Maniung Niangti and Faith Foundation: Healing Women through Healthy Relationships

Faith Foundation is led by a team of five full-time youth leaders, including the four co-founders and one volunteer. Maniung Niangti, 27 years, has done a Bachelors in Hospital Management and a Masters in Social Work from the Bosco Institute in Jorhat.  After graduating she worked as a counselor with an NGO providing substance abuse rehabilitation services and later at Nazareth Hospital in Shillong, counselling patients on HIV/AIDS.

 

Maniung and her three friends, Darhmingliani Hlonceu, Barida Laloo and including co-anchor Shannon Dona Massar, started Faith Foundation in January 2013.  Faith Foundation addresses issues of human trafficking, child abuse, HIV/AIDS, and substance abuse. The Foundation has also started a counselling centre for female alcoholics/addicts and children of alcoholic/addicts (co-dependent) using the 12-Step program.

 

Though Maniung entered into this journey at a later stage than the other Changeloomers, she has had refreshing opportunities to meet with many Changelooms peers in recent months. Through conversations and peer visits she has learned that many of them “are facing the same challenges and it’s been very motivating to share with them and learn”. In having met with and learned from current Changeloomers Mimi, Donbok, and Shyam, and Changelooms alumni Hejong, Maniung finds much encouragement to strive and to move forward.

 

In early April, Maniung traveled to Delhi from her home and work in the Northeast region, to attend Pravah’s Ocean in a Drop (OID), which is a learning voyage that seeks to build capacities of facilitators, educators, HR/training professionals and individuals working with youth. “It was a very overwhelming experience”, she shares, remembering it fondly. “Even though our organization is always conducting and designing programs, and feel pretty confident in doing so, we were completely unaware about certain ground rules”. Through the OID, Maniung was challenged about her work, and about how her team can organize things and conduct their workshops – “such important things”. On her return to Meghalaya, she has already begun implementing these changes. “Most of what I’m doing is counseling,” Maniung shares. “I’m able to implement this [learning] with the clients – especially in designing a workshop and in getting the attention of the participants”.

 

This has been a major theme in the Faith Foundation journey – identifying those in need and engaging them in relevant programs. In 2013, Faith Foundation, identified a few girls from different communities and have been conducting different programs with them.  Since March 2014, they have been running a weekly Life Skills program for the girls, along with different activities and games. Currently the girls are undergoing a music workshop conducted by the students of the Arts and Music Department of the Martin Luther University in Shillong.

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Maniung recalls a few stories of the girls…

Foremost, she shares about a youth who initially came to Faith Foundation a year ago, dealing with substance abuse. “She came in with a lot of emotional baggage”. Now with the assistance of Faith Foundation, the 12-Step program and the Alcoholics Anonymous fellowship she is sober and doing well in her daily personal, family and work life.

Another successful journey of the Faith Foundation is of two sisters from the slums area who were at risk of being trafficked. The organization was able to assist and help the two sisters and rehabilitate them in a safe and family-like children’s home.

Even with girls who attend the weekly life skills program there has been a great change and growth in them compared to last year when they first came to the organization for a quilt-making workshop. Last year the girls were very shy and would not share much, but now these girls are coming forward and sharing their problems and difficulties. They are more confident, their personal hygiene has improved, and they have been able to raise their voice when needed in order to defend themselves.

 

Stories like these, and the wonderful team at Faith Foundation, drive Maniung to continue investing in her own learning and the capacity of the Faith Foundation. Maniung notes that the Changelooms program has been, “a great journey for what [they’ve] learned and for the exposures…”.

 

Maniung is hopeful, committed, and excels in her work – while also taking her challenges in stride. “It’s okay to make mistakes and it’s okay to not know everything, and I don’t have to please everyone all the time and sacrifice my needs and my dreams”. Maniung’s future plan is to start a complete in-house rehabilitation centre for female alcoholics and addicts.

