Written by: Amola Mehta
The summer programme that I joined conducted an activity called the privilege walk. During this walk, everybody stood in single file – and then moved one step forward when a privilege they had was read out, and moved a step backward when a disadvantage was read out. At first, everyone was treating the matter flippantly, but when we realised the gravity of the concept, we took it more seriously. In the end, we were all distributed at various levels – some right at the front, some way behind, and some in the middle. I could tell that those who were behind felt negatively about where they stood.
Initially, I took the whole activity at face value and thought it was very profound and humbling, but being at Breakthrough – being face-to-face with the reality of child marriage – made me rethink what the purpose of the privilege walk was. It wasn’t for the participants to feel mildly ashamed of their disadvantages, but instead to realise how cushioned and insulated we actually are from such unimaginable situations (like being wed to a stranger at the age of 14).
It’s important to recognise our privileges and be grateful for them, because while we sit in air-conditioned rooms and comfortable chairs, many children in India (particularly girls) are given no choice but to get married at a shockingly young age. Since we are privileged, we cannot possibly imagine the repercussions that that has on their psyche. Now, when I try to imagine where a girl child would stand in the privilege walk, I realise that she would be placed miles behind. The inequalities that we face, I realise now, are inconsequential – but the obstacles that someone like her would have to overcome are the ones that matter.