Power of Resources in the Hands of Young

Pooja Rao from the 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative and Vithika Yadav from Love Matters India (Ab Meri Baari campaign partner) write about how the Ab Meri Baari campaign leveraged the digital platform to equip young people with new skills and opportunities during the pandemic in an effort to provide them with resources and power to empower their lives and of those around them.

Power of Resources in the Hands of Young

Pooja Rao & Vithika Yadav

Over the last decade, there has been a consistently growing acceptance towards the realisation that young people need help, so much so that there is pretty much a consensus across stakeholder groups on the need to support young people. However, it is now time to move away from this rhetoric and move towards actions that actually put agency and resources in the hands of young people to enable catalytic and sustainable change.

 

According to a new report, India’s rank has slipped to 117 out of 193 countries on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The State of India’s Environment Report 2021 reads that India’s ranking slipped two points between 2020 and 2021 because of primarily three challenges, one of which is achieving gender equality (SDG 5) — the other two being ending hunger and achieving food security (SDG 2) and building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation (SDG 9). The report also puts Jharkhand as one of the least prepared state to meet the SDGs by 2030.

Needless to say, these have been critical issues for India for a few decades now, and the pandemic has only made the situation worse and pushed us back by 10 years. The progress made on adolescent and youth-focused issues, especially, is threatened to be potentially reversed if key and immediate steps are not taken. If you look at education alone, young people have faced the brunt of the pandemic with school closures impacting 247 million children in India. This has had significant impact on their learning abilities as well as their physical and mental health.

Three years ago, 10to19 Adolescents Collaborative launched Ab Meri Baari, a nation-wide campaign to create normative change and drive strategic engagement by providing adolescents and youth with a platform to support and amplify their voices. The objective of the campaign, which engaged with hundreds of adolescents on ground across three Indian states, was to bring about an increase in the efficacy and agency of adolescents, especially girls and impact their decision making. The pandemic, however, brought a new set of challenges for this initiative.

The decision to move engagements with young people online has not been an easy one, especially given the wide digital divide in the country and the skewed digital tool ownership in the hands of males. However, the decision has been a crucial one, especially at a time, when many of these youth feel isolated because they no longer have access to their physical school spaces, their community gatherings or even their peers, thus reducing channels of meaningful conversations. The digital engagements have allowed the Ab Meri Baari campaign to connect with more than 200 youth directly across 9 states to hear from them on how are they doing, how are they coping in a pandemic, and what are their pressing challenges and needs.

In partnership with Love Matters India, Ab Meri Baari has also enabled the virtual training of 60 youth in Jharkhand, over a period of 13 weeks, in the skills of mobile journalism and the art of content production. This is an initiative which aims to put resources in the hands of young people to not only develop employable skills but to also enable them to become local champions who can raise awareness about sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) and fight teenage pregnancy — a key stressor in the state of Jharkhand — among other issues.

We’ve now heard from so many of these youth trainees that even as the Covid-19 lockdown played havoc with their school and college education, it brought a new opportunity for them to gain new skills, create impactful original content and feature in their own YouTube videos. And we’ve seen difference in them too. From not knowing what Zoom was, to producing hard-hitting news videos, the students of the Mobikaar citizen journalism program did it all in a matter of four months. They logged on, week after week, to learn about public-interest journalism, news gathering, research, and video production skills through Zoom meetings on their mobile phones. They make more aware of adolescent-centric issues in their local geographies, the role of various stakeholders, and the power of their own voice.

And that is what the Ab Meri Baari campaign strives to achieve — to help the young and community gatekeepers around them understand and value the power of young voices and agency. As a generation of adolescents and youth prepare to transition into adulthood over the next decade, it is the responsibility of the stakeholders in ecosystem to ensure that the young people have resources and platforms to raise their voice, and that they are heard. Only then, will we be able to secure the future of our young population and enable them to empower themselves and those around them. The SDGs for 2030, too, have established that young people are a driving force for development but only if they are provided with the skills and opportunities needed to reach their potential.

Ab Meri Baari is a nation-wide campaign to create normative change and drive strategic engagement by providing adolescents and youth with a platform to support and amplify their voices. The objective of the campaign is to bring about an increase in the efficacy and agency of adolescents, especially girls (between 10 to 19 years of age) and impact their decision making and understanding on education, sexual and reproductive health and early marriage.

Love Matters is Indias leading digital Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) information platform catering to the needs of young people. We provide open, honest, non-judgmental and science-based information on love, sex and relationships using innovate media formats.

Pooja Rao is an Associate Director at Dasra, where she leads program delivery and management, partnerships, communication campaigns, and key operational functions for the 10to19: Dasra Adolescents Collaborative. As part of her work on partnerships and campaigns, Pooja builds strategic engagements with leading youth-serving organizations and supports the ideation and delivery of innovative models that enable meaningful participation of young people in key policy and program platforms.

Vithika Yadav is an anti-slavery, sexual rights and gender rights activist. Awarded as one of the 120 under 40 New Generation of Family Planning leaders in the world, she is the Co-founder and Head of Love Matters India, which is the first ever digital initiative in India to give complete, honest and unbiased information on love, sex and relationships, in other words sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people in Hindi and English language.

Youth Consultation during COVID-19 in the South India

Karnataka Health Promotion Trust, KHPT in collaboration with DASRA and Love Matters India organized an online youth consultation (South India- Karnataka). The key objective of the Youth Consultation was to hear from young adults about their challenges and coping mechanism during COVID-19. It was also an opportunity to hear their recommendations and demands to the government during this difficult time.

The Right Blend of Technology | Improving health outcomes for underserved women and children through optimal mix of “tech” with “touch”

This article focuses on how ARMMAN deploys a blended model of “tech plus touch” to create and implement cost-effective, scalable, systemic interventions, and the importance of designing equitable solutions to ensure that no one is left behind

The Right Blend of Technology | Improving health outcomes for underserved women and children through optimal mix of “tech” with “touch”

Swati saxena & Kruti dalal | ARMMAN

The only thing that can be even remotely considered as a silver lining in this pandemic is the stark and unrelenting spotlight shone on persistent gaps in healthcare in India. While those within the health system valiantly fought to provide the best care possible within limited resources, the fact remains that the system itself is grossly inequitable, especially for underserved pregnant women and children.

Inequitable health care system

Even today, 3 women die every hour because of pregnancy-related complications. Only one of five pregnant women get complete antenatal coverage while 18% infants have low birth weight, leading to complications that prevent them from realising their full potential. Adding to this is the acute shortage of medical staff. India has 37.6 health workers for every 10,000 people, against WHO’s minimum recommendation of 44.5.