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Changelooms’ Peer Visit: “Trust Me it Will Create Wonders”

Change Looms Learning and Leadership Journey (Changelooms) supports young people who have started and are running their own independent social initiatives. It provides skill and capacity building, mentoring support, financial support and networking opportunities. The 2013-2014 Changelooms journey has included cross-border peer visits for all participants. Cross-border engagement aims to address three   issues that affect Indian youth: communalism, personal awareness, and social development. In India especially, communalism can be defined as “allegiance to one’s own ethnic group rather than to the wider society.” Thus, as the Changelooms participants engage in cross border peer visits, they intentionally engage with youth from different communities, experiences and identities, for both learning and action. Here is an excerpt of Amreen Ahmed’s (of Pravah Jaipur Inititiatve) reflection on her visit to see Sandeep Mehto, of the organization Bharat Calling, in Itarsi.

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“If you really want to make the best of your time, invest in building authentic relationships…trust me it will create wonders.”

The journey started with long waits and disappointment created by the railway department. Not a single train was on time that day – 2nd March. I was feeling exhausted and thinking what a bad start to my peer visit, but everything changed as soon as I reach Itarsi.

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During this visit, I came across and met a new Sandeep, a person who appreciates and acknowledges the support given by his family while he was deciding to start something of his own – Bharat Calling. The uniqueness, which overwhelmed me, was the value system of the family that says 1) there is a joy in sharing and eating together, 2) problems are part of life and 3) acknowledgement strengthens relationships.

My most overwhelming moment was in hearing that Sandeep’s challenges as a young person and how he managed by himself. When I asked his bhaiya about the pressures of getting a job and work, he responded, “If we had just listened to the people around us, we would have been different people; Sandeep might not have started Bharat Calling”. The best part of these conversations was seeing the complete acceptance about what Sandeep is doing.

But apart from being an entrepreneur, he is also a son, a brother and a friend. He actively takes part in important decisions of his family. And being a decision maker at Bharat Calling, he understands the importance of an effective decision. He loves to hang out with his cousins, in what they call “the experiment space“, which is a space where they generally sit together to crack jokes, and to discuss work, family & career.

One cousin of Sandeep is right now doing a distance-learning course form TISS and also working in Bharat Calling. He shared that he enjoys working with Sandeep, and he is enjoying learning from the mistakes he himself makes. “We are able to work together effectively because we carry a strong relationship which allows us to discuss all the challenges and struggles while working with each other.”

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The best part was, after I returned to Jaipur, I got a message from Sandeep saying that the conversation I had with his team did wonders, and they are more energized and ready to work with full ownership. While Sandeep was sharing all these things, I realized maybe this is the real objective of a peer visit. Isn’t it amazing how two unknown people, who don’t even know each other one 9 months back, are now trying to support each other, listening to each other and suggesting creative ideas to deal with real life challenges?

 

Loads of love,
Amreen

Mera Safar

Everything (one) shall pass. Live (with) it, when it is there, and let it go, to embrace more. Life and Art: They Inspire one another. In fact, when these forms collide, it is often the highest praise of a moment well-lived or an item well-made. This is what happened for Astha, a Pravah intern turned youth facilitator. Perhaps the words of Leonard Cohen are fitting: “Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.” Please read and enjoy Astha’s reflection on her adventures through Pravah and her heartwarming poem inspired by her own SMILE in-turn-ship journey.

Mera Safar.

Ek anjaani raah chooh gaye kadam;

Hoke bekhabar. Thoda darr, thodi fikar.

Karne ek mulaquaat mukhtasar, jaane kisse?

Kuch ajnabee si dagar.

Sawalon se hoke sarabor,

Kabhi idhar kabhi udhar,

Ikraar karti rahi raah-guzar,

Mil jayenge humsafar.

Har mod mazil kareeb aati nazar,

Aati si kyun jati who badal?

Har jawaab mei milta naya sawaal,

Talaab ki machli ka kya hoga sagar mei haal?

Raahein mukammal hoti lagi,

Chhor per manzil muskurati si mili,

Per rukte hi ho gayi daga,

Saamne jo paya aaina,

Usme thi main, kuch wohi, kuch nayi,

Aur they woh tamaam raaste,

Jinhe rooh mei,

Maine liya hai sama..!

 

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(I embarked on an unknown terrain, clueless, with fear and worry leveraging my heart, in anticipation of some serendipitous encounter. I didn’t know with whom. Little was the familiarity with the journey. Brimming with questions, I traversed like a boisterous brook from this way to that. The roads assured me of companions. At every turn I felt I could finally kiss the destination. Alas! Each time it would manage to elude me. Illusions? Every answer greeted me with a new question. How would the fish of a pond fare in an ocean?

