Voices from the Ground | Re-imagining working with Adolescents

In this consultation we heard from sector experts like SNEHA, Sangath, CINI, Aangan on various aspects of adolescents health and well-being. We conducted this in partnership with PRIA and Martha Farrell Foundation, and in this note you can read more about the key insights.

Voices from the Ground | Re-imagining working with Adolescents

sucharita iyer


The onset of the COVID 19 pandemic has set the clock back on progress achieved when it comes to adolescent health in India, with adolescents across the country facing challenges across many important aspects of their health, including nutrition, sexual and reproductive health and mental well-being. On the supply side, the community health workers, ASHA, ANM and Anganwadi Workers (AWWs), mandated to address emergent adolescent health issues in the community, are over-burdened with COVID-19-related care and vaccination drives, causing delays in their other responsibilities. This has impacted benefits for adolescents mandated under the central flagship scheme, Rashtriya Kishore Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK), which run the risk of being delayed or denied to them. Supply of iron-folic acid (IFA) tablets, sanitary napkins, provision of supplementary nutrition, and immunization activities are among the initiatives that is currently facing gaps in demand and supply. It is thus imperative to sustain and further accelerate the advances made in the past decade with regard to addressing access to sexual and reproductive health needs, educational and nutritional outcomes, safety and child marriages, while building resilience and adaptability to adjust to post-pandemic realities. Addressing the unmet needs of youth should be a priority area of intervention, both for the state and civil society.

In the absence of sufficient evidence surrounding the situation and needs of vulnerable sections of the population, various response systems had expressed concerns in reaching out to them, compounded by the huge digital divide and restrictions on mobility. But even during the lockdown, several civil society organisations had initiated action for young people, either in partnership with the state or as civil society coalitions and networks. The vital role played by civil society in India during times of disasters and crises, in supplementing the state’s efforts at providing welfare was aptly demonstrated during the disruptive waves of pandemic. Recognizing and acknowledging the transformational potential of civil society to impact adolescent health and well-being forms the core of discussions. There is a need to explore how different organizations working on adolescent health have strategized their operations to adapt to the changing environment.

Objective of the Learning Circle

The devastating second wave of COVID-19 has had a severe impact on NGOs, adolescents and communities. Over the course of previous one year, several knowledge sharing and dissemination initiatives have brought forth the challenges faced by the adolescents and civil society working in the domain of adolescent health. However, it is also important to share the lessons learnt as a result of conducting interventions with adolescents in the midst of a pandemic and to deliberate on the ways in which civil society should re-align their operations, programs and interventions to suit the needs of a post-pandemic environment.

To have deeper discussions on these issues, PRIA and 10to19 Community Dasra hosted a virtual learning circle on “Re-imagining working with adolescents”. The objective of the learning circle (LC) was to enable intra-civil society conversations around revising existing
strategies of working with adolescents. The LC will also provide a platform to CSOs to share their learnings, strategies and plans to scale their operations and increase outreach in the coming years. The discussions will enable co-creation of a sustainable roadmap for civil society organizations, either working or intend to work with adolescents.

This learning circle was aimed at addressing the following key questions:

    • During the pandemic, what strategies did you adopt to deliver interventions or implement adolescent health programs? Has the arrival of pandemic forced you to depart from existing models of interventions?
    • What modifications or innovations have you integrated into your strategy, as opposed to preceding years while working on adolescent health?

The first section of the learning circle was designed to interact with five thematic speakers on the following themes:

Dr. Indrani Bhattacharya (CEO, Child-In-Need Institute) spoke about how civil society can sustain the progress made in achieving SDGs related to sexual and reproductive health in the previous decades. She spoke about the post-pandemic perspective of adolescent health, with a focus on states from eastern India like Jharkhand, Assam and West Bengal. In the absence of state authorities, who were engaged in pandemic alleviation efforts, to monitor adolescent health situation, CINI intervened in the states by undertaking a situational analysis to understand the ground situation. The results of the situation analysis point towards the need for civil society to intervene:

    • Adolescent health programs, like Rashtriya Kishore Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) were neglected since the state authorities were busy with pandemic management.
    • The frontline health workers were engaged in pandemic alleviation and involved in activities related to vaccination drives. Thus, distribution of sanitary napkins, menstrual hygiene products and Iron Folic Tablets had taken a hit.
    • Health systems had seen an imminent collapse, which was exacerbated by the undue burden exerted due to COVID-19 cases. In such a situation, it was observed that Adolescent Friendly Health Clinics were not functional.
    • Incidents of sexual violence within families, teenage pregnancies and unsafe abortions reported an exponential spike, as was evidenced through increasing SOS calls.

