Support Young People to Lead Social Change

by The YP Foundation
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change
Support Young People to Lead Social Change

“You are accountable to us! You cannot leave today without answering our questions and telling us why government programmes aren’t implemented here”, a spirited Shabana demanded of her elected representative in front of around 200 people in a public meeting she and her friends organised in Sunder Nagri in New Delhi.

Fearless about asking for her rights, 16 year old Shabana  is a far cry from the shy and timid girl of a couple of years ago. She became a part of theYP Foundation’s Butterfly Project working with Dalit and Muslim girls on issues of gender rights, discrimination and early and forced child marriage when she was 13. At that time her mobility was greatly restricted and she was hardly allowed to go out of the house alone. She was not allowed a mobile, while her younger brother had a phone and could go out any time he wanted. Often she had to take his permission to leave the house. 

The Butterfly project enabled her to recognise discrimination and violence, particularly of restrictions on mobility in her own life. She started questioning everything leading to fights at home. Her mother took her out of the sessions because she thought it was spoiling her daughter. However the Butterfly Project helped her with her negotiation skills and this led to her playing a critical role in supporting other girls in the programme whose parents were resistant to them being a part of the Butterfly Project. Eventually, she convinced her parents to send her for a residential training on digital media with other girls. 

Today Shabana is completing her Higher secondary education despite her father having refused her permission to study earlier. She is vocal in objecting to discrimination around her and advocates with public officials asking for better police presence, street lights, public washrooms, health services, response teams to reduce violence and fear among girls. After attending a digital media training by the YP Foundation, she is also the proud owner of her own mobile phone. 

She says, “The Butterfly project helped me understand importance of consent and relationship, difference between sex and gender understood that boys and girls are naturally equal. Initially my friends asked me to not attend sessions as they found the content vulgar and bad, but I know that this kind of information is very important for us and there is no other way to get information on sex, contraception and abortion. My mother sometimes does not allow me to attend sessions but I am negotiating with her some time with love and some time with anger.”  

The YP Foundation is committed to building the leadership of young people like Shabana and support them to ensure better futures for themselves and their communities. This work is possible possible with the support of generous donors like you. Please continue supporting us and talking about our work to others, to help us reach out to larger communities of young people and create rights aware and sensitive leaders of social change. Thank you!

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“Why can we not go out of the house alone? Why do we have to give justifications even if we go out for a little while? Why do you trust the community but not your daughters? Are the boys/men who harass us not a part of the community? Why are they not taught better?”

On the 30th of July 2019, 12 young girls living in a low resource neighbourhood in Sunder Nagar Nursery in New Delhi put up a theater performance to engage their parents and other “adults” from their community in a dialogue on the needs and issues of young girls and other adolescents. The process of getting to this performance involved consistent group work, reflection, fights, fun and a lot of conversation. Their key concerns, were the restrictions put on girls, the limited approach to ensuring safety and their aspiration for freedom. 

These girls, along with some of their other friends, have been part of a leadership journey with The YP Foundation since April 2018. At The YP Foundation,  They have learnt creative theatrical communication to present their ideas, issues and problems to their families and community. They have been part of a human library, conducted safety walks, taken up surveys to understand the needs and aspirations of their friends and are finally ready to raise awareness and engage others in these issues on their terms. The process itself made the girls  open up, share their stories and use these to represent the direct and indirect forms of violence they experience. 

The goal of the workshop and engagement was to enable the girls to express and emphasize their needs, stories and issues to their families and communities. Most of the girls felt that they couldn’t bring up certain issues in front of their families because of backlash and judgement. However through the process and the final presentation, they were able to convey their worries and their problems to their families and the community they live in. These stories included cases of harassment, the restrictions they faced on their mobility especially not being able to leave the house alone or at night, as well as issues of mental health and stress. After the presentation, the girls also put questions to their audience and engaged in a lengthy discussion. The supportive reaction of the community and the parents was also heartening and encouraging for the girls.  For some of the parents this was a self realisation moment when they got to know about the particular concern their daughters face.The girls themselves were of the opinion that the process has helped them become less judgemental and more supportive towards their fellow participants as well.

Kareena, Sandhya, Kehkasha and their friends have been able to sensitize their communities and lead this dialogue thanks to supporters like you. As we continue this leadership journey with adolescent girl leaders in Sunder Nagar Nursery, we invite you to join in on social media. Thank you very much for the support and for your continued interest in our work!

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Meenakshi preparing for a session
Meenakshi preparing for a session

Meenakshi is 20 years old and is currently pursuing her Bachelors in Arts from Delhi. She is one of the youth advocates who participated in the capacity of a youth auditor in one of our programmes – The Access Project (TAP) – which assesses youth friendliness of health services in government hospitals and private clinics in Delhi and Varanasi. TAP uses a mystery client approach to assess the youth friendliness and capacitates young people to audit hospitals and counsellors and seek services related to their sexual and reproductive health (SRH).

Her journey began in May 2018 and concluded in February 2019 with TAP and she feels it has brought numerous changes in her life. She now feels more confident to talk about young people's needs, their health, rights, and has helped her destigmatise myths about periods, abortion, sex and gender. The trainings she had attended as part of the programme also helped her enhance her audit skills and to learn in-depth about issues surrounding young people’s SRHR.

She faced several challenges during the audits as she initially found it intimidating to speak to doctors or counselors as she was doing it for the very first time. She felt nervous, confused and afraid of being identified whilst trying to access sexual health services. The environment was also not conducive for young people to access information or services due to the long waiting time at the registration desk to speak to doctors and/or counsellors. In addition this, there was a general lack of information within the hospital departments of where to find information on specific sexual health services.