The sheer size and scale of India’s problems requires an equally bold response, one that can serve its huge population and remain resource-light. Technology, thus, promises a powerful solution

Ramesh Padmanabhan, ARMMAN’s CEO

Promise of Tech-enabled Solutions

25-year old Anita stays at a Mumbai slum. During her fourth month of pregnancy, when she went for a checkup at the nearby hospital, she was enrolled in ARMMAN’s mMitra program. She started receiving bi-weekly pre-recorded mMitra calls on her phone, in her mother tongue. mMitra calls guided her on important vaccination milestones, provided nutrition-related information, and made her aware of danger signs and symptoms. Mobile technology allows this potentially life-saving and critical information to reach each woman, something not feasible at an overcrowded hospital. 2.5 million women like Anita have been enrolled in mMitra, making it one of only five such scaled mHealth programs across the world.

Rapid Response of Tech-Solutions during COVID

When COVID-19 struck, as a pregnant woman living in a slum, Anita was especially vulnerable. Thus, when she started getting additional mMitra calls with COVID-19 specific information, she paid close attention and followed the advice regarding sanitization and social distancing. This helped her as she couldn’t access a hospital for regular care as it was converted to a COVID hospital and there was limited public transportation to go to another centre. Technology enabled ARMMAN to reach 300,000 women and 800,000 health workers within a few days.

“Touch” Integration Critical in Tech-Solution

Technology by itself is inadequate and requires a strongly interlinked “touch” model to be effective. In her ninth month of pregnancy, Anita started experiencing acidity and frequent headaches.She reached out to Shital, ARMMAN’s hospital supervisor, for advice, who connected her to a doctor at its free Virtual clinic. The doctor diagnosed it to be a consequence of high blood pressure- a high-risk condition that requires monitoring. Anita’s blood pressure was immediately checked and brought under control with timely intervention. While mMitra calls were critical, access to a doctor and the hospital supervisor’s support was just as crucial during this daunting time.

Importance of Contextualised Tech-Solutions

With technology, it’s also tempting to deploy a cookie cutter approach, which has challenges in a country as diverse as India. “An mMitra, working well in an urban slum with good network connectivity, may falter in tele-dark tribal areas like Palghar that is just 4-hours drive from Mumbai. Here, a stable network is limited to certain public spaces in the larger villages, with smaller hamlets often falling off the connectivity grid. Telephonic coverage is almost certainly not available in the kitchens at the back of the houses or in the cowsheds where women generally spend most of their day,” mentions Mr. Padmanabhan. Thus, pregnant women and children are supported with door-step healthcare through ARMMAN’s Arogya Sakhi project. Frontline health workers from the community are trained to provide home-based preventive care. They counsel women on topics like nutrition and vaccinations, perform diagnostic tests, screen for high-risk factors and ensure early referral. They are aided by a tablet with an application-based decision support algorithm which acts as a database and flags off any high-risk conditions, thereby alerting the health worker of any possible complications during pregnancy and infancy. The technology is designed to function in a low-bandwidth setting and mobile hotspots created for limited access to data.

Danger of Technology Exacerbating Inequities

Although technology is a great enabler for transformation, it can also act as a barrier by deepening divides and exacerbating existing inequities. For example, digital-first solutions will not work where people lack access to even a basic mobile phone, or with a large migrant population that frequently changes its number. Here, it is imperative to adopt an equity lens while designing tech-enabled solutions to ensure that technology does not end up excluding the most vulnerable and marginalised i.e. the very group of people the intervention aims to uplift. It is also crucial to understand the interventions of other civil society organizations in the area, and explore possible avenues of collaboration to achieve the most effective outcomes.

The “tech plus touch” model can go a long way in addressing systemic gaps, but implementing truly impactful and equitable health initiatives requires multi-stakeholder input, innovative approaches and a design that keeps the mother and child at the centre of all solutions.

ARMMAN is one of the 10 organisations that has been covered as a case study in the report titled ‘Buffering Now’, published by the 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative. This report spotlights organisations that have had a head start when it comes to leveraging digital technologies in a pre-Covid world, and thus sharing learnings and recommendations for organisations that want to adopt to digital tools and technologies amid the pandemic to serve their communities.

Photo Credits: ARMMAN

Leveraging digital for relief opportunities in a pandemic

Osama Manzar, writes about the organisation and its ground staff leveraging digital technology and platforms in multiple ways to support marginalised communities in rural and remote parts of the country

Leveraging digital for relief opportunities in a pandemic

Osama Manzar | Digital Empowerment Foundation

When the lockdown was first imposed in March 2020 and everything was shut down, rural and remote India was the worst hit. Unlike the urban populations, people from rural and remote locations in India didn’t have access to fast-speed Internet connectivity, many of them did not possess a digital device per household member or have access to the many mobile apps that made the stay-at-home a little more bearable for their urban counterparts. Transitioning to online banking, grocery and food delivery or work from home didn’t come as easy to them.

This population was not just unable to access services but was also ignored by the systems largely, leading to their further marginalization due to reverse migration, loss of livelihood, poor access to health care, reduced access to food supplies and disconnect from educational opportunities, among others. In 2021, the situation was worse. With the pandemic entering Year 2, rural and remote populations saw their economic capacity dip even further, their quality of life deteriorate even more and their access to basic and essential services made almost impossible.

Access to essential services

When the COVID19 pandemic began in 2020, the focus of government, civil society organisations and other stakeholders was to curb the spread of the virus through imposition of lockdowns and increasing awareness. The Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) too focused on creating awareness about Covid appropriate behaviour and ensuring access to sanitisers and masks last year. This year, however, the focus was more to ensure communities have access to their essential services, which had been rather abruptly disrupted during the first lockdown.

Several organisation have been using their experience and leveraging their networks and programmes to respond to the needs of the communities they serve, such as running helplines, ensuring access to food and healthcare services. We too responded to these challenges by leveraging our available Internet-enabled community-based digital infrastructure resource centres. These digital resource centres, which were operated and managed by young people from the community trained by us and called SoochnaPreneurs, acted as local service hubs. DEF’s SoochnaPreneurs, while ensuring all safety precautions, facilitated access to financial services for those with bank accounts, enabled access to government entitlements for those who relied on public schemes and benefits, and turned into classrooms for those who were missing out on regular schools.