At last, the journey seemed to culminate. At last, I believed that I was witnessing the destination smiling at me. As I stopped to embrace it, I was duped, once again, for it was the mirror I found myself looking into! It was Me, partly changed, partly the same. And there were the boulevards, which had become as integral to my existence and self as the soul.)

My journey with Pravah has been one ‘through the looking-glass’. I derive immense pleasure from visiting the past 11 months since I first registered for the SMILE in-turn-ship. The relationship that I have built with the Pravah family, fellow travellers, and most importantly, myself, has given me a new perspective to look at life, and shape it in the process. From SMILE to Youth Addas, from Music For Harmony, Group Exposure, and other hangouts, to writing this blog, I have continuously and consciously sought and experienced rejuvenation. The most important of the myriad of realisations en route is the following: I no longer hold on to people (their physical presence) and memories. Space and Time are as much the functions of mind and experience. Everything (one) shall pass. Live (with) it, when it is there, and let it go, to embrace more. It has become less and less about adding people and experiences to my life, and more and more about living (with) them. So much so that goodbyes cease to reek of an end. It is in transience, and not permanence, that I find peace.

I dedicate this poem to my journey and everybody at/through/outside Pravah who gave me the scent(s) I wear today.

Lots of Love
Astha :-)

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Aside

Into My Pensive: DeTour Music For Harmony

“And like flowers in the fields, that make wonderful views, when we stand side-by-side in our wonderful hues..

We all make a beauty so wonderfully true.

We are special and different, and just the same, too!”~ Michael Tyler

What an incredible adventure retrospection is! One doesn’t simply go down the memory lane, but brings the lane to one’s present and witness it not-so-surreptitiously alter it! I assure you, by the time I had finished writing this blog, my present and past had been reshaped, already.

On 25th January 2014 Pravah celebrated love, peace, and harmony in the form of a day long (youth-led) musical adventure- Music For Harmony (M4H). Dilli Haat proved to be a vivacious venue bringing people from different walks of life to join us in the journey. It was fun-frolic, magic-music, dance-drama, exuberance-excitement (sans ability-to express), bakbak-batchit, and amazement-applause. This is how it must have looked from the outside. Notwithstanding all of this, M4H is too awesome to be restricted to that. What else? From the conception of the idea, willing participation from all of us, laying out a (ever-changing) plan, division (and re-division) of roles and responsibilities, numerous meetings, phone-calls, emails, pakoras-jalebis-burgers-tikkis, budgeting, venue-booking, NOC, decoration, posters, invites, mementos, photos, performances, sound-lighting, logisitics, compeering, mobilisation and so on to all the off-stage effort on the day of the event. M4H isn’t (just) about that either.

M4H was not an event but a process that we lived through. It was a story that each one of us will tell differently, but inconceivable without each other. This one is my story.

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Meanwhile, while you are reading it, you have become an indispensable part of this journey. Welcome! Let’s take a dive into the pensive.

“So why are we doing it- young people coming together putting up a tableaux of music and dance?” I asked, myself. “To celebrate the spirit of peace and harmony through music”, I contemplated. “Yes, but what will it entail? Will the message be conveyed? How will it be ensured that it doesn’t just become another programmethat people enjoy only to go back to life-as-usual?” I was puzzled as I pondered over the challenge. Then it dawned upon me. “Hey! Why am I so concerned about making ‘them’ believe in it? Do I myself believe in the message?” I had not inserted myself into the process till that time, only if I had, would I have realised that it no longer was the (changed) lens I was wearing, it had become my eyes. It did generate a ripple, at least inside my own ocean.

The fact that around 30 young hearts and heads invested their lives for over a month (I joined in late December), with each other, working out of their way, to make it happen was an achievement in itself! (United excitement is not a prerogative of a clarion call for the war or cricket as many would like us to believe!) Not denying that we did it probably for ourselves, as we all had goals and expectations, they acted as threads weaving into a fabric of M4h. And the embroidery had to be beautiful. So I realised that our ambitions do not necessarily put as in competition, they often bring us together. A crucial lesson for life.