We have started trainings with adolescent boys and girls to build their capacity to make their digital space safe. We have also developed learning materials. It is also important for civil society working with adolescents to build capacity of their own staff to adapt to the hybrid model”

Indrani Bhattacharya, CINI

In order to address the state of vulnerability the following interventions were mooted:

    • The immediate mode of outreach was to adapt to online and virtual spaces. However, the digital divide in India remains an obstacle to sustained outreach. Only 7-8% of the adolescents in rural areas and 16% in urban areas have access to digital space. 
    • As important as the need to conduct outreach through digital means is the need to create safe digital spaces. Adolescents could be made aware of the importance and ways of creating safe spaces by developing learning materials and online modules.
    • In order to close the gap in health service delivery and to connect the adolescents to health care providers, WhatsApp groups were created with adolescents, where nodal health officers and Government doctors were present. Their presence in groups enabled easy referral and doubt-clearing.
    • The new normal has mandated innovative ways of working and connecting with community. Hence, it is imperative that organizations build capacity of their staff to remain flexible and adapt to changing modes of working.
    • Speaking about mental health, Rhea Sharma, Intervention Director, Sangath highlighted how civil society can integrate mental health as an important component of pandemic
      management and the ways in which access to mental health services for marginalized and vulnerable communities can be improved.
    • Rhea spoke about the experiences from her organization, Sangath, which has adapted to digital technology to deliver mental health counselling and believes in taking mental health to the communities. Long before the pandemic, Sangath developed an intervention targeting school-going adolescents in under-resourced communities.
    • As the pandemic struck and schools remained shut indefinitely, an educational mobile application was used to enable young children to tackle clinically diagnosable symptoms of mental health like depression, anxiety, anger and behavioral issues, all of which had flared up in first and second wave of the
      pandemic. It was, however, important for the adolescents to refer themselves, as counsellors were not able to reach out to adolescents physically. The app would feature characters with similar symptoms as the adolescent. In connecting adolescents to health services and increasing the scope of outreach, Sangath had offered tele-counselling services.

Through digital interventions like problem-solving mobile applications, it was possible to work on 70% of clinically diagnosable symptoms of mental health like stress, depression, anxiety, anger issues, behavioural problems, all of which flared up during the second wave of pandemic, with adolescents in under-resourced communities.”

Rhea Sharma, Sangath

Dr Rama Shyam, program director, SNEHA offered insights for civil society to focus on addressing the glaring gaps in adolescent nutrition.
“Food insecurity was one of the biggest stressors that young people and parents talked about during the pandemic. No one wanted to talk to us about corona virus, they wanted to talk about food, at least one meal in a day” remarked Dr. Shyam as she indicated that the food crisis would worsen in days to follow since the gaps in nutrition has not been bridged in a coherent manner. The Global Nutrition Report, published in 2020 and India’s standing is evidence enough that demands targeted nutrition delivery for adolescents, especially belonging to under-resourced communities.
Through digital interventions like problem-solving mobile applications, it was possible to work on 70% of clinically diagnosable symptoms of mental health like stress, depression, anxiety, anger issues, behavioural problems, all of which flared up during the second wave of pandemic, with adolescents in under-resourced communities.” ~Rhea Sharma, Sangath
SNEHA’s approach has been focused on targeting anemia through appropriate intervention. However, the post pandemic induced restrictions in movement, Dr. Shyam argues, has had an impact on nutrition. There was no way to ascertain if those who had found success in intervention were actually slipping back into their old state. Some of the solutions, as mooted by the speaker were:

    • In order to generate evidence into pandemic- induced anemia indicators, SNEHA had developed SOPs and protocols to carry out anemia testing, with adequate physical distancing measures.
    • The mid-day scheme had been paused due to indefinite shutting of schools. In order to promote better nutritional outcomes among adolescents, especially belonging to vulnerable communities, ration kits were targeted to deliver high protein food items.
    • Public Distribution System (PDS) was targeted to ensure that more communities get
      access to food. However, it was equally important to plug the holes in distribution system to ensure zero leakage. A participatory approach to PDS monitoring was devised, with the help of community youth volunteers. The process began with mapping of 100 ration shops, across the city of Mumbai, which was followed by SNEHA facilitating interaction of the community with the PDS officials. The ensuing linkage enabled the communities to battle hunger at a time, when the poor of the country and vulnerable were not able to access or afford food supplies.
    • In addition to addressing nutritional deficiencies through ensuring adequate food supplies and ration shop linkages, another area of intervention included de-worming and iron-folic tablets.

We realized that just GEHU-CHAVAL won’t work in dry ration kits. So, we consciously curated dry ration kits and included micro-nutrient rich foods like ragi rajma, soya chunks, kala chana to the dry ration kits, along with sanitary napkins”

Dr Rama Shyam

Some of the other initiatives, that took the form of digital interventions include mobilizing youth volunteers to create their own SBCC videos on topics like anemia for circulation in the community and mobile banks. ‘Mobile banks’ is an initiative for increasing digital uptake among adolescents so that they can access informational videos and connect to mental health tele- counselling services or SOS helplines in the event of domestic violence. Five youth in the community will have access to a common smartphone, which is shared among them for their common use. It is also an attempt to strengthen peer interaction.