It is worth noting that during the second wave young people’s participation and leadership has been integral to tackling local issues. This group, which faces great uncertainty and anxiousness about its education and livelihood aspirations, have been torchbearers in their communities when it comes to raising awareness around Covid-appropriate behaviour, vaccine hesitancy and ensuring their communities have access to essential services. We, too, witnessed this.

Our young SoochnaPreneurs ran hyperlocal relief work and resource mobilisation on the ground. This involved a barter system of sorts in the villages of India, to allow exchange of surplus ration supplies. Some SoochnaPreneurs, who had a large network on their social media, ran fundraisers online to reach out to well-wishers outside of their villages and districts, and encouraged them to donate cash via digital wallets like Google Pay and banking apps. One such SoochnaPreneur, Mohd Arif, managed to raise INR 25,000 for the people of Nuh in Haryana. This helped him support hundreds of people in his village by supplying rations to families, pay for mobile data of children to attend school, and ensure medical supplies for those struggling to access any. Arif succumbed to Covid a few months later but not before leaving behind a legacy of giving and caring in Nuh.

Access to healthcare services

Funders, bi-lateral and multi-later agencies have also been collectivizing young people both online and on the ground to champion various causes related to COVID. One such example is UNICEF’s Young Warriors Coalition, a partnership to catalyse a pan-India movement to mobiliseand arm 5 million“Young Warriorsto combat COVID-19. With the support of UNICEF, our SoochnaPreneurs or Covid Warriors managed to reach 35 lakh individuals online — via instant messaging and social media platforms— with their messaging to tackle the pandemic. Additionally, a partnership with DocOnline enabled these young men and women to provide village residents with online video consultations at a time when even basic healthcare was hard to find, let alone Covid-related treatment and care.

Access to educational content

Young people’s access to education has also been severely impacted due to the pandemic. Continued school closure and transition to online classes has led to disparate and restricted access and loss of learning. In DEF’s experience, while relief work continued, we heard from several communities that education was a pressing concern for their children. Several organisations in the country have been working tireless to ensure children’s education is not disrupted through access to services or resources, and even through the availability of infrastructure. At our end, to solve for the digital divide, we saw our responsibility in leveraging our networks on social media and messaging platforms to raise about 5,500 used laptops and mobile phones. These crowdsourced devices were then used to create 500 community access points (common facility centres) at the village level for school-going children so that they could access online educational content during the lockdown.

Access to livelihood opportunities

The pandemic has put major strains on the development sector in India with many CSOs and NGOs facing challenges in terms of funding and supporting communities on ground due to restrictions on mobility. However, several funders and philanthropists around the world have mobilized additional funds and allowed flexibility in existing funding to support organisations and the communities they work in through this time.

We need to understand though that change does not happen not overnight. While an organisation can offer immediate relief, it can often take a while for the impact to sustain or for change to be actioned. For example, between 2010 and 2015, DEF had trained some 500-odd young boys and girls in digital literacy in the town of Chanderi in Madhya Pradesh. And we recently found out that at least 80 households in Chanderi had managed to sell at least one product online during the second surge by leveraging social media and eCommerce platforms. This shows that even efforts we made almost a decade ago have allowed some families to sustain themselves during the pandemic. Similarly, our efforts at creating a pool of SoochnaPreneurs who can support their community members in these times of crisis will help some of the most marginalised communities stay afloat as we eventually recover from this pandemic.

Today, access to a smart device and fast-speed Internet has become a necessity to access quality educational, livelihood, governance, financial and even entertainment content. Considering the intense adverse effect that digital divide has created across rural India amid a pandemic, many organisations like DEF have been strongly advocating to make smartphones affordable and Internet accessible for all homes. Funders, too, need to step up and see hardware and connectivity as key investments towards change. It is imperative for the government to consider digital access as a fundamental right and make provisions in welfare schemes to make the Internet available for vulnerable and marginalized communities.

Digital Empowerment Foundation is one of the 10 organisations that has been covered as a case study in the report titled ‘Buffering Now’, published by the 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative. This report spotlights organisations that have had a head start when it comes to leveraging digital technologies in a pre-Covid world, and thus sharing learnings and recommendations for organisations that want to adopt to digital tools and technologies amid the pandemic to serve their communities.

Photo Credits: Digital Empowerment Foundation 

Inclusion of Young people’s voices in decision making

As we grapple with the far reaching impact of the pandemic there is an urgent need to intentionally include young people’s voices in making decisions that effect their lives.

Inclusion of Young people’s voices in decision making

DAC Team

The last year and a half has been hard on everyone. People are feeling isolated, deserted and lost. And it’s no different for adolescents and young people. However, what makes it harder for them in a lot of ways is that there aren’t enough people to hear them out. This has pushed them into a state of despair and hopelessness.

At Dasra Adolescents Collaborative (DAC), we have been able to understand this from our interactions with young people over the last couple of months. Between mid- May and now, we’ve spoken to nearly 200 young people from rural and remote parts of Jharkhand, Bihar, Rajasthan and a few other states about the impact of Covid-19 on their lives, the disruption it has caused, and how they are coping with it. Through these sessions with the young people, we have heard that a lot of them are shifting between emotions such as:

      • Boredom due to lack of engagement with peers or opportunities to go out

      • Anger due to lack of control over the situation and the consequences

      • Anxiety due to lack of clarity about the future

      • Despair due to lack of hope for a bright future

Young people are worried about the opportunities they have lost and may continue to lose over the next few months or even years with the devastating long term effects on the economy; there is fear about the continued spread of the virus, it’s variants and the possibility of a third wave; there are myths, rumours and misinformation about the efficacy and availability of the vaccine; and there is disappointment towards the government in how they’ve handled the situation in some parts of the country.

India’s young people are not alone in struggling with these feelings and fears. Globally, the pandemic has been extremely harsh on young people. According to the UNICEF Annual Report 2020, released last month, 1 in 7 children and young people has lived under stay-at-home policies for most of 2020.

Up to 94% of students worldwide have been affected by school closures at the height of the pandemic.

 

At least 1 in 3 schoolchildren has been unable to access remote learning while their schools were closed. Around 10 million additional child marriages may occur before the end of the decade. Disruptions in food systems and health and nutrition services could leave 44 million children hungry. As many as 142 million additional children were estimated to fall into monetary poverty by the end of 2020 and lack access to social protection.

This avalanche of data points should not scare us, but it should worry us. Unfortunately, the pandemic and its consequences have had financial, physical, social, emotional and psychological impact on the lives of young people. Even as they struggle with these emotions, they feel left out from conversations and decision making processes that impact their lives. We as community members and development practitioners can support young people through the challenges they’re faced with.