Those were the days of anxiety and nervousness but of alexanderian pursuit and hope too. We had all endeavoured faith in ourselves and each other. Somehow I knew we would pull it off. Prudence and optimism are more than just acquaintances. I loved (now in retrospect) the way everything had to go through channels of feedback and approval (I do not deny that it irritated me at times). A second and third opinion may be better than a coast guard when you are (consciously or unconsciously) about to sail into a turbulent ocean.

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M4H gave me friends, with new bonds struck, as I met wonderful people, and old ones got stronger as they supported and appreciated me in my efforts (and finally joined on the day of the event). The tension never overtook the sense of joy and jubilance of doing it. The relations that I built here, and satisfaction that I gained, percolated into other relationships with friends, family, and most importantly myself. I have always been somebody who derived energy from interacting with people. But each day spending time walking along seemingly impervious ring road (in the university campus) witnessing wonderous canopies waving at me, listening to the breeze whispering words of wisdom into my mind I started to realise I wasn’t a bad company! Each day I asked myself, ‘why am I doing it?’ only to hear my heart sing, reassuringly, ‘it makes you happy’.

I realised my potential, strengths and weaknesses both as a leader and a follower. I learnt how important building relationships of trust is. People stepped out (excitingly or reluctantly) of their comfort zones. At times, so willing they were to be uncomfortable that I wondered if, at all, that was ‘uncomfortable’! I had always felt impatience to be a more frequent visitor but perseverance pleasantly surprised me. I found myself multi-tasking that too without really giving into fearing to fail. Creativity had become the definitional attribute of the space. I had often felt experiencing ‘the room of requirements’ of Harry Potter kind where people would unleash skills and prowess to awe inspiring levels! It was magical but never unreal. I shall never forget those dance practices. The room was too tiny to either practice or execute. Notwithstanding this spatial limitation we made it! Doing flash-mobs in the Pravah office and in Dilli Haat is as vivid in my imagination as the last the second that passed by.

It was one of those journeys which, sometime in future, the old me will narrate to young kids (or adults!) some evening(s) in a park, each time with a tinge or bout of modification. Blimey!

I have romantically engaged in retrospection and pulled you in with me. Story telling is indeed a graphical medium of self-reflection. I have neither written an epilogue, nor did I intend to provide a panoramic view of M4h. I held a kaleidoscope, as I continue to do so. And that is what I offered you to peep into. It was pleasure having you along. Hope you enjoyed it!

In Solidarity, Love, and Friendship

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Astha Agarwal :p

 

Astha Agarwal is a Youth Facilitator and Volunteer at Pravah. During the Music for Harmony event she provided much energy to the performers, fellow staff and all of the audience as she served as a co-mistress of the ceremony.

Visit of the German Minister of Development Cooperation at Pravah

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A lot of preparation, a lot of phone calls and much hope were necessary, but then finally – it happened. The German Minister of the Development Cooperation visited the work of Pravah, displayed in the Old Delhi Night Shelter of the NGO Butterflies, and listened to the presentations of young Smilers.

In November 2013 a staff woman from the German Embassy asked if I would investigate the possibility of a site visit to Pravah by a high dignitary. I agreed, because I knew that Pravah had some great projects to offer and with its partnership with Misereor (an agency that is independently funded by the German Ministry), Pravah would be a good example to display the impactful work that had been done. 

In the first month of 2014 his plans became more concrete. The German President would visit India for a meeting with the Indian President, and the new Minister for Development Cooperation would come with him.

Aside from the official program, which was stuffed with meetings of politicians and other high-ranking persons from the Indian society, there would be a small time window for the Minister to hold a meeting with NGOs.

Fortunately, Pravah was chosen.
So, the organization started.
We decided to present several Pravah projects via a gallery walk. We wanted to create a free space were a conversation between the young people and the Minister could easily happen. We were told that he had a special interest in the young people’s perspective on the Indian society. We prepared materials on 4 topics: Pravah, unManifesto, MustBol, and the Post-2015 India Report (featuring work from Pravah in the youth section).

We asked some of the volunteers if they would be interested in presenting the programs. They agreed and so we met several times at the Pravah Office.  The structure of the program changed several times and we had to adapt. But then…

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On the morning of the 8th of February, Hano and I drove to the Night Shelter. We brought five ladders with us, which we wanted to use as the presentation surface.  After some miscommunication between us and the staff of Butterflies, we were able to set up the Gallery. Just before the minister entered the room, the volunteers and the Pravah people came.

