India

Gender & Religion

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India

Gender & Religion

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  • Explore the incredibly diverse regions of northern India, from the plains of the Punjab to the foothills of the Himalayas.
  • Broaden your understanding of the complex reality of gender in India by examining some of the religious, cultural, and historical contexts that define this vast landscape, and by collaborating with organizations working to challenge the status quo and move towards equality.
  • Visit the sites of three major religions in India and explore the incredible temples, ashrams, stupas, mosques, and gurudwaras found there.
  • Hike an ancient Hindu Pilgrimage path to the Doon Valley.*
  • Ride camels into the Thar desert, sip chai, and sing traditional Rajasthani songs.**

* May – June 2018 program only
** July – August 2018 program only

Currency:

40-DAY ↑

Fees + Community Contribution

$3,050 USD + $720 USD
$3,175 CAD + $750 CAD

Program Dates

May 19 – June 27, 2018

July 11 – August 19, 2018

Sample Itinerary

*This itinerary is based on our previous experience with the region. Programs change every year based on the needs of our partners. This should give you a sense of what our program may look like.

May – June, 2018 Track

Our Gender & Religion program focuses heavily on critical and collaborative explorations of gender and social justice issues. Though we will occasionally take part in hands-on volunteering projects, you can expect to be doing a lot more learning as we traverse the many fascinating parts of India.

This is a program that requires and rewards engaged and active learning. So don’t expect to be taught like you might be in a classroom setting! At Operation Groundswell, we’re all about experiential learning – get ready to engage with the communities and people we interact with to shape your experience and what you learn!

Orientation – Delhi

The adventure begins as soon you are picked up from the airport in India’s capital city of Delhi. During our in-country orientation, we’ll be traipsing through the busy streets, interacting with local vendors, practicing our bartering skills, and sampling the many sights, smells, and tastes of Delhi. We’ll spend several days exploring the religious sites of this huge and diverse metropolis and adapting to the vast differences we’ll be exposed to for the rest of the program.

On our final day in Delhi, we will work with Tarshi, an organization working at the forefront of a variety of issues related to gender, sexual health, and sexuality. Sharing their enormous experience in these fields will give our group the locally relevant background that will dramatically inform the rest of our program.

Bhoomdevi and the 60%

Our early summer team will head north to the vast Doon Valley – the gateway to Uttarakhand, also known as Bhoomdevi, land of the gods in Hindu mythology. Nestled between India’s mightiest and holy rivers – the Ganges and Yamuna – this valley is not only the base camp for treks into the Himalayas, but also host to some of the best educational institutions in the north.

An extremely fertile part of India that receives a large portion of the monsoon rains, Uttarakhand is a predominantly rural and agricultural state where women continue to do the majority of the agricultural labour without having title to the land they work on. We will be working with an organization tackling the barriers that rural farm women face through outreach, education, and dialogue. Over 60% of India’s 1.3 billion population live in rural areas, so the perspectives and experiences of gender found there are essential to building a more holistic perspective on this issue of equality.

Doubling Down in Delhi

As the political centre of India, and its second largest urban centre, Delhi is one of the most exciting and important locations for activists and organizations advocating for change on issues related to gender. We’ll return to this bustling city to work with Nazariya, a growing queer-feminist resource group building support and resources for the communities that are all too frequently left out of the mainstream conversations.

Nazariya will share unique cultural lenses that will radically shift the way we experience the rest of our program. We’ll also use our time together to explore and experience some of the places and communities which are most supportive and accepting of change and progress. This will provide us with the balanced perspective on how attitudes in India are changing.

Sikh Spirituality in Amritsar

Amritsar, or Ambarsar as it is known locally, is the spiritual capital of the Sikh religion and home to the Golden Temple, or Harminder Sahib. In our three days in Amritsar, we will learn about both Sikhism and the divisive, powerful history of the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan. We’ll explore Amritsar the way any pilgrim would: by staying at the gurudwara, sharing sleeping quarters with other pilgrims in the attached Ram Das Niwas ashram, eating langar (the community temple meal provided for any and all pilgrims), and volunteering our hands to chop garlic, wash dishes, and participate in this well-oiled community space. Get ready to immerse yourself in the beauty and chaos of one of the most visited and revered holy sites in India.