We got youth volunteers to create their own videos to explain nutrition, consequences of anaemia and to distribute them to parents and youth. Now the youth volunteers are conducting awareness sessions on nutrition in their neighbourhood”

Dr Rama Shyam, SNEHA

During the subsequent waves of pandemic, incidents of violence and child abuse was seen to increase at an exponential rate. Since public spaces were closed, mobility was restricted and adolescents were staying within the confines of their homes, it was important to explore the impact of violence on well-being of young people. Often, within the realm of adolescent health, violence is not considered an area of priority as much as areas like SRH and mental health. Ms. Nandita Bhatt, Director, Martha Farrell Foundation, spoke about the role that civil society can play when it comes to tackling violence against adolescents.

Nandita drew attention of participants towards the concept of ‘safe spaces’. When children come from their homes to a safe space, it provides them an opportunity to engage in “difficult conversations”. After the pandemic, it is important for civil society to ideate on how such conversations can be held with young people when they are in their homes. This thought also finds convergence with the point raised by Dr Indrani Bhattacharya with regard to training adolescents and facilitators to create safe online spaces.
Even as the adolescents are provided with opportunities to reach out through online spaces, it is important to understand the power dynamics behind access to technology. Mostly the adolescents do not have access to technology ad it is important to also consider to not leave them with backlash after conducting the session.

    • Language should be made inclusive, help adolescents teach acceptance, how they learn to negotiate power, how they learn to communicate consent,
    • As civil society as we work with adolescents, it is important to help them develop this thinking.
    • Develop a mechanism where adolescents develop awareness, defining and identifying threats

Child Marriage is an issue that needs social capital for intervention, remarked Srabonti Ghosh, Aangan Trust as she spoke about how child marriages had reported an increase, especially in backward districts across India.

Globally, one in three child brides are from India. However, as the pandemic progressed, a situation where adolescents were losing their voice was increasingly observed. It was also impossible to connect with peer groups. In families with dismal economic conditions, it was a blessing in disguise, where they could conduct marriages at less than the normal cost and lesser amount in dowry. She quoted the example of Bihar, where marriages were solemnised at less than “25% of the actual cost incurred as opposed to other times.’

In order to prevent child marriages, it is important to secure community participation in efforts. However, sufficient caution should also be exercised to not pin all responsibilities on the communities to prevent harm. Hence, activate the social capital around to understand the local story. The experience of community volunteers, adept in local language and context, can be leveraged to collect local stories so that adequate intervention strategies could be designed. Building social capital is also a strategy to understand the stakeholders, who can then be included in preventing child marriages..

Another strategy , as mentioned by the speaker, was to create whisper circle, which is a network of community women coming together to create a safe space to understand who the decision maker in family is so that they can negotiate and bring cases of child marriages down.

Increasing agency through empowerment of girls, opening channels for girls to reach out like digital helplines, working with local elected bodies like panchayats, involving frontline health workers like Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) and ANM were also mentioned as strategies to understand the risk factors that motivate child marriages and in designing strategies for effective intervention.

Looking at everything from preventive mode and building social capital were crucial to stopping child marriages”

Key takeaways

    • While working with adolescents, community advocacy, civil society partnerships and capacity building are the strategies that work best, if sustainable outcomes are to be seen as part of interventions.
    • Use of digital spaces and how we negotiate with the owners of the spaces, be it parents, schools, communities matter a lot.
    • Promoting inclusivity within the overall program design and intervention is key to achieving the program objectives. Organizations working with adolescents, especially at the level of communities must strive to reduce the power differential.


Profile of speakers

Dr Indrani Bhattacharyya is a social scientist working in the development sector for last 21 years. She has done her PhD in social anthropology and led many programmes on child, adolescent and women health and nutrition issues as well as participatory governance and community partnerships. She joined CINI in August 2001 and she has been trained on child, adolescent and women rights, participatory governance, community mobilisation, reproductive and child health, adolescent sexual reproductive health and rights, leadership development issues from reputed organisations in India, including DASRA, supported by Harvard Management School. Her journey and growth curve in CINI is very inspiring and motivating and in tandem with the growth of the organisation. Currently she is the Chief Executive Officer in CINI. She represents CINI in State, National, Regional and International forum and is engaged in institutional knowledge management, technical assistance and policy advocacy. She is also promoting CINI Method and Child Friendly Community [CFC] approach, which is human rights based approach [HRBA] engaging community, including children and adolescents, service providers and local self-government for sustainable community-owned process through strengthening Government programs on education, protection, health, nutrition and adolescent empowerment. Her core strength and interest are around adolescent sexual reproductive health rights and she is learning through different interventions and policy dialogues at the states and national level in India.