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After he had a discussion with the children he came to Pravah. With great interest he followed the presentation of the volunteers. He asked a lot of questions and tried to get deeper in the material.   He wanted to know some more details about the background of the students and their views on Indian societies.


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At the end he thanked everyone and held a speech. He said that the meeting was really interesting for him and it would be great to see something different from the office rooms of high politicians. He said that the support through Misereor should be continued and he would speak with the head of the organization. At the end he said that he wouldn’t forget this meeting with these young, enthusiastic and dedicated people at least for the next 20 years – let’s hope so.

— Sven Przywarra

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Sven Przywarra is a volunteer at Pravah. He came to Pravah in 2013 from Germany (through Misereor) and will be partnering with Pravah for a year. 

Pravah’s richness is found not only in the waves of our programs, but also in the diversity of our staff and volunteers. If you are interested in partnering with Pravah as an organization or an individual volunteer, please email faiza@pravah.org
Also, Pravah is currently recruiting for staffing positions. If interested, please email jobs@pravah.org for more information.  

Discovering the Leader Within: Navendu [Part 2 of 2]

[Continued from Yesterday…..]

ImageMost importantly, the Change Looms journey has given Navendu an opportunity to look within and understand himself better. “I spent most of my life struggling and lost myself in the ebb and flow of life. But with Change Looms I started to discover myself. This was a totally new experience for me.” How did this come about? Navendu credits his Change Looms mentor, Syag bhai who has many years of experience working with young people. During his field visit, Syag bhai spent a lot of time getting to know Navendu at a personal level – his feelings, hopes, frustrations, challenges and dreams. His conversations with Syag bhai made Navendu realize that he had never before looked at his relationships or behaviors. He had always been too busy, or perhaps, just too scared. Syag bhai made him realize the need to step back and reflect on one’s journey, one’s successes and failures, and to always be open to new ideas, experiences and people. It was this frame of mind that enabled Navendu to embrace the entire experience during the Change Looms Development Centre in October and make a break through in his personal development.

The Development Centre facilitates participants to look within and identify their deepest fear that holds them back from becoming who they really want to be. Navendu found the courage to confront his fear and recognized that since his father’s demise a year ago, he had withdrawn into a shell and did not allow anyone in. Today he observes that he is much more open and able to trust people again. Talking about this transformation, Navendu says: “My life experiences have taught me that at some level we erect boundaries around ourselves. … Coming out of them is very difficult. We need to understand and confront our shortcomings instead of denying their existence and running away from them. We should strengthen our relationships and attempt to fill the void which might be developing in them.”

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For Navendu, Changelooms is “the process of shaping the rough contours of your inner self. Where you have to shed your outer skin and look within yourself to determine what you really are. Are you really the way you project yourself to the world or are you someone different?”

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The Change Looms journey has also transformed Navendu’s views on gender. Gender was a new subject for him. “Yes, I also used to talk about women’s empowerment but I realize now that I had a very condescending attitude. It was as if we, men, were doing women a favor. It did not come from a sense of equality. Manak’s session on gender made me reflect on gender roles and how they limit a person’s potential. After I came back home, I started questioning the traditional gender roles in my family and discussing it with my mother, sister and newly married friends.”

Navendu also points out how his stereotypes about girls played themselves out in the classroom. “The way I talked to the boys was different from the way I talked to girls. Now I do not differ between boys and girls while taking a session. Instead I lay emphasis on what they are saying and not who is saying it.” Navendu has also started encouraging girls to participate and express their views in the classroom.

Meeting and getting to know Sankari – a fellow Changeloomer who happens to be a transgender – was the catalyst that made Navendu question his notions of gender. He had always thought of transgender people as abnormal. Initially he was hesitant to approach Sankari but once he broke the ice and started talking to her about her work and her experiences as a transgender, he was deeply moved and his entire perspective changed. “Why do we only see the surface and never the human inside?” he asked himself. “Every human is unique. What then is normal? Why does everyone have to be like me?”