An Adventure North to Dharamsala

Heading north into the foothills of the Himalayas, our team will move to McLeod Ganj, located 2100m (6800 ft) up on a ridge above Dharamsala in the upper reaches of the Kangra Valley. It is home to the Tibetan government in exile and the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Our time here will be facilitated by the local chapter of the Tibetan Women’s Association, through whom we will learn about the history of Tibet and the struggles Tibetans face in exile. We’ll also have the opportunity to contribute to their, and/or other organizations’, work. This firsthand experience of the ongoing activism in McLeod Ganj will inform our wider conversation about liberation from oppressive structures.

We will also discover the legacy of Buddhism, which was the dominant religion in India for a millennium until about 800 years ago. The quiet, relaxed environment will give us the space to reflect on what we’ve learned over the last four weeks. Whether it’s hiking outside the village, checking out the many temples and spiritual spaces in the area, practicing yoga, or maybe even catching a glimpse of the Dalai Lama in his hometown, this is the perfect place to finish off before our group splits up for Independent Travel Time.

Independent Travel Time

A staple of all Operation Groundswell programs is Independent Travel Time (ITT). You can travel independently if you desire, but we encourage everyone to travel in pairs or small groups. ITT is the ideal time for you to learn more about your specific interests – volunteering with Tibetan refugees in the north, traveling inland, or just relaxing on the coastal beaches. With over a billion people and the largest mountains in the world, you won’t be short of options here!

**Please note that you are not under the auspices of the organized program during ITT. Team members will be given the emergency contact number of program leaders during ITT for any advice.

Disorientation – Rishikesh

Our group will reconvene for a program debrief known as ‘disorientation’ prior to flying home. We will meet in Rishikesh, arguably the world capital of yoga, and another of India’s many holy centres. Nestled along the surging Ganga river and with the smell of incense and yoga constantly in the air, Rishikesh is the perfectly place to debrief and end our experience together. We’ll re-live memories of the program, reminisce about our wild and wonderful experiences, discuss how to stay connected, and collaborate on projects in the future. Then off to the airport for some tearful goodbyes!

July – August, 2018 Track

Our Gender & Religion program focuses heavily on critical and collaborative explorations of gender and social justice issues. Though we will occasionally take part in hands-on volunteering projects, you can expect to be doing a lot more learning as we traverse the many fascinating parts of India.

This is a program that requires and rewards engaged and active learning. So don’t expect to be taught like you might be in a classroom setting! At Operation Groundswell, we’re all about experiential learning – get ready to engage with the communities and people we interact with to shape your experience and what you learn!

Orientation – Delhi

The adventure begins as soon you are picked up from the airport in India’s capital city of Delhi. During our in-country orientation, we’ll be traipsing through the busy streets, interacting with local vendors, practicing our bartering skills, and sampling the many sights, smells, and tastes of Delhi. We’ll spend several days exploring the religious sites of this huge and diverse metropolis, and adapting to the vast differences we’ll be exposed to for the rest of the program.

On our final day in Delhi, we will work with Tarshi, an organization working at the forefront of a variety of issues related to gender, sexual health, and sexuality. Sharing their enormous experience in these fields will give our group the locally relevant background that will dramatically inform the rest of our program.

Desert Sunsets in Rajasthan

Our late summer team will head southwest to the desert plains of Rajasthan. While Rajasthan is one of the most beautifully unique states in India and boasts some of the highest rates of tourism, it still remains one of the states with the highest levels of illiteracy, student drop-out rates, and gender inequality in all of India. We will be working with our partner and friends at Jatan, an organization that seeks to increase gender equity through education and social services for women and children.

Rajasthan is also one of the centres of India’s ancient civilization, making it a fascinating place to understand the ways that traditional beliefs and lifestyles intersect with the contemporary push for progress and equality. We’ll be spending over a week in this rural environment where conditions are basic, but will help us appreciate the daily way of life for hundreds of millions of Indians. Our team will get a unique and intimate look at the inherent challenges, and benefits, of a traditional lifestyle that is only slowly modernizing.

Doubling Down in Delhi

As the political centre of India, and its second largest urban centre, Delhi is one of the most exciting and important locations for activists and organizations advocating for change on issues related to gender. We’ll return to this bustling city to work with Nazariya, a growing queer-feminist resource group building support and resources for the communities that are all too frequently left out of the mainstream conversations.

Nazariya will share unique cultural lenses that will radically shift the way we experience the rest of our program. We’ll also use our time together to explore and experience some of the places and communities which are most supportive and accepting of change and progress. This will provide us with the balanced perspective on how attitudes in India are changing.

