People And Things

  • In our society/culture, there are many different types of relationships in which one person might have more power over another person. These may be determined by sex, social class, caste, age, position, etc.
  • There are also other types of power relationships in our lives and communities. Think of relationships between youths and adults, students and teachers, employees and bosses. Sometimes the power imbalances in these relationships can lead one person to treat another person like a 'thing' and the other person may feel oppressed, or treated like an 'object' and how in some of their other relationships they, in turn, might treat others like 'objects'.
  • It is important to connect this discussion with gender relationships and power imbalance between men and women and how they treat each other in society or in a family.
  • It is important as a facilitator to emphasize the role of power in relationships and in our lives.
  • Also discuss that people who use and misuse power often may not even respect themselves, are generally dissatisfied with themselves, and often feel they have to exercise power over others to feel that they are in control.


Time Required: 
One hour
  • To increase understanding about the existence and manifestation of power and rights in a relationship and reflect on how we communicate about and demonstrate power in relationships.
  • Tell the girls that the name of this activity is ‘People and Things’ and that girls will be divided into three groups – one group to be the ‘things’, another to be ‘people’ and a third to be ‘observers’.
  • Choose girls at random and assign them to one of the three groups. Try and ensure that each side should have the same number of girls.
  • Ask the girls to follow the directions given in the following table
Things People   


  • You cannot think
  • You have no feelings
  • You cannot make decisions
  • You do not have sexual desires
  • You have to do what the "persons" tell you to do. If you want to move or do something, you have to ask the "people" for permission
  • You can think
  • You can make decisions
  • You have sexual desires
  • You have feelings
  • You can tell the objects/things what to do
  • You will just observe everything that happens
  • You will not say anything


  • Ask the group of ‘people’ to select any one participant from the group of ‘things’ and tell them they can order them to do any kind of activity. The participant from ‘things’ will have to follow whatever the ‘person’ tells them to do.
  • Give the group 20 to 30 minutes for the ‘things’ to carry out the designated roles (in the room itself).
  • Finally, ask the girls to go back to their groups in the room and use the questions below to facilitate a discussion.
  • Close the activity with an explanation about power relationships using Handout 9 overleaf.
Discussion Questions: 
  • What was your experience of participating in this activity?
  • For the ‘things’, how did your ‘people’ treat you? What did you feel? Did you feel powerless? Why or why not?
  • For the ‘people’, how did you treat your ‘things’? How did it feel to treat someone as an object? Did they feel powerful and in control? Why or why not?
  • For the ‘observers’, how did you feel not doing anything?
  • Why did the ‘things’ obey the instructions given by the ‘people’?
  • Were there ‘things’ or ‘people’ who resisted the exercise and did not want to follow or control the other? Why?
  • In our daily life, do others treat us like ‘things’? Who? Why?
  • Do we treat others like ‘things’? Who? Why?
  • What are the consequences of a relationship where one person might treat another person like an ‘object’?
  • How does society endorse and encourage such power relationships?
  • How can this activity help us think about, and perhaps make changes in, our own relationships?