While it is true that practitioners who have been in the sector for a time long may rightly feel that we know what’s best for them. We must ask ourselves what could be the value add of hearing from young people themselves what’s best for them? What harm would it do if we heard directly from them on their challenges, needs and aspirations? Maybe what we hear from them validates what we already knew, but maybe there is something new that we hear or something that we hadn’t thought about.

As a nation and sector that talks about the strength and the need for investment in our large young population, we must also trust them to make decisions for themselves, and ensure that we create and hold platforms and safe spaces for them to voice their opinions. There is an urgent to engage with young people and allow them to speak their minds freely. We need to create safe spaces for them where they can raise their concern, feel heard and have their queries answered.

This has been part of our learning at DAC too, over the last few years. Every year, we are taking a step forward to be more inclusive and engage with young people in a meaningful way. The Ab Meri Baari campaign, which started in 2019, was the first step in that direction. Since then, we’ve come a long way; and the pandemic, especially, has made it even more crucial for us to ensure that young people have platforms to share their views, to get answers to their questions and that we, at DAC, involve them when we make decisions that may impact their lives. Keeping this ethos in mind, this year we’ve committed to establishing a Young People Working Group, to include their perspectives on challenges and solutions for DAC’s immediate and longer-term COVID responses. Keeping young people’s voices at the core of programming is more vital now than ever before, as they have the deepest understanding of their own needs and challenges, and can support in identifying and executing the most effective solutions to address these as we focus on rebuilding a more hopeful world for young people.

Mental health matters – and here’s what we can do to help

In this article, we outline the current scenario with respect to young people’s mental health in India – particularly how the pandemic has impacted them. We make a case for a new approach and renewed commitment to bettering and supporting mental wellbeing for India’s adolescents, thereby setting them up for success.

Mental health matters – and here’s what we can do to help

sucharita iyer

We’re finally starting to prioritize young people’s mental health and well-being. However, we still have a long way to go. In the meantime, we need a perspective shift towards mental health.  

Awareness and action to address mental health issues are growing rapidly in India, with the need for increased awareness and better mental healthcare services at the fore. However, these conversations often leave out the critical demographic of young people. As a result, they remain largely  under-addressed when it comes to mental health.  

Presently, every fifth Indian is aged between 10 and 19. Adolescence is a particularly vulnerable period, owing to the significant developmental and psycho-social changes that characterize it. Adolescents’ lives are shaped by this transitionary phase as they enter adulthood, marked by new and unprecedented social and emotional experiences. It is also often overlooked that this stage is one of increased vulnerability to mental health issues , owing to rapid changes in peer relations and interests, physical and biological changes, and ambiguity in various aspects of life, ranging from education to career prospects and the future. The National Mental Health Survey (2015-2016) indicated that over 9.8 million teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 live with depression. Often precipitated by social and cultural stressors, young people’s mental health issues are rarely identified and poorly addressed and can have significant and lasting consequences.  

That there is social and cultural stigma around mental illness is well-known. Misinformation around mental health accompanied by limited resources to adequately treat it are commonplace. The pandemic has significantly exacerbated the existing mental health challenges among young people. A study conducted by the 10to19: Dasra Adolescents Collaborative (10to19) in June 2020 indicated that young people have reported increased rates of  depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide over the course of the pandemic. Of the 111 responding organizations, over 46% of organizations found that young people were experiencing fear and anxiety, and 41% of young boys and girls reported feeling afraid for their futures.  

More recently, a consultation conducted by the 10to19 Collaborative with young people gave voice to some of their most urgent mental health concerns. Over a year since the pandemic began, young people continue to experience various stressors, exposure to which has left them feeling disconnected from their peers and their regular lives. During the session, nearly all young people echoed that they currently feel despair and anxiety, whether about the pandemic or, in fact, about their future in the years to come. 

Most young Indians are still facing the impacts of long-term social isolation and experiencing their world digitally – or worse – are completely cut off from their education due to skewed and uneven access to the internet. Removed from otherwise nourishing environments, they are now left without livelihoods and access to critical resources, leaving them with unanswered questions of what the future will hold.  

Where do we go from here? 

The accounts shared by young Indians highlight the complex, multi-faceted emotions that they are experiencing; from fear due to the pandemic, to despair and anger when faced with unraveling its long-term consequences on their educations, livelihoods and family lives. However, despite the anxiety, loss and grief that have defined the past few months, they have also shared important stories of resilience and learning, highlighting the new skills they have built and the creative ways in which they’ve learnt to connect with one another and their families.  

We are still only just beginning to understand the ways in which COVID-19 has impacted a generation of young Indians. The pandemic has severely affected education and job prospects, leaving a vast number of young people with pressure to provide for their families. Long-term isolation is also likely to hamper young people’s social skills, leaving them unable to connect with peers or adults or to build adequate coping skills. Young women continue to bear the burden of care work, often without access to education and at increased risk of child or early marriage. The toll of these factors on young people’s mental well-beingis likely to be immense; iIt stands to reason, then, that we must shift our approach to mental health programming, addressing it intrinsically in everything that we do.  

Much like we address gender sensitization, it is imperative that we adopt a lens of mental wellbeing when designing and implementing programs, reminding ourselves that young people’s health cannot be isolated from every other facet of their lives. It is only then, that they will be able to not only seek gainful employment – but also sustain it. That they may make informed and active choices about their bodies and wellbeing, and that they can 

This lens needs to be holistic and integrated into our understanding of youth-centric programming, giving them patience and compassion as they navigate a difficult time globally and in their own lives. The responsibility of this shift lies on all of us – civil society, the government, funders, and their families – to unlearn the disinformation of the past and ensure that India’s adolescents have access to a better, brighter future. 

Pandemic and Young People

As part of its ongoing efforts towards hearing from the youth directly about their challenges, needs and prioritize during a pandemic, along with LMI and CINI we organised a third consultation with young people from North East India. Read to learn what they had to say about the impact of the pandemic.

Pandemic and Young People

DAC Team

As part of its ongoing efforts towards hearing from the youth directly about their challenges, needs and prioritize during a pandemic, the 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative (DAC) and EnterChange Innovations (ECI) organized the third youth consultation with young people from 5 north-eastern states on August 10, 2021. The consultation saw participation from 30 urban adolescents and youth from Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Nagaland and Sikkim.

Previously, DAC and ECI has engaged about 130 people from two virtual consultations with young people from Jharkhand, and Bihar and Rajasthan, respectively. ECI is a youth engagement partner for DAC, and is a leading organization that engages youth on matters of sexual and reproductive health and sexual rights.