Rhea Sharma is a Psychologist working in the areas of adolescent and youth mental health. She is currently an Intervention Director at Sangath(India) with the PRIDE research programme where she leads the intervention development of a digital intervention for school-going adolescents in low resource settings. Rhea is also leading Sangath’s Covid-19 wellbeing center and tele-counselling service which aims at providing free mental health support to anyone in need, with a specific focus on Frontline and Essential workers. Rhea holds a MA in Clinical Psychology from Fergusson College, University of Pune and an MSc in Global Mental Health from King’s College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Rama Shyam is the Director of SNEHA’s Adolescent Health and Sexuality Education programme. She holds a doctoral degree in Social Sciences from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, and has over 15 years of experience in both grassroots’ and international organisations, working in the development sector. In her most recent stint, she headed the Education and Citizenship programme with Apnalaya, Mumbai, working on developing a high-impact community engagement programme. Earlier, Rama co-founded SAHER (Society for Awareness, Harmony and Equal Rights), a youth-led organization, working on peace-education, sexual and reproductive rights, leadership and citizenship in Mumbai. She has implemented programs to scale in partnership with organisations such as USAID, United Nations Alliance of Civilisations, Tata Trusts, Magic Bus, US Consulate and many others. Prior to her engagement with SAHER, Rama had stints in academia and in training and capacity building and community development across themes such as peace-education, primary education, governance and youth development. She was awarded the Martii Ahistari Peacebuilder Award in 2012, for her peace-education activities in Mumbai, the Dasra Social Impact Village Capital Award in 2010, the Youth Action Net Fellowship in 2007 and Ashoka’s Changelooms Award in 2017.

Nandita Pradhan Bhatt is the Director of Martha Farrell Foundation, where she’s responsible for program delivery and management of the Foundation. She also heads the gender programs in PRIA (Society for Participatory Research in Asia) and has over 25 years of experience in the space of gender mainstreaming and inclusion. She has trained over 20,000 employees across more than 40 national and international organisations, and has over two decades of experience training informal and formal workers, government officials and college and university-going students in prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace.
She has been working with women domestic workers to train and support their advocacy efforts to strengthen institutional responses to tackle the issue of sexual harassment in their world of work. During the second wave of the pandemic, Nandita spearheaded the Foundation’s efforts to provide essential COVID-19 Relief Kits for women domestic workers, an effort to deliver relief, as well as strengthen a network of over 4000 women domestic workers to advocate for their rights.

Partnering with the Government on COVID Relief: Our Learnings and Experience

In this post we talk about our learnings and experience of working with the Jharkhand Government on COVID relief and response efforts.

Partnering with the Government on COVID Relief: Our Learnings and Experience

Ada Grewal


The resurgence of the second wave of COVID-19 over the last three months has had a devastating impact on India’s healthcare system. It has also led to further marginalisation of already vulnerable communities – including young people. To help combat the impact of the pandemic and supplement the efforts of the government and civil society, India has seen a surge in domestic and foreign philanthropic aid.   

Dasra too has rolled out multiple relief initiatives to support state governments, civil society organisations and communities. Through our global fundraising initiative, #BackTheFrontline, we have raised USD 7.3 million (of our USD 10 million goal) to support 100 local, grassroots non-profits that are supporting vulnerable communities fight COVID-19 on the frontlines across India. Through our flagship programme, the 10to19: Dasra Adolescents Collaborative – which aims to prioritise adolescents needs and amplify their voices – we have focused our relief efforts on funding Jharkhand-based organisations that are working on prioritising the well-being of adolescents on the ground and providing relief materials at the community and hospital level in tandem with the Jharkhand Government. To ensure that the voices of young people are directly heard, we are also running a citizen journalism leadership programme especially catered to young people in the state. 

As foreign and domestic philanthropic aid has flooded the country, so have questions about its disbursement and distribution. When it comes to reach and distribution, the Indian government is often the most efficient actor to partner with to ensure large-scale distribution and extensive reach of relief materials and aid. While at a smaller scale, we too have had experience in working with the government to direct COVID-19 relief materials where they are most needed, and have garnered rich learnings in the process of doing so. In this article, we would like to spotlight one aspect of our COVID-19 relief efforts – ensuring the successful fundraising and delivery of Oxygen concentrators to the Government of Jharkhand. 

Dasra has had a long-standing relationship with the Government of Jharkhand, and specifically the State’s National Health Mission (NHM). We have partnered with them on multiple projects and campaigns in our shared endeavour to champion the cause of adolescent health and well-being. During the peak of the second wave, the Jharkhand NHM reached out to Dasra to request support in supplementing existing COVID-19 relief and response measures, given that the second wave had swiftly spread across the state, gravely impacting and overburdening the existing health system.   

Reinforcing our shared commitment to prioritise the wellbeing of adolescents and young people, Dasra offered to support the government in fundraising and procurement of Oxygen Concentrators, while also providing support to local, community-based and youth-focused organisations who would be involved in the distribution of relief material at the last mile, carrying out awareness campaigns and training frontline workers.

The Delivery Process: 

The entire process, starting from receiving an initial request for support from the NHM, to finally delivering the Oxygen Concentrators took a total of 3 weeks.  

During this time, we coordinated closely with the NHM office to ensure that there were no gaps in logistics and that they were looped in at all points of time. We received a consignment of Oxygen Concentrators from #MissionOxygen, an initiative that raised funds to procure Oxygen Concentrators through crowdsourcing via social media – of which a subset of the Concentrators was earmarked for Jharkhand NHM on our request.  