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Discovering the Leader Within: Navendu [Part 1 of 2]

Navendu: 2013-2014 Changeloomer

Navendu: 2013-2014 Changeloomer

Navendu started Shikshalay in 2012 in Seoni – a tribal dominated area in Madhya Pradesh with poor access to higher education opportunities.  Shikshalay provides supplementary education to rural youth and creates a space to help young people stand up for their rights and realize their aspirations.

As a child, Navendu had to struggle to support his family and simultaneously complete his education.   He did various odd jobs and provided coaching classes to earn an income and finance not only his education but also that of his siblings.  He was fortunate to meet Rajesh Bhide who coached him and other young people like him so that they could get good grades in their exams.  Although Navendu got admission into an engineering college, he could not enroll for the course as he needed to earn a livelihood.  His job with an NGO took him to villages where he was moved by the poor living conditions of the villagers.   Inspired by his coach, Mr. Bhide, Navendu decided to start Shikshalay.  Between 30 – 50 students from grades 9 – 12 attend Shikshalay every day.   These students come from families that have small farms and migrate to cities where they work as daily wage laborers to supplement their farm income.

The Change Looms journey has taught Navendu the importance of having a vision for the organization that will bring focus and clarity to his work.  His classes have improved:  instead of a series of random activities, he has started developing lesson plans and also thinks of creative ways of awakening and holding the students’ interest.  He has noticed the students gaining a desire to learn and self-confidence.

navenduBlog2One of the challenges is that Seoni is remote and attracts few volunteers.  However, Shikshalay has managed to attract four ex-students who have returned as volunteers to help manage the centre and teach other children.

Having spent most of his life in a small town, Navendu did not have the opportunity to meet with other young social activists from different parts of the country.   Change Looms not only gave him this opportunity, it ensured that all the participants “felt secure enough to talk openly about their life’s journey, experiences and struggles” resulting in strong bonds of friendship.

[To Be Continued Tomorrow…]

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Take Up Space: The Integration of Safe City Pledge and the Changelooms Journey

What happens when your personal passion becomes your life work?

Meet Yamini Deenadayalan, a freelancer and youth social activist. 
Encounter Safe City Pledge, an initiative she helped start through Blank Noise just over a year ago. 

Catch a glimpse of youth development, gender, and entrepreneurship can be integrated in a most beautiful way from the voice and experience of Yamini… 

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I. The Changelooms Journey

If travel is a state of mind, Changelooms has been a journey into the social and personal realities of fellow Changeloomers which are often different from mine. I have been thinking a lot about boundaries as I was also on a fellowship in the US a few months back, again in a space that welcomed participants from very diverse age, nationality, and ethnic backgrounds. 

And so, it seems to me that travel is a great clarifier. The sea reminds you of its curve towards other spots on the same planet, towards a little piece of land in the North of India that is home, for now. Boundaries blur and clichéd as it sounds, when identities shake off like sand on skin, connections become so seamless. And despite the enormous difference, there is something that is so universal about human experience. 

Personally, and professionally, it has been very interesting for me to explore the gendered realities of my co-participants and their communities, the commonalities and the differences. The gender issues we work with in our community range from conflicts in intimate relationships, sexual harassment, occupying public space, critically examining gender etc. that is relevant to our largely urban lower middle class to upper middle class Delhi audience. In the process of Changelooms, however, the nuance of these issues and various others such as early marriage, lack of access to education for girls, domestic violence etc. which are central to the work of our co-participants has instilled a complex process of introspection that I am still trying to define for myself. 

A fellow Changeloomer from the North East mentioned that the way gender violence played out in her community was completely different from how it is here. The sense of freedom that women enjoy, albeit with its own limitations, is not the same here in Delhi. And then, she said, “When girls from my community move to Delhi or other cities, they are considered too “free”. It is almost as if one were plucked from one gendered reality and placed in another one with a different history that by default interpreted the mobility of women as transgression. All these conversations had in the informal spaces that the DC provided, sharpened, and broadened the scope of what we take into our workshops and interventions. 

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Workshop with Changelooms Facilitators

II. The Organization’s Work

Our work is about conversations with young people on the street, in schools and colleges about gender, violence, the personal and societal sense of safety, self-awareness and finally personal accountability for our city. 