The objective of these youth consultations is to bring together young voices on one platform, to hear directly from them about their challenges and needs amid a global pandemic, and to learn how are they dealing with their mental health in these stressful times. The conversations were largely broken down into two areas — Understanding the impact of the pandemic on their lives and the coping mechanisms they have adopted to deal with them; and understanding their concerns and questions that have stemmed from the living in the pandemic.

Impact of the Pandemic

An initial survey among the participants indicated that as many as 71% of the young people attended the session found worry and tension to be their top feeling over the last year and a half of the pandemic. One of the major reasons for this, according to the participants, was uncertainty about the current times and unpredictability about the future.

While speaking to the group, various issues come up. While the safety of one’s health and that of their family was of outmost importance and concern, there were several other factors as well.

  • Education was one of the major stressors. Most of the students claimed that initially, when institutes were closed during the national lockdown, they felt happy and excited about an unexpected long holiday. However, as weeks passed into months, they started working about the lagging behind on their curriculum, lack of practical or field experience, delays in completing education or starting college, and a drop in quality of teaching and learning opportunities. This roadblock to learning and career led to the feeling of hopelessness among many.

  • Lack of socializing was another stressor. In the absence of comfort of friends and family, and several students locked in away from their parents, there was higher idle time and increase in negative thoughts about isolation and threat from the virus. Lack of opportunity to step out of the house for recreational activities further added to the feeling of isolation, despair and boredom.

  • Misinformation about the virus and safety precautions in the early months of the pandemic often added to the stress for young people. There was too much information everywhere, but hard to determine what was fact and what was fake. In the last few months of the pandemic, the problem of misinformation has resurfaced but this time it’s around the efficacy and safety of taking vaccinations.

  • Fragile mental health was also discussed as a recurring stressor among the participants. Several young people accepted to suffering from mental health issues prior to the pandemic. For most of them, the pandemic was an even more difficult period as they had to deal with the situation alone and at a time when everything outside one’s home was grim. Anxiousness and anger often competing with each other.

Dealing with the Pandemic

As the group engaged with each other on the impact of the pandemic on their lives, they also spoke to each other about how they tried to deal with the situation. And a range of activities and approaches were shared for this purpose.

  1. Learning to spend time with oneself: Several young participants admitted that the pandemic had pushed them into spending time with themselves, eventually making them comfortable with the idea. Many of them believed that they had learnt to slow down and understand themselves better during the pandemic.

  2. Meditation: Meditation, breathing exercises, yoga and exercise turned out to be a popular activity that a lot of young people engaged in. They said that meditation allowed them to stay calm and channel their anger or anxiousness.

  3. Digital detox: A few young people said that at a time when they were disconnected with their loved ones and the Internet full of grim news, staying away from social media apps, messaging apps and news allowed them to re-center and de-stress.

  4. Hobbies: A lot of young people said that they either picked up a new hobby during the pandemic or picked an old one that they hadn’t given time to in a long time. This allowed them to not only be productive and upskill, but also kept their mind away from negative thoughts.

  5. Social Connectedness: As friends and families were forced into physical distancing and physical isolation, many youths mentioned that social connectedness helped them navigate the pandemic and not feel alone. Video calls, online group games, social media and messaging services allowed them to stay connected with their loved ones and provide support to each other.

  6. Peer Learning: A lot of students shared that they used the period of the pandemic to engage in peer learning and support their classmates and friends cover the curriculum and prepare for examinations.

  7. Practicing Gratitude: A couple of young participants shared that practicing gratitude helped them deal with the situation, be grateful for what they have, and show empathy for those who were struggling.

Next Steps

  • As next steps, the 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative has planned a similar consultation with young people in the southern states of India to understand their challenges and their needs but to also address their questions and concerns about their present and their futures.
  • An easy-to-reference document based on the questions and concerns received from these sessions will be shared back with the participants.
  • Based on the learnings collated through our consultations, and other engagements, a charter of action will be co-created with key stakeholders to provide an action pathway for supporting young people out of the Covid crisis. 
  • We will be establishing a Youth Working Group, to provide their perspectives on challenges and solutions for immediate and longer-term COVID responses focused on adolescents & youth. 
  • We are also leveraging social and traditional media to raise the adolescent perspective in the mainstream narrative around COVID and beyond. 

Annexure: Key Concerns Raised by Young People

Having heard from the participants about their challenges and their approaches to dealing with the pandemic, the session also provided them with an opportunity to share their questions with the facilitators. These questions, which ranged from personal and family to the virus and role of the government, were able to capture broadly what the young people are thinking, what are their concerns, what are the myths that they have heard and what do they need from the stakeholders that support them.

At the 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative, we hope to pick up some of the pressing questions and collate answers/recommendations to them over a series of engagements with them and other stakeholders. We also want to use of these questions and suggestion from the young people and take it to the government.

Health & Safety:

  • Which vaccine is better? And do they suit everyone?
  • Which vaccine is better if you’re planning to go abroad to study?
  • Should one get health check-ups to understand the long-term impact of the disease on our health?
  • What are the side-effects of the covid vaccine?
  • Are masks being really effective?
  • Do we need to follow the SOPs after getting fully vaccinated? How long will the SOPs and protocols continue?
  • If we are following all safety protocols, how effective is the vaccine then?
  • Is this a right time to plan a family or conceive?
  • How should we deal with some absurd safety rules and regulation that the administration imposes?
    •  

Education & Career:

    • What are the plans to improve access to digital technology in the space of education?
    • When will normalcy return in the education space?
    • How should students deal with online exams or cancellation of board exams?
    • How can we overcome the situation of unemployment and job loss in the market right now?
    • Is it true that pandemic graduates won’t get jobs easily?

Suggestions for the government:

      • Caste-based reservation should be replaced with financial capacity-based reservation in educational institutions

      • There is a need to relax rules and regulations for the daily wage earners and other marginalized population

      • Institutions should create a safe space for students to be able to share their experiences of the pandemic

Self-Care in the Pandemic: Youth and their Coping Mechanisms

In this post we talk to young people from Bihar and Rajasthan, about challenges and coping mechanisms during the pandemic

Self-Care in the Pandemic: Youth and their Coping Mechanisms

Ada Grewal

Brief Overview 

 

The 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative (DAC) and EnterChange Innovations (ECI) organized a youth consultation with 60+ young people on 10 July, 2021, with a view to understand the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the youth. ECI is a youth engagement partner for DAC, and is a leading organization that engages youth on matters of sexual and reproductive health and sexual rights. 