Our experience working with the NHM was smooth and pleasant, with the NHM representatives being transparent and proactive during the entire process. The Concentrators were delivered successfully within a short period of time, taking into account unavoidable last-minute logistical delays in travel time. 

The process of successfully transporting the concentrators was made possible by constant coordination among multiple actors. We first received an initial consignment from #MissionOxygen, of which we set aside a number of concentrators for the Jharkhand NHM. Details related to the address and recipient of the consignment were then sought from the NHM, after which a daily tracking of the shipment was conducted to ensure that it reached the right place at the right time. 

As each of these steps needed to happen in quick succession to ensure timely delivery, NHM’s quick turnaround in terms of response ensured that the process was smooth. A designated point of contact was allocated from the NHM office who was always available to address any questions and troubleshoot during hurdles – even after office hours. Additionally, the NHM also ensured that a representative from their office was physically present to receive the consignment and they immediately sent us a confirmation of receipt. This experience has further strengthened our belief in the importance of having champions within the government.  

What We’ve Learned:  

There are of course learnings to help ensure a more streamlined process going forward. We are aware that State and Central government offices are currently overburdened and overwhelmed by COVID-19 and its impact on all sectors. 

  • Through our experience working in this field, we have observed that there are multiple actors (such as donor organisations, companies’ CSR bodies, NGOs and smaller community-based organisations) working across the State – each with their unique ability to support in such a time of crisis. However, there is a need for better communication between the government and these actors to ensure smoother coordination. 
  • We believe that to better support the government in coordinating with multiple actors such as funders, civil society organisations and communities themselves, the National Disaster Management Authority, (NDMA) as well as the State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMA) should take a more active and central role in connecting and coordinating COVID-19 relief and response efforts of multiple civil society organizations across different geographies. 
  • One of the goals of the NDMA is to “promote a national resolve to mitigate the damage and destruction caused by natural and man-made disasters, through sustained and collective efforts of all government agencies, non-governmental organisations and people’s participation” by “adopting a technology-driven, proactive, multi-hazard and multi-sectoral strategy [sic]”.  
  • Centring this ethos in implementation will help different agencies carrying out relief work be cognisant of work being done by others, foster partnerships and highlight ignored geographies or populations. Additionally, this would help these actors leverage the work being done by each other, while not burdening the State Government and allaying the need for duplication of effort from their end.  
  • Leveraging the increasing reach and utility of technology, as seen in the case of the COWIN platform, an online platform or portal could help with coordinating this process, thereby reducing the effort required, as well as the time spent on communication and coordination. 

All these aspects are already included within the purview of the NDMA, SDMA and other governmental bodies, and therefore we recommend that these goals be implemented in practice to ensure relief efforts can reach the last mile and reduce effort on the part of the government as well as civil society organisations. 

Resilience & Sustainability: Pause, reflect and re-think

Some learnings and actions from the 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative during these trying times. Read to know more about what is upcoming.

Resilience & Sustainability: Pause, reflect and re-think

Shailja Mehta

“2020 was the year we lost, and 2021 is the year of losses.”

This comment has stayed with me ever since I first heard it during a webinar, about a month ago.

While nobody expected the first wave last year, so few were prepared for the second surge this year. The pandemic has been hard on everyone, but especially the vulnerable and those living in rural and remote parts of the country. It has exposed deep inequalities in our country and across the globe, and pushed those who were already struggling into further marginalisation.

Amid this catastrophe, thousands of civil society organisations have tried to show resilience and do their best to respond to the crisis, even as they’ve struggled with their own financial health and the physical health of their employees. At Dasra, we reached out to around 40 organizations to get a sense of how they have been affected as they take on this challenge. Of these, 71% have been hit financially and 67% said that their several of their staff and families were directly affected by Covid-19. Further, in the communities these organisation serve, most families have lost their livelihoods, many have lost their loved ones, and it seems like children and youth’s futures have indefinitely been put on hold. The losses have been grim and gruesome.

Even before the second surge struck us, we’d heard about its possibility. Yet, we did so little to prepare for it, though there is no denying that we were busy responding to the first wave and its aftereffects to the best of our abilities. The government and our health sector was definitely not prepared, however, nor was the civil society equipped for 2021.

However, even in the face of this, we have seen most of the organisations in the sector change gears to respond to the crisis, and almost immediately. The compulsions we’re facing as a sector to act and respond are very real and much required. However, what is also required is for us to take a pause, reflect and rethink our course of actions and strategies.

For us at Dasra, too, this has been a learning. If I would be honest, the 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative spent February and March planning for 2021-2022. We of course kept in mind the impact of the 2020 pandemic and the course corrections we had adopted last year as we were planning for the new financial year. Little did we know then though that come April, and everything would be put on hold to pivot and respond to the crisis, almost exclusively. We did though take the opportunity of a two-week-long organisation-wide break to pause, reflect and rethink our priorities for the year.