Public advocacy was the final component of the programme wherein she advocated for services such as contraception and abortion with local level government and health officials. The on ground public advocacy gave Meenakshi the confidence as she found the experience to be very insightful and empowering. At the beginning of the programme, she found it difficult to interact with others and talk about sexual and reproductive rights. However, with time she found that she became more interactive, talkative, confident and found it easy to talk to other people about SRHR. With her engagement as a youth auditor, Meenakshi became self-assured and would like to continue to work on these similar issues in the future.

Your support has been instrumental in building leadership among youth advocates like Meenakshi in order to advocate for their health and rights. Thank you very much for the support and for your continued interest in our work!

Map showcasing the audited health facilities
Map showcasing the audited health facilities
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Sandhiya (extreme bottom right) during an event
Sandhiya (extreme bottom right) during an event

15 year old Sandhiya lives in Sunder Nagar Nursery, in an urban slum that shares a wall with one of the most affluent parts of New Delhi city. Like Gauri, whom we have highlighted before, Sandhiya has been a Community Youth Leader with The YP Foundation for more than 7 years and has participated in a number of TYPF projects that have taken place in SNN. Sandhiya also participated in the youth-led Safety Audit and the nationwide Jagrik project (which builds young people’s understanding of the Constitution of India, fundamental rights and the Sustainable Development Goals). 

Sandhiya is also part of the young Feminists for Change project at TYPF, which bridges organisation-led programmatic interventions and movement-building spaces. The project puts feminist leadership into practice to build young women's perspectives and analyses of feminist leadership together to address one common challenge: public harassment. 

The project uses arts-based methodologies to build community dialogue, young women’s leadership, and young women’s capacity to negotiate and engage with their ‘gatekeepers’, such as their parents and community elders. Feminists for Change uses forum theatre, an interactive form of theatre that is heavily dependent on audience engagement and community dialogue to address social issues.

When the group first formed, all of the girls, including Sandhiya, said that they felt most unsafe on buses, where perpetrators of violence could harass them and get away very quickly. Over the course of the project, the girls used their stories of insecurity on buses to develop a short play on how to address sexual harassment in public spaces. Initially, Sandhiya was skeptical about theatre as a tool for change – she did not think that performing a play on sexual harassment would lead to change in any of the girls’ lives, or in their parents’ perspectives, who believed that sexual harassment could only be avoided by restricting their daughters’ access to public spaces. 

However, at the end of 6 months of working on these issues through theatre, Sandhiya shared her story of change: “Recently, I was on a bus with my girl friends. I saw a man harassing another girl on the bus, and this time, I spoke out and demanded that he stop what he was doing. When my friends saw me doing this, they also supported me. This called the attention of the bus conductor, who intervened in the situation and got the man taken off the bus. I realised that before, I would have chosen to ignore the situation and not intervene. But now, I know that I have the power to make a difference and to change the world around me. Theatre CAN make a difference!"

With your support, we wish to continue building young women's self-confidence and leadership to advocate for their rights. Thank you very much for expressing interest in our work and in our programmes and we hope you continue to do so! 

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Participants during a session
Participants during a session

This time, we have a story directly from one of our youth leaders, Shikhar, who is engaged in a programme that you are supporting!

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My journey as a youth leader has been an exercise in empathy. It’s a journey where I was nudged to navigate unfamiliar spaces, to encounter stories which are often muted and, most importantly, to learn and introspect.

I facilitated sessions on Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) with a group of pre-adolescent boys in Nizamuddin Basti, an urban slum in Delhi. The CSE curriculum aims not only to address biological aspects of sexual health but also the social aspects, such as violence, relationships, gender identity and sexuality.

Looking at the curriculum and seeing all these themes, neatly divided into a dozen 2 hour sessions, I almost convinced myself that “this shouldn’t be hard”. As I sat amongst the participants, I thought to myself that I will be addressing ideas of equality and empathy, helping these young boys accommodate diverse identities in their communities. Until I realized that most of the participants are more familiar with the surface of the moon than sexual anatomy.

How can I even begin to address the discrimination faced by people who identify as queer if the participants don't have an understanding of what gender and sexual identity is? To address all the technical information and also the social aspects in a 2 hour session whilst making sure most of them were still awake was a challenge. I realized it was impossible for me to give them all the “right” answers, perhaps, all I can do is to enable them to embrace questions.

We started building a safe space for ourselves. I say ‘we’ because it was really the participants and I together who came up with some basic rules (such as, to listen to one another, not mock each others suggestions or questions) for our sessions. Asking questions became a central part of our sessions, imparting information was only secondary. These questions ranged from banal and mundane to extremely personal.

Once, for instance, a boy drew something on his palm and showing me he asks, “what is this?” He had drawn what looked like a sanitary napkin. Something he had seen in advertisements but did not know its name or what it was used for. This question allowed me to not only tell him what a sanitary napkin was but also what menstruation is and, eventually, addressing the stigmas and myths associated with it, something which I couldn't have communicated effectively if the participants had not asked the question.

I am grateful for the space that we marked out as a group was ours and it was perhaps the only space where we did not have to censor our questions to gain indepth insights about ourselves, our bodies and our health. 

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We would like to thank Shikhar for sharing his experience with us and also express our gratitute to our supporters for continuing to pave paths and create enabling environments for changemakers and youth leaders such as Shikhar - Thank You!

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Organization Information

The YP Foundation

Location: New Delhi - India
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @theypfoundation
The YP Foundation
Manak Matiyani
Project Leader:
Manak Matiyani
New Delhi, Delhi India

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