In the second part of the series How I became a feminist, CYC brings to you to the story of Aditya Gupta, who started to explore gender as a response to the Nirbhaya case and went on to start People for Parity, an organisation that works on with youth on establishing gender peace.
Aditya Gupta had what he calls “a very stereotypical middle class upbringing”. He remembers how his elder sister was expected to do very different chores from him when they were growing up.
“My sister was expected to help in the kitchen. I was expected to help my father with various things…he talked about financial assets and property with me and not my sister. My sister was provided an excellent education but in terms of having mobility and decision making power, there was a clear difference between us. I saw how my sister struggled with some things,” says Aditya.
Aditya spent four years of his adult life in what he describes as “a very toxically masculine and competitive environment”. He studied at IIT Delhi at a time when the institution had 5,000 men and only 300 women.
“The faculty believed that such a gender ratio existed because women were less capable of being there. There were lots of instances of boys in my college being extremely awkward around women and they ended up stalking them… they definitely created a sense of harassment for the women visiting or living on the campus,” he says.
When Aditya was first told by a female friend that she was molested, he thought of it as just an incident. “I had no idea that gender was a larger issue until Nirbhaya happened,” he says.
Taking inspiration from Nirbhaya to start People for Parity
In 2012, the Nirbhaya rape & murder case took the entire nation by storm. Indian youth rallied on streets to demand justice for violence against women. Aditya felt a strong connection with what was happening and he decided it was time for change.
In 2013, he quit his corporate job and took some time off to volunteer in East Africa. After returning to India, he decided to work in the area of gender. The same year he started People for Parity (PFP) with a small group of volunteers. They started offering a basic workshop on street sexual harassment and also tried to develop an app for women to swiftly report cases of sexual harassment.
Aditya remembers having misunderstandings about feminism when he started working on gender issues. But that changed very soon.
Getting to know the 5th space
In mid-2013, Aditya was selected as a Changelooms fellow. With his corporate background, he was completely new to the world of sharing circles and experiential workshops. “During the fellowship, I got introduced to the concept of gender and patriarchy, the philosophy of youth development and the idea of organised social change work,” says Aditya.
Explaining what the 5th space means to him, he says, “My first introduction to the 5th space was experiential as a part of Changelooms and I remember being extremely lost because before that I had never been in a space that was co-created, participative and yet purposeful.”
“The 5th space for me is a beautiful way to look at what a space/experience that is youth-led and youth-focused looks like.”
Learning about feminism & focusing on gender peace
The initial years of starting his organisation also shaped Aditya’s views on feminism. He says:
“While I identify as a feminist man, I haven’t studied feminism. There are lots of people I’ve met who helped me understand specific nuances of gender. I had several interactions with feminist women who questioned me and gave me a deeper insight. Also, a lot of my learning was experiential.”
Aditya sees feminism as a political movement to establish equal rights for women. Sharing his thoughts on intersectionality, he says, “Intersectionality is an aspect of feminism that allows me to see common ground between various movements for equality but for me, that does not mean that feminism becomes about more than women but that it becomes about all women, belonging to diverse identities and cultures.”
As Aditya and his team’s understanding of gender evolved, they redefined their mission at People for Parity – they decided to focus on gender peace. “As we worked on gender issues, we noticed that a lot of work was done around either informing people about gender inequality or working on remedying symptoms of patriarchy,” says Aditya.
“We specifically wanted to work on understanding what we can build within our consciousness which would effectively replace patriarchal culture. Gender peace is the cultural alternative to patriarchy. It aims to build alternate behaviours and practices to find an effective replacement for inequality and violence.”
Designing transformative experiences for youth
Aditya’s work at People for Parity involves designing transformative experiences which lead to perspective shifts and realignment. His organisation works with youth from low-income communities in Delhi, Jaipur and Bhopal.
“The majority of work we do is with, for and by young adults. We try to maintain diversity across our programmes because we want to work with women, men and transgender people together,” explains Aditya.
PFP runs a programme called Pratiti which enables youth to develop their perspectives on issues that affect them and empowers them to address these issues in their own communities. “We look at young people as people who can lead and take up issues that are relevant to them rather than as people who can just be volunteers or instruments for the work we want to do,” says Aditya.
Aditya is all about finding a way to achieve feminist outcomes while serving the needs of young people. “If we would just focus on feminist education, we would be ignoring what these young people need at that time in their lives. Our work is designed to cater to their urgent needs as much as working towards building equality,” he says.
People for Parity is also a part of ComMunity The Youth Collective. “Being a part of the collective brings us an opportunity to cultivate relationships with like-valued partners and bring some of our work to parts of India that would be hard for us to understand or work in otherwise,” says Aditya. He also enriches the collective by bringing in a gender lens. He says, “I talk about how any work we do should ideally address patriarchal norms in parallel, in the least not reinforce them.”
This article is the second in a three-part series featuring feminist men from India who also lead youth-centric organisations that are a part of ComMutiny The Youth Collective (CYC). If you enjoyed reading this article, you might want to read: How I became a feminist – Part One and Part Three.