Since then, we have made a few attempts to bring together nonprofit organisations to share challenges, struggles, and create a space to openly share, listen and learn. Through state and national level Communities of Practice with a focus on adolescent well-being, as well as through another conversation with a few organisations across the country with varied focus and demographic interests, we’ve heard about

  • The impact of limited on-ground activities: Projects have either been cancelled or indefinitely put in hold until it’s safer for ground staff and communities to engage with each other in person.

  • The inability of organisations to support the communities: Due to restriction on mobility and funding, organisations are unable to support their communities to tackle the pandemic like they would want to.

  • The significant shifts in funding: Due to an urgent need to address Covid related awareness and health concerns, several existing projects and core areas of work have taken a back seat.

  • The years of development that have been reversed: Experts fear that a lot of behaviorual change efforts have been reversed and efforts made towards girl child education and delaying age of marriage undone significantly.

  • The lack of clarity on long-term strategic and organizational goals: Organisations are unclear of how to plan for the medium-to-long term given the impact of the pandemic on the country.

The conversations have highlighted not only several key priority areas, but also the need to build bridges with other civil society organisations for a coordinated and shared response to protect and support our communities. As we navigate the rest of the year, and plan our strategies for the next few years, it is imperative to think about the resilience and sustainability of the civil society to mitigate the long-term impact of Covid-19 and in pursuit of a sustainable development. 


Living in a Pandemic: Youth and their Emotions

Along with our partner Love Matters India, the 10to19 Collaborative organized a youth consultation with 50+ young people to understand the impact of COVID-19 on them

Living in a Pandemic: Youth and their Emotions

Brief Overview

The 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative (DAC)1 and EnterChange Innovations (ECI)2 organized a youth consultation with 50+ persons on 10 June, 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.

The objective of this youth consultation was 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 67% of the youth accepted to be suffering from grief & pessimistic thoughts about their future or what it will bring for them. As many as 64% of the participants said that they were feeling regularly stressed due to the pandemic, and 55% mentioned that they were not feeling happy since the pandemic entered India.

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.

These 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):

  1. The spread of the virus and the possibility of a third wave

  2. The efficacy of the available vaccines and myths around it

  3. The support provided by the government for families who have lost their loved ones or livelihood in the pandemic

  4. The roadmap to their aspirations and futures

1 10to19: Dasra Adolescents Collaborative is a high-impact platform that unites funders, technical experts, the government and social organizations to reach five million adolescents, and move the needle on four outcomes key to adolescent empowerment.
2 ECI is Indias leading digital Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) information platform catering to the needs of young people. It provides open, honest, non-judgmental and science-based information on love, sex and relationships using innovate media formats.

Discussion on Dealing with Emotions

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 deal with their feelings better


  • Initially, when the country was under a lockdown, the youth participants relied on their personal smartphones or their family smartphones to watch videos and multimedia content to relive stress and pass time.

  • Later, when times were slightly better and allowed small group gatherings, youth engaged in group activities and sports such as sewing, embroidery, cooking, dancing, singing and football.

  • As the young people understood each other’s challenges better, especially those with respect to interruption of education, some of them started each other through peer-to-peer learning. This not only helped them revise or impart their skills, but also kept them occupied while giving them a short-term purpose to wake up every morning.

  • Another commonly heard response from the participants was around setting a daily routine to keep themselves motivated.

  • The participants also mentioned that they realised that for them to feel positive, it was also important that their families felt positive, so they made efforts to engage the parents and siblings in various activities.


  • To overcome boredom, the participants said that they engaged in reading story books, listening to songs and picking up individual-based activities such as applying henna or cooking their favourite dishes.

  • Many of them claimed that they utilised the time to recognise their skills and hobbies towards craft making, painting and furnishing.

  • A few others said that regular physical activities such as sports, running, exercising kept them going, while many others used the time to pick up on indoor skills such as sewing or tutoring other children in the community.

  • All through though, WhatsApp and other mobile apps, remained a key tool to engage with friends and family to deal with the loneliness.

  • Most of the participants accepted that their creative instincts helped them keep themselves in a positive mood, and also allowed them to infuse positivity in others around them.


  • When the lockdown was announced, several families were struck by sudden loss of income, which meant fewer resources to provide food for the family. This was a major stressor, and led to frequent chaos and arguments in the house. The youth felt especially helpless, and so they initially turned to music and movies, often meditative or inspiration, to control their emotions, and then found solace in activities like yoga and exercise to channel their negative energy.

  • Young people also found escape in social media and participated in trends to feel excitement.

  • Setting a routine and agenda for the day, also helped a lot of youth participants to channel their energy into the right things, without becoming the cause of anger for anyone else too.


  • Fear of the disease, lack of medical facilities and uncertainty about the future were major reasons for despair among the participants. To deal with this, students tried to participate in various webinar or peer-to-peer learning activities. They picked up new skills and tried to share it with others around them.

  • Other than that, painting, reading books were also common ideas from the participants around dealing with despair.

  • The participants almost unanimously agreed that talking to their peers, accepting the situation and providing mutual support infused hope and positivity in them.

