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.