the opening the virtual world is much more easier, now that the first demand is to be online. This team-building between us and them continues beyond a day or a project duration. They often come to us, share the screen if they are stuck with something, share images of their new crafts or videos of cultural programs and use their Whatsapp group to engage.
With our activities, we have established good relationships with both DGV and GGA groups. Note that DGV is significant as the devices have to borrowed and used, while devices have been provided in GGA. We are making sure to provide them a space that is non-judgemental and encouraging always. It also seems to be their intuition to see our backgrounds as different and see an opportunity for connection. A connection that might be profound enough to be a place where they articulate the things they don’t like around them. Somehow a virtual engagement has moved beyond the way a physical one would open up possibilities. The physical opportunities are different from virtual, when saying that they can see this happening in the sense our team connecting from Bangalore, Bidar, Pune, kolkata, Gujarat to UP in Dih Ganjari village to engage with people, and building relationships to understand their context and be part of their story it self is a big advantage of the virtual / Internet.
Through the Papad ecosystem we might be able to help them leverage this sense of new exposure to collaboratively mould value from it. The ability to record, edit, sync with the server and share might help the girls explore their identities in a safe, non-judgemental space. It would also enable peer-to-peer engagement through an understanding of the platform can be used for collaboration. For instance the stories of the photo-frame making, and other activities that naturally happen in those (rural) spaces could be our focus point for engagement. The tags might be across different locations and contexts. People might respond to them differently. These tools will come handy as an aid to build a more friendly, honest and generative mental model of the ‘virtual’ world for them.
### How do you go about creating that “safe” and “welcoming” space virtually?
We observe that safety of girls while also being welcoming of outsiders is innate in the village psyche. During our physical engagement, before Covid-lockdown, they were both welcoming and curious as we engaged with the young women while at the sametime they made sure that every group of girls was accompanied by a chaperone. We also observed that the girls were less hesistant in participating when with a chaperone. This was a way the village adults had constructed a safely protocol that was open to the policing/responsible members of the village. This aspect had already set a pattern even as the engagement changed to virtual.
> girls felt awkward to talk to us when alone.
> during online video meetings in many cases, hesitation to participate when without a mentor or a chaperone.
We observed that they could soon experience that the virtual spaces allowed them to move beyond the physical surrounding restrictions and mindsets. *We became part of their safe space!* They were including people they like into extended conversations. Soon some of them were sharing that they were policed and participation was restricted by the male members in the family or neighborhood. The way we were forced to go virtual first has helped open them into the larger world of safe spaces outside.
These are our inroads into how an introduction of beneficial technology and social networking tools can come about while attending to some aspects to watchout.
### Have you noticed any changes to the way you do this between face to face and virtual connections?
Face to Face engagement usually happened in a group. Very few girls who like to talk or express themselves were could do that individually. Few were cautious of being watched by others. On the other hand oberserving girls on virtual space, specially on online video conferencing, many of them chose not be on the video and were comfortable talking just with the audio. We could see many were compfortable sharing text, audio or pictures of their interest and of the assigned work assignments using chatting applications.
Face to face interaction require you being present physically on the field, gather girls at one place and engage with them. Family consent and a family member accompanying them to the gathering place was must. Virtual space opened up space to connect from where ever they are usually from the house or the neighbourhood with a chaperone around. Virtual world made a slew of special interest mentors and workshop possibilities available for them with out the logistics nightmare of a physical visit from a far away region.
### Have the young women shaped what that space looks like themselves as the listening process progressed?
Even though our groups are online, it has been with a small group of girls who are physically near each other with only our mentors and activity leads who not physically near them - thus virtually only. This framework has already helped them not only to register the possibility of indulgence with choosen people who are far away but also to the idea of co-creating with people from other regions and groups. For the coming weeks, we have planned our acitivities to help them recognise complimentary skills among their cohorts and to get them to listen and propose their co-working activities.
> Engaging the girls with right quality content, right flow of the activity, tagging their fellow group members and to observe natural clustering of skills needed for an activity.