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 for what

  • 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 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 they’ve 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

  • When will Covid end?

  • Why are young children, who’ve not even stepped out of their houses, getting infected?

  • What medicines should be taken if you have early signs of the virus?

  • When a person dies of corona, why are the relatives not allowed to see the body?

  • Last year, the doctors, nurses and police were more helpful during the lockdown. Why has that changed this time around?

  • What is the actual count of Corona deaths?

  • Corona has been almost completely controlled in many countries, so why has India not been able to control it?

  • Why are people dying of the virus in hospitals, but not at homes?

  • If the breadwinner of a family dies of the virus, will the government provide any financial or other support?

  • When will Covid end? Are the vaccines safe?

  • Some countries have single-dose vaccines, why don’t we have them in India?

  • Why are people dying after taking the first dose of the vaccine?

  • Is it true that one vaccine is more effective than the other?

  • How long does the vaccine’s effect last?

  • Why does India not have more effective vaccines like some of the other countries?

  • If one is not effected by the virus, why does the person need to take the vaccine?

  • Why do some people report of fever and body ache after taking the vaccine?

  • Can you take the vaccine if you’re on your period?

  • How will everyone be prepared to get the vaccine?

  • Is there a third wave coming, and why?

  • What arrangements have been made for the potential third wave of the virus?

Everyday Life and Concerns for the Future

  • When will be able to go back to the normal?

  • Will schools reopen if the third wave is coming?

  • This corona has destroyed everyone’s future. So what is the future for them?

  • The virus has led to inflation. How will this get better?

  • During an election period, the government does not impose any lockdown or follow Covid precautions. But when it comes to opening schools and colleges, they use the excuse of the virus. Don’t children have a future? When will schools and colleges reopen?

  • How will we earn if there is no work?

  • Is it true that if a person does not take the vaccine, they will not be allowed any government facilities?

  • Do we not need to go to the doctor if the Covid report comes negative?

  • Even a conversation about the virus leads to stress, how can we deal with it?

  • Why is the government not addressing unemployment in its state?

  • Will the students who have been promoted without giving an exam, be able to prepare themselves for the next exam?

  • Can people who were working in another state, return to work?

  • Will the government address the issue of missed opportunities for the young or compensate for the two lost years?

  • Will we be able to get jobs after this interruption to our education?

  • If online education systems are faulty or biased towards those with access, how will we learn anything?

  • Why are liquor stores open but schools closed?

Suggestions for government and institutions

  • Many children have been forced to drop out of schools, especially those without mobile phones or the Internet. The government should do something to address this.

  • The government should ensure the young have employment opportunities across the country.

  • With the Board exams cancelled, the institutions should come up with an alternative to assess their preparation and knowledge.

  • Inflation has affected all aspects of life, including access to medicines and food. This should be addressed.

  • The government should pay attention to the falling GDP and mitigate its impact on people.

Challenges from the ground in Jharkhand during COVID-19

The conversation highlighted not only several key priority areas, but also the need for a coordinated and shared response from stakeholders across the sector and the need for further attention to be paid to organizations facing the brunt of the pandemic at the grassroots.

Challenges from the ground in Jharkhand during COVID-19

Why we came together

This is an extremely difficult time that we are facing personally, in the communities we work with and in our organizations. We this realization, the 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborate felt the responsibility to resonate the need for connection, coordination, and camaraderie.

Following the first meeting of key non-profit organizations coming together to share their experiences, the Collaborative also saw the need for a more targeted conversation to understand the on-ground scenario in the state of Jharkhand. Our local community-based organizations in Jharkhand have played a key role in the responding to the needs of communities in Jharkhand and continue to remain a critical part of the Collaborative.

Given that the second wave has had an especially devastating effect on states like Jharkhand, this free-flowing, no-agenda session was a space where we could manage some of the isolation and helplessness all of us are feeling currently, with the hope that coming together, and sharing would help us better understand our role in responding to the impact of these times on the people and communities we serve.


The Jharkhand community of practice meet was attended by 12 organizations from Jharkhand, each of whom shared their current organizational responses and experiences of the pandemic

Dream a Dream


Jan Lok Kalyan Parishad

Plan India

Jan Sarokar

Pragati Educational Academy

Jharkhand Gramin Vikas Trust, Dhanbad

Prerna Bharti

LJK Lohardaga

Sahayogini Ho

Nav Bharat Jagriti Kendra, Hazaribagh

SWADESH Organization

Key Highlights and Learnings

The session began with a set of polls to gauge the actual impact of the pandemic on organizational health, staff and programs. Results of the polls indicated that while some organizations have had flexibility and support from funders, all organizations have been able to put in place adequate mechanisms for supporting their staff during this time. Most organizations were in the process of or had already made shifts in their programs and strategies to address the pandemic, and a majority of them felt that there would be a medium to long-term impact of the pandemic on their programs and core mission values.

Organization Level Impact: 

Further discussion also opened up the floor to organizations to share their experiences of how the second wave has impacted them. 