 

This session, which engaged young people from Rajasthan and Bihar, was the second consultation in a series of engagements with young people. The first consultation with young people was hosted on June 10, 2021, and engaged participants from Jharkhand.  

 

The objective of these youth consultations is to bring together young voices on one platform, to hear directly from them about their challenges and needs amid a global pandemic, and to learn how are they dealing with their mental health in these stressful times. The conversations though were particularly broken down into two areas — Understanding the emotions that the youth are going through and the coping mechanisms they’ve adopted to deal with them; and understanding their concerns and questions that have stemmed from the living in the pandemic. 

Key Highlights 

Based on the discussions and activities, it was understood that the youth are primarily feeling and shifting between four emotions: 

  • Boredom due to lack of engagement with peers or opportunities to go out 
  • Anger to the lack of control over the situation 
  • Anxiety due to lack of clarity about the future 
  • Despair due to lack of hope for a bright future 

Based on a survey carried out during the seminar with the participants, about 87% of the youth accepted to be feeling constantly anxious and pessimist about their future due to the interruption in their education. As many as 68% of the participants said they’re sad, and the last year and a half has pushed them into a stressful place where they’re feeling suffocated. About 53% of the surveyed youth accepted that they find themselves feeling helpless at times, which leads to anger; and 49% of the participants are struggling with boredom due to the frequent lockdowns, restrictions on movement and ambiguity of their future.  

 

Evidently, interruption of education, loss of family income, lack of clarity about the future, increased in domestic abuse and forced child labour were the key stressors for the young people, besides of course the direct impact of the virus on people’s health. Education, however, stands as the top stressor. Adopting the modalities of online education has also been difficult for the students, especially given the limited access to smart devices and reliable Internet connection. The break in their education, they fear, is sure to affect their chances at higher education, competitive exams and practical learning opportunities, including internships and on-the-job learning.  

The direct and indirect consequences of the pandemic has also left the young with several questions about the virus, the vaccine, their families and their future. Some of the key concern areas for the youth were found to be around (See annexure for a complete list of questions): 

  • The efficacy of the available vaccines and myths around it 
  • The impact of the pandemic on education and future careers 
  • The support provided by the government for families who have lost their source of income in the pandemic.

Discussion on Coping Mechanisms 

 

In such times, it has been thus hard for young people to keep themselves motivated or in positive spirits, yet, many of them shared activities that they engage in to keep their spirits afloat, and their ideas around what can young people do to cope with their feelings. These coping mechanisms were shared in feeling-specific breakout groups. 

 

Anxiety: 

  • Young people recognized that taking responsibility for their own health and mental well-being is important in these difficult times. 

  • They shared that making efforts to stay positive and believing in themselves helps them overcome a great deal of anxiety. 

  • To overcome one of the major stressors of anxiety — educational loss — some of the youth took the support of their friends and engaged in peer learning or relied on shared resources. 

  • Many young people also accepted to reaching out to their family about how they were feeling and, thus, seeking emotional support from them.  

  • Quite a few young people agreed that keeping themselves busy and setting a daily routine with dedicated hours for studies, physical exercise, family time and recreation helped them minimize anxiousness. 

  • Several young people also invested their time in learning new skills, discovering a talent or focusing on their hobbies that they earlier did not have time for. This gave them a new thing to focus on and removed them from their worries while at it. 

  • Many of them said that staying positive was crucial to deal with their anxiousness, and to feel positive they helped each other as they saw a sense of purpose in doing so. 

 

Boredom: 

  • Several youths shared that they fought apprehensive and boredom by making good of their free time to cook, dance, make handicraft, learn new languages or get a deeper understanding of the diverse Indian culture. 

  • Some youth, who had better access to Internet connectivity, said they utilized their time and resources to learn new courses related to computers, communication and journalism which could help them in their careers later. 

  • For a lot of them activities like reading books, listening to songs, interacting with family, and painting became the means of relieving boredom. 

  • Some adolescent girls associated themselves with home industries and contributed their time to make masks and sanitary-pads. This helped them feel useful for their community and brought them a small income too. 

  • Staying connected with friends through mobile, playing with children in their neighborhoodand organizing online peer learning sessions allowed them to spend some quality hours in the day. 

  • A few students shared that they had added physical exercise such as jogging, running and workouts in their routine to fight the boredom. 

  • A few of the young people mentioned that they preferred to stay around people who had a positive outlook, as it helped them feel more positive and less demotivated. 

 

Anger: 

  • Several youths said that over a period of time, it became important for them to understand what was causing anger, understanding the triggers and and sharing their feelings with their friends and family in a way to seek support and control their anger.  

  • The youth said that they had to make conscious efforts to divert attention from conversations and things that could trigger their anger, and make forced efforts to calm themselves down. However, sometimes they would lose their cool and act in an aggressive behavior. 

  • For a lot of young people, music and movies helped. For a few others, concentrating hard on their studies proved to be useful. 

  • A few young people share that spending time alone and journalizing helped them channel their anger as well as calm themselves down. 

  • A few of the participants accepted that they used to take out their anger on someone or skip meals when they were triggered, and soon realized that wasn’t the best approach to dealing with their emotions. Instead, they made efforts to be an emotional support for their family. 

  • Meditatingwriting poetry, reading poems, and reading or watching motivational content helped many young people to stay away from negativity. 

  • Empathy and understanding what others are going through also turned out to be a coping mechanism for many, who were able to understand they they’re not struggling alone. 

 

Despair 

  • Most of the young people shared that it was hard to move away from the feeling of despair. However, staying connected with friends and sharing their feelings with each other helped them feel lighter. 

  • Speaking to elders in the family sometimes helped them understand different perspectives and remove the negativity for some time. 

  • A couple of young people shared that they had created ‘Self Love’ corners in their homes, which was filled with things that brought them joy and comfort. Spending a few hours every day in this space, helped them feel happy. 

  • To fight the feeling of despair, a few young people took up exercising as a regular habit, which motivated them stay and eat healthy. 

  • Since many of them were feeling lonely during the pandemic, they also realized the need to be there for each other in these difficult times.  

 

Next Steps 

 
  • As next steps, the 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative has planned a series of similar consultations with young people across urban, peri-urban, rural geographies to understand their challenges and their needs but to also address their questions and concerns about their present and their futures. 

  • An easy-to-reference document based on the questions and concerns received from these sessions will be shared back with the participants. 

  • Based on the learnings collated through our consultations, and other engagements, a charter of action will be co-created with key stakeholders to provide an action pathway for supporting young people out of the COVID crisis.  