Sikh Spirituality in Amritsar

Amritsar, or Ambarsar as it is known locally, is the spiritual capital of the Sikh religion and home to the Golden Temple, or Harminder Sahib. In our three days in Amritsar, we will learn about both Sikhism and the divisive, powerful history of the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan. We’ll explore Amritsar the way any pilgrim would: by staying at the gurudwara, sharing sleeping quarters with other pilgrims in the attached Ram Das Niwas ashram, eating langar (the community temple meal provided for any and all pilgrims), and volunteering our hands to chop garlic, wash dishes, and participate in this well-oiled community space. Get ready to immerse yourself in the beauty and chaos of one of the most visited and revered holy sites in India.

An Adventure North to Dharamsala

Heading north into the foothills of the Himalayas, our team will move to McLeod Ganj, located 2100m (6800 ft) up on a ridge above Dharamsala in the upper reaches of the Kangra Valley. It is home to the Tibetan government in exile and the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Our time here will be facilitated by the local chapter of the Tibetan Women’s Association, through whom we will learn about the history of Tibet and the struggles Tibetans face in exile. We’ll also have the opportunity to contribute to their, and/or other organizations’, work. This firsthand experience of the ongoing activism in McLeod Ganj will inform our wider conversation about liberation from oppressive structures.

We will also discover the legacy of Buddhism, which was the dominant religion in India for a millennium until about 800 years ago. The quiet, relaxed environment will give us the space to reflect on what we’ve learned over the last four weeks. Whether it’s hiking outside the village, checking out the many temples and spiritual spaces in the area, practicing yoga, or maybe even catching a glimpse of the Dalai Lama in his hometown, this is the perfect place to finish off before our group splits up for Independent Travel Time.

Independent Travel Time

A staple of all Operation Groundswell programs is Independent Travel Time (ITT). You can travel independently if you desire, but we encourage everyone to travel in pairs or small groups. ITT is the ideal time for you to learn more about your specific interests – volunteering with Tibetan refugees in the north, traveling inland, or just relaxing on the coastal beaches. With over a billion people and the largest mountains in the world, you won’t be short of options here!

**Please note that you are not under the auspices of the organized program during ITT. Team members will be given the emergency contact number of program leaders during ITT for any advice.

Disorientation – Rishikesh

Our group will reconvene for a program debrief known as ‘disorientation’ prior to flying home. We will meet in Rishikesh, arguably the world capital of yoga, and another of India’s many holy centres. Nestled along the surging Ganga river and with the smell of incense and yoga constantly in the air, Rishikesh is the perfectly place to debrief and end our experience together. We’ll re-live memories of the program, reminisce about our wild and wonderful experiences, discuss how to stay connected, and collaborate on projects in the future. Then off to the airport for some tearful goodbyes!

Scroll below for more program details

What’s Included?

A comprehensive program itinerary and educational curriculum focused on the issues facing your specific region

Experienced and caring program leaders with you 24 hours a day

All lodging and accommodations throughout the program

Three local meals a day

All group tours, entrance fees, and excursions

All group transportation on the ground

Regular discussions and workshops to help you internalize and reflect on your experience

Support from OGHQ whenever you need it

ITT

Independent Travel Time is your opportunity to go out there and explore on your own terms!

  • Trek through the beautiful mountains of Kathmandu.
  • Dig in to the music scene in Varanasi or photograph the famous Taj Mahal in Agra.
  • Jet-set to the dive spots around the Maldive Islands.
  • Take the second highest motorable pass in the world from Manali to Leh and get up close and personal with the Himalayas.

Accommodations

With OG, you live like the locals.

Traveling as much as we do on the India program, there will be a number of different styles of accommodation. Whether it’s sleeping in an ashram with hundreds of other pilgrims or in an organic eco-village, you can expect to be meeting new people, new challenges, and new stories in every city and village we visit. There’s always a quirk to the places we call home in India. One of the most welcoming cultures in the world, expect to be amazed at the hospitable nature of the people and communities who we stay with. Life is different on the road, but backpackers embrace it all, even if the best part is the story you get at the end! So get ready to embrace cold-water bucket showers, “cozy” sleeping conditions, and the occasional squat toilet!

Meet Our Regional Director

Turning 18 was like the firing of a starting gun for James. He started moving across borders and continents and hasn’t found the finish line yet. Typically found bothering mountains with his skis, or holy men with questions, his initial wanderings and wonderings spanned a diverse set of scenery, continents, and jobs to keep the show on the road. Four years with OG has only served to strengthen his early convictions around the transformative potential of travel experience to peel back our preconceptions about our world, and to better facilitate shared understandings which can benefit all of us.

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