Street: 

When we do Safe City Pledge street interventions and conversations inviting curious bystanders to take a pledge, there are some questions that have consistently come up over the months. One such question is whether women are responsible for the violence inflicted upon them because of the way they dressed or the way they behaved. Street facilitation is spontaneous, on the spot and for the lack of a better word, quick. It has always been important for us to not enforce our opinions, and instead let the conversation flow. All of us have inherited an automatic way of thinking. Patriarchy has struck roots in our collective consciousness for thousands of years and the idea that women transgress by going too far in a male public space has occurred to many of us at different times. To loosen the grip of this deep seated assumption, we have to ask: Whose city is it? Whose Responsibility? At some point, the boundaries blur, the conversation folds and the personal narrative of facilitator and participant meet. You inhabit each other’s world. The pledge is a mere consequence of that moment. When the participant accesses his/her own personal gendered reality, and decides a small or big course of action that they can actually take and that which is not merely symbolic, it emerges. We view each such transaction as a personal success and learning, a small shift towards a safer and more inclusive Delhi. 

School/College: 

In schools and colleges, we have extended conversations through many sessions and in the last session, students create their own pledges that hopefully arises from some of the questions they ask of themselves in the first few sessions. Being in this space always makes me present to my own adolescence – a muddled, confused, exciting, desperate time and yet enables me to distance myself from it. We do both segregated and non-segregated sessions and it is always heartening to see the pledges emerge from the students or see through our sessions, stray comments that emerge. “Yes, of course girls masturbate”, or “I didn’t realise that girls get upset by my comments”, or “Yes, boys get raped and it’s hard to talk about it”, or a recent comment by a girl in our feedback form, “Suddenly, I thought that, actually, I can do whatever I want.” 

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Yamini Deenadayalan 
Blank Noise 

Facebook, Twitter, Blog 

Aditya Gupta: The Innovative Entrepreneur

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Aditya Gupta, founder of People for Parity and 2013-2014 Changeloomer

At the young age of 25, Aditya Gupta has experienced a great spectrum of opportunity.  After graduating from IIT Delhi with a degree in computer science and engineering, he worked as a senior associate with a private firm.  Looking for something more satisfying, he handed in his resignation and backpacked around Europe, landing up finally as a volunteer with an NGO called Technoserve in East Africa.   The Nirbhaya gang rape in December 2012 pushed him to come back to Delhi and start People for Parity Foundation (PfP). PfP works with young people to empower them to curb violence against women in public and non-public spaces, and to create technology that can be used for women’s safety.

In June 2013, Aditya met and heard the experiences of the last batch of fellows at the Changelooms public recognition event.  He noticed that the fellows had managed to increase their impact in the target communities.  He also saw that Change Looms was a great way to “connect with everyone who works in the sector, and is doing interesting and inspiring work in youth development and empowerment.”  Before he knew it, he had applied.

The Change Looms journey has helped Aditya to form a broader perspective of gender-based violence than his initial understanding that had triggered PfP.   He is also much more aware of his areas for improvement as a leader and facilitator enabling him to consciously work on these areas.  

People for Parity has been successful in implementing several gender sensitization workshops in the past six months. It has reached out to approximately 600 young people in schools and colleges.  One of the colleges – IIT Roorkee – is setting up a women’s cell with a PfP member as its head and has also invited PfP for a second round of workshops.   In addition PfP has also conducted workshops with volunteers on identity, masculinity, self, gender and power.    With his technical background, Aditya has developed the Pukar smartphone app with which women in distress can contact the police and friends / family.   It is being piloted in partnership with the Alwar police station.   The Pukar SMS service gives users immediate access to local hotlines.

In the last six months, Aditya has had a clear focus on building his team. He has co-created a feedback process and developed greater ownership in his team.   He has learned to share his responsibilities and delegate roles to team members.  There is a leader for each of the key functions, such as the website, partnership development, outreach, feedback and marketing.  This delegation has enabled Aditya to energize his team and build organizational capacities.  As a strategy, Aditya is also training facilitators at PfP who can reach out to more schools and take the work forward.  He organized 2 volunteer recruitment events and mobilized 25 new volunteers.  Another key celebration of Aditya’s Changelooms experience is his ability to seek inputs from his mentor, Kanika Sinha, brainstorm ideas, access resources and discuss strategy.   He also co-created a blog for sharing workshop experiences and learnings.  All these steps have helped in strengthening his initiative. 