  • We will beestablishing aYouth Working Group, to provide theirperspectives on challenges and solutions for immediate and longer-term COVID responsesfocused on adolescents & youth.  

  • We are also leveraging social and traditional media to raise the adolescent perspective in the mainstream narrative around COVID and beyond.  

 

Annexure: Key Concerns Raised by Young People 

 

Having heard from the participants about their feelings and their approaches to dealing with their mental health in these stressful times, the session also provided them with an opportunity to share their questions with DAC. These questions, which ranged from personal and family to the virus and role of the government, were able to capture broadly what the young people are thinking, what are their concerns, what are the myths that theyve heard and what do they need from the stakeholders that support them. 

 

At the 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative, we hope to pick up some of the pressing questions and collate answers/recommendations to them over a series of engagements with them and other stakeholders. We also want to use of these questions and suggestion from the young people and take it to the government. 

 

Corona virus and the vaccine: 

  • Can the vaccine be taken along with any other medication the person is on? 

  • Which vaccine is better – Covaxin or Covishield?  

  • Where are these vaccines available? 

  • What are the side-effects of the vaccine? 

  • Should people under 18 years of age take the vaccine? 

  • Can the vaccine be taken during menstruation or pregnancy? 

  • A person needs to wait for how long after recovering from Covid before they can take the vaccine? 

  • People are afraid of taking the vaccine and there have been people who have died after taking the vaccine. What is the reason for this? 

  • What happens if someone is accidentally administered the second dose of the vaccine too early? 

  • Some people get fever after taking the vaccine, but some do not. Why is that? 

  • Want to take the vaccine but the slot is not available in the app or the medicine is not available at the center, what to do? 

  • When will the pandemic end? 

 

Everyday Life and Concerns for the Future 

  • What can be the solution to the impact that is being done on the education of children and youth and they are lagging behind? 

  • Due to the lockdown and the virus, families have been unable to meet each other. How can this be solved for? 

  • Studies have been affected for students who do not have access to the Internet or mobile phones in the village. How can they be helped? 

  • Schools have been closed, there are no online classes that are taking place, but the schools have to be paid their fees. This is big problem for several families. What can be done to stop the arbitrariness of the administration in private schools? 

  • What can be done for daily wage earners whose income has been affected?  

  • What can be done for people who have borrowed loans but are unable to pay the banks because of the pandemic? 

  • People engaged in private jobs are not getting paid, but their household expenses continue. What can be done for them? 

  • Commuting has become really hard, and it’s difficult to access essential services or meet our families. When will things go back to normal? 

  • Many young girls have been married off and their dreams ended in this pandemic. What can be done to ensure it doesn’t happen with more young girls? 

  • What will be the impact of the interruption of our education on our careers? 

 

Suggestions for government and institutions: 

  • Many girls and women have been forced to discontinue their education. The governments should think about prioritizing jobs for girls and women. 

  • Caste-based reservations have made admission into colleges difficult for some groups. Can the benefits be based on a family’s economic capacity rather than their caste? 

  • A third wave is expected. The government should think of efforts that promotes and strengthens Covid-appropriate behaviors at the village level. 

  • When the elections were due, representatives of the government flouted Covid norms and precautions. This should not be allowed. 

10to19 Dasra Adolescent Community (10to19 Dasra Adolescent Community) is an effective platform to share, discuss and work together on the efforts of all stakeholders for sustainable change at the grassroots level. 

Ab Meri Bari Abhiyan is a platform for teenagers to raise their voice and empower themselves through different methods and processes. Now under the Meri Bari campaign, EnterChange Innovation is working to take the voice of adolescents to a wider spectrum. Along with this, Citizen Journalism is also helping in capacity building through programs and sessions related to citizen journalism. 

10to19 COVID Response

Read to find our more about the 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative’s COVID-19 response

10to19 COVID Response

Ada Grewal

Last year, the 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative, through the ‘Lost in Lockdown’ report, studied the ways in which the lockdown and pandemic affected the various essential and developmental aspects of the lives and well-being of young people. This report explored themes of education, livelihoods, social isolation, mental health, exposure to violence, reproductive health and child marriage, as well as access to food and health services. The study surveyed 110+ non-profit organizations serving vulnerable adolescents across the country and served as a collation of their insights and experiences- and the accounts we heard only further validated that the pandemic has severely affected adolescents and young people.

We appreciate that each organization that we work with or have worked with is working intentionally and tirelessly in this time of adversity. We commend organizations for staying on the path of impact and still finding ways to support employees and communities and also take on relief work where needed. As the 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative, we find ourselves in a position to be able to bring together some of these campaigns and efforts, collate learnings from across stakeholders, and create spaces to convene partners to continue discussions and work on each of our visions and goals for the communities we serve. At a time when most of us are grappling to devise and deploy solutions to this crisis, we believe that coming together and learning from each other is critical and valuable.

In this spirit, we are sharing below some early movement and updates, which we hope are just the beginning of a longer, sustained series of collaborative and supportive efforts –

  • #BackTheFrontLine Initiative: Through this initiative, Dasra is working to mobilize support for 100 locally-led NGOs that are leveraging their deep experience on the ground and bold, community-centric and nimble approaches to drive impact at the very frontlines of India’s COVID-19 response. We have already mobilized USD 6.3M. In the coming weeks, we will scale this initiative up towards achieving that 100 NGO target.
  • Amplifying community and on-ground needs: Continuing the ‘Voices from the Ground’ series from last year, we will keep up the practice of convening and consulting with NGOs, Government stakeholders, experts and adolescent girls to hear from them about the need of the hour. As part of this series, we have already initiated conversations with the Central and Jharkhand state governments to best understand where we could support and identify gaps to bring in support from our partners. We aim to keep our approach participatory and collaborative and will continue to engage 500+ Community of practice organizations and multiple funders and young people as we try and respond to emerging needs.
  • Systems Change through learning & Collaborative Solutioning: To ensure we continue to centre the voices of our NGO partners working on the frontlines, we have begun to meet with a small group of partners to listen, learn and share from each other’s experience of grappling with the situation. As next steps, we will send across a survey to this group, and will also meet with a larger group of partners in the first week of June. Please do let us know by replying to us if you would be interested to be a part of these discussions. We hope these meetings will become a space for candid, real-time ideation and peer learning so that we can collectively serve our communities in the most relevant and effective ways possible.

We hope this information was helpful, and please reach out to us at 10to19community@dasra.org with questions or interest in any of the above. Take care and stay safe!

Engaging With Young People and Influencers: Our Learnings

In this post we talk about our learnings from engaging with Digital Influencers and enabling more engagements between various stakeholders and young people over the past year

Engaging With Young People and Influencers: Our Learnings

Yashi Jain

“I think, not to feel guilty about privilege, but to recognize it in a way that how do you really use it to be able to benefit those who don’t have the same access to power.” – Neera Nundy 1

Neera Nundy, Dasra’s co-founder, which works on building the field of adolescent health and wellbeing through the 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative (DAC), strongly believes in using one’s power and voice to benefit those with less privilege and creating spaces for them to come forth and share their stories. With that ethos,  the 10to19 Collaborative, since it’s inception in 2017 has always strived to bring various stakeholders and young people, we hope to empower, at the same table to engage, learn and share.  

We started our Ab Meri Baari campaign, in 2019 to bring about normative change through communications and advocacy, not only to increase efficacy and agency of adolescents but to also influence the mindset of stakeholders in the ecosystem — government, media, public, parents, teachers, peers, etc. One of our learnings from our first year of intervention and campaign activities was that adolescent health, well-being and their various concerns, especially their SRHR needs, were not a priority for many stakeholders, and the media and public ecosystem was not conducive to having these conversations.  

When the pandemic hit us early last year, on the one hand, it impacted on ground interventions, and created an unprecedented digital divide2. However, on the other hand, it led to organizations deploying technology-based programming to bring young people and digital influencers, content creators, government officials from around the country on the same platform to discuss their concerns about the virus and how it has impacted the lives of young people. Discourses and dialogues that were difficult in the pre-pandemic era became accessible and important during the pandemic. It also gave young people, who had access to network and mobile phones ,an opportunity to become digital advocates for their respective communities.  

DAC recognized two immediate needs: 

1) Building the capacities of our youth champions to use digital platforms not only for their daily consumption but also effectively to advocate for their needs to decision-makers 

2) Engaging with influencers and decision makers through online platforms on adolescent needs and getting them to advocate for the cause. For the past year and a half, we have continued to focus on these two pathways. We have run a campaign to train young people on digital advocacy skills, and are currently training 60 young people from Jharkhand to be local mobile journalists. You can watch some of their work here.  

Mr Amrut Bang, Program Director at Nirman, during one of our Dasra Philanthropy week (DPW) sessions, around importance of leveraging India’s youth dividend, succinctly summed up why we need to get influencers and young people to engage more meaningfully on a regular basis “Young people are hungry for warm and authentic conversations where they can be empathetically understood but also critically challenged.” 3

Our Learnings

 
  • There is an urgent need to enable participation among young people: We need to stop infantilizing young people and truly believe that they know their needs best. We need to play the role of enablers and provide access to platforms and people they can raise their concerns with. This includes, thinking critically about what we mean by “meaningful participation” and how we must steer away from being tokenistic and ensuring they are truly able to exercise their agency. For instance, during our digital advocacy campaign last year, young people took over Dasra’s Facebook Page to organize webinars, live sessions with frontline workers, post stories and engage in conversations that they cared about. This led to gain in confidence among young people to be able to lead their narratives and on a national platform and also made us rethink our interventions in defining agendas for them.  
  • There are influencers who care: Online platforms have seen a surge in channels where professionals are raising their voice about various topics, with dedicated channels talking about SRHR, mental health for young people etc. They are steered by professionals distilling valuable information and creating a space for conversations. As NGOs, we must engage with them to make use of their platforms to gain more traction for the causes we are advocating for. This not only enables more eye-balls and conversations but also adds legitimacy-  
        • For example, we engaged with Esha Bahal, who is a law student advocating for young people’s rights online. She did a Youth Charcha with Dr Zoya Rizvi, Deputy Commissioner, National Health Mission, MoHFW, where they talked about the importance of youth participation and partnership in systems strengthening. The video saw a good uptake by audiences who would not generally engage in such conversations, hence engaging with unconventional but promising actors in the field currently can be really productive for the cause.  
  • Engagement can enable shared responsibility towards changing the narrative: We launched the #AMBAdvocates series early this year where we identified and got on board 3-4 digital influencers, such as – Navya NandaLeeza MangaldasDr Swati Jagdish and a few advocates from the state government level to be torch-bearers of the cause. This enabled more pro-active engagement and need for creation of knowledge, awareness and space to have these conversations from the other end. Instead of us always leading the agenda, we saw pro-active engagement from advocates to give voice to the cause and influence the larger narrative. Hence, there is an immense power in sharing the agenda and the responsibility for the cause that only enables more mouthpieces to influence the narrative.  
  • Engagement with influencers can inspire confidence and courage amongst your community: Last year on International Girl Child’s Day we were able to get PV Sindhu, the Indian professional badminton player and Padma Shri awardee, to tweet about the need for empowering our adolescent girls with education, access to services and improving their overall well-being for them to be successful women of the future. A single tweet from an influential figure like PV herself, did wonders not only to nudge decision makers but also to inspire confidence and courage among millions of girls in the country.  
  • Creating safe spaces can allow for empathetic discussions and critical thinking from both ends: In our latest Ab Meri Baari podcast episode, when you listen to Navya Nanda and Saba Rehmani talk about Menstrual hygiene management, discussing everything from taboos and myths surrounding MHM, to sharing their first period stories to talking about how they can work together to bring about change in their everyday lives- one feels a sense of empathy and regard, there is just a space for healthy debate and discussions for a better future. Similar spaces were created in our other AMB podcast episodes- a platform headed by young people. Similar to point 1, it is important to create more and more safe spaces.  
  • These conversations push decision makers to be more responsive: Finally, no number of conversations are meaningful enough if they do not result in tangible change in mindset, policy or action overtime. Our various efforts over the year led to the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Jharkhand sharing a video message committing to invest more in young people of Jharkhand. This is a big win to have the highest influencer make such a commitment during a pandemic, teaching us that consistent advocacy and conversations have the power to, reach our ultimate goal: nudge decision-makers to make more empathetic systems and policies.  

All in all, we do believe using your power & privilege to enable others is a powerful tool and we truly believe in using our collective voice to bring about change. Supreme Court Lawyer Poulomi Pavini Shukla’s message during the same DPW session, sums it well

“Systems are built on inertia and to change them is difficult, but it’s not impossible. All it needs is a little patience a lot of persistence and basically making enough noise.” 4 

(Please note: All of our initiatives and activities listed in this blog post would not have been possible without the efforts by our partners, we would like to thank them and say that our biggest learning has also been to enable more meaningful partnerships for our common goals