Leadership experiences have been a key aspect of  Aditya’s  Changelooms journey.  As part of the core group, he was active in organizing an advocacy event called “Jamavda: A Gender Mela”. Through this he “learnt to work in a team of diverse young leaders and sharing thought and action to put together an event…. [and] built deep friendships and productive partnerships” with other Change Looms fellows.   He also organized a panel discussion on the role of young men in addressing GBV issues and initiated a discussion betweent the audience and the panelists. 

Aditya’s quiet focus and mature passion have enabled him to take full advantage of the Change Looms program. “The journey has helped us stabilize…. When we entered Changelooms, we had just piloted our programs, and we were convinced about what [i.e. the type of work] we were getting into but we didn’t know exactly how [i.e. the processes we would use]. The how has really improved over the last six months”.

As a young organization in its pilot phase, Aditya feels he joined Change Looms at the perfect time, as it  has helped PfP to experiment, reflect and stabilize, while having the support to help it quickly pick up any thing that may have gone wrong.  

Amreen Ahmed: Building Gender-Sensitive Behaviors among Adolescents

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Amreen enjoys the Pravah Music for Harmony event in January 2014.

Amreen Ahmed (28) has enjoyed being in the Pravah community since 2008 when she first got involved as a volunteer and then joined a 6-month internship  (Youth for Development) that ended in March 2010.  The experience had been so rewarding that she returned in February 2011 as the Associate Coordinator of Pravah Jaipur Initiative (PJI).

Amreen joined the Change Looms journey because she wanted to develop and facilitate a gender-sensitization program for adolescents in schools.   These workshops are about changing behavior and developing empathy.   They seek to create a climate that discourage gender-based discrimination and promote rational behavior and action among the students.  They also aim at enhancing students’ interpersonal communication, coping styles, critical and creative thinking and decision-making skills to help them prevent and respond to gender-based violence.   “Being a psychology student, I always love observing people, specially kids… and that was the moment when I realized that I should start working with schools kids around self exploration, social change and other issues.”   The Change Looms program is assisting her in this transition from a supporting role to a leadership position in PJI.   Within these first six months, Amreen has managed to reach 593 adolescents through workshops in five schools.  Additionally, 3 schools participated in PJI’s annual festival – youth jumbish.

For Amreen, “there has been a shift in my self-perception – as someone who works as an employee to someone who is an entrepreneur”. One of her key learnings has been the recognition of her true role: she is accountable and responsible for the adolescent intervention program and learning to confidently embrace this responsibility. In addition to creating greater ownership, the Changelooms journey thus far has enhanced Amreen’s creativity in programming. She is currently in the midst of finalizing a gender curriculum to be used with adolescents in schools, and is enjoying the shift from college students and older youth to working with adolescents.    

One of the areas that Amreen has explored is alternative sexualities.  She has gained insights about relationships, and the way she looks at and understands people who are transgender, bisexual and/or homosexual. “Through the gender spectrum discussions, my horizon of looking at gender has expanded.  I’ve become more sensitive to and comfortable with members of the LGBT community, more respectful and empathetic,” Amreen explains.   She is now willing to befriend them, and not just respect their right to exist.   She also finds herself questioning the traditional constructs of marriage and what it means. “Relationships need to be flexible…. It happens on its own…. We cannot plan it.”   

Her work on gender sensitization is also building the capacities of the organization, which is increasingly focusing on burning issues, such as sexual harassment, gender stereotypes and restrictions.   Amreen has proactively sought out schools where she can conduct these trainings.  Meeting principals of different schools, she has been able to develop her marketing skills. While she has taken up these initiatives on her own, she credits her increased confidence to the mentoring provided by Changelooms.

Change Looms has also helped her to identify gaps that need to be addressed, such as the lack of planning and review processes and a model of shared leadership.”  While Amreen has grown as a leader in the last six months, it has not been easy. “I have always been a person who is scared of making decisions because I carry a lot of fear in making choices and how it might affect the organization.”   However she also knows that “no one will spoon feed me decisions, so I am learning to just take decisions – I see that is also helping me in my personal life”.

Going forward, Amreen hopes to establish a running model for the adolescent program in Pravah Jaipur.  She also plans to create long-term partnerships with 2 schools and to conduct sessions on sexual harassment with 600 adolescents. 

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