  • Impact on Staff: Team members and families were getting affected by Covid, to respond to this, organizations took a pause to support members through this time. 

  • Impact from funding shifts: Funding cuts from FCRA/CSR have impacted organizations in different ways, including scaling back of program as well as number of staff.  However, most organizations have repurposed current funding to Covid response and funders have been supportive of this. 

  • Lack of mobility: Travel restrictions have affected organizational work and many have pivoted to using WhatsApp as a way to engage with communities.

These challenges are also accompanied by the continually developing situation on the ground. 

Community Level Impact : 

Partners also shared several key issues that are currently affecting the communities they work with, that included:

  • Increase impact on vulnerable groups: Rise in child marriage, limited access to education as well as mental health issues have been the biggest challenges for young people and adolescents.  Health systems have been disrupted specifically maternal, child and adolescent health as all health infrastructure is Covid focused.

  • Reverse migration and loss of livelihood:  Restricted mobility for migrant workers due to discontinuation of the Jharkhand e-pass as well as reverse migration has led to loss of income & livelihoods. 

  • Vaccine hesitancy and myths: Vaccine hesitancy is on the rise due to lack of awareness, myths and fear (from a few reported deaths) There is high degree of misinformation and lack of awareness about Covid and Covid appropriate behaviors. In rural areas, people are likely to be treated by unqualified doctors which may lead to further complications. 

Emerging Need Areas: 

Partners further shared some priority need areas that require to be addressed in response to the evolving Covid situation on ground  

  • Focus on education: An urgent and immediate response to gap in education services needs to be addressed. As students have been out of school for a year, there is a serious gap in learning which will impact in the long term.

  • Building awareness and busting myths:  It is important to drive the uptake of vaccination by building awareness and addressing hesitancy and myths that continue to circulate. This is specifically true for the rural and remote locations. 

  • Need for medical infrastructure: Rural areas have limited medical facilities which can provide timely care and response. With the anticipation of a third wave, it is essential to bridge this gap of missing infrastructure to address this to prevent rise of third wave in rural areas.

  • Policy response: There is a need to strengthen the state disaster management policy, and create a cadre of staff that can respond to Covid waves.  

  • Focus on Mental Health: Scalable solutions to address mental health issues and isolation among young people is needed

  • Further investment into girls and delivery of health and nutrition services especially now as funds are getting diverted to Covid.

Next Steps

This session was a first step towards understanding the many challenges that the sector and our partners are currently facing, in light of the second wave. All participants expressed the importance of such forums and consultations with a view of combining efforts, encouraging cross learnings and sharing to address the key needs of communities. 

The conversation highlighted not only several key priority areas, but also the need for a coordinated and shared response from stakeholders across the sector and the need for further attention to be paid to organizations facing the brunt of the pandemic at the grassroots. 

It is clear that we will need to continue pushing to prioritize the well-being of each other and the communities we serve, and to ensure that the conversation is open to and highlights the perspectives of vulnerable communities and populations. 


The Collaborative will continue this series of consultations with various stakeholder groups, including members of our 10to19 National Community of Practice. Our next consultations will be held on Tuesday, June 1st and Thursday, June 3rd, and will be open to all.

DAC National CoP Consultations

The two consultations with NGOs across the nation
highlighted not only several key priority areas, but also the need for a coordinated and shared response from stakeholders across the sector to ensure that we are able to protect and support our communities.

DAC National CoP Consultations


Last year, the Covid-19 lockdown greatly impacted vulnerable populations, stranding thousands of migrants far from home, interrupting education for millions of children, and limiting access to non-COVID healthcare including SRHR services for adolescent and young people who faced difficult in accessing menstrual hygiene products or contraceptives. This year, with the second surge and a deadly virus strain, these problems have been aggravated for communities as they grapple with another year of the lockdown. With this realization, the 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative felt the responsibility to resonate the need for connection, coordination, and camaraderie. Thus, hosting a series of consultations titled ‘Voices from the Ground’ was a first step in this direction — to bring together nonprofit organizations as a community and network, in a virtual space, to share challenges, struggles, and create a space to openly share, listen and learn in an effort to better understand our role in responding to the impact of these times. These conversations have helped unpack the challenges and gaps that organizations are facing amid the second surge of the Covid-19 pandemic in India and address the isolation a lot of organizations are facing in these difficult times by allowing them to come together as a community to lean on and learn from each other. The consultations offer a key opportunity to hear from other organizations to understand the range of approaches that have been followed and share learnigns too. Through this series of conversations, organizations have highlighted education, SRHR, mental health, vaccine hesitancy and livelihood as areas to focus on in the wake of Covid-19. For various organisations, the pandemic has meant reduced funding or repurposing of funding to focus on Covid relief while putting their core programs as usual on hold. On-ground engagement and communication with the communities they serve as been almost completely impacted. As organisations are trying innovate or navigate these issues, they’re also working to make sure they are supporting the physical and mental health of their own employees. Many are worried that these two years of the pandemic will reverse years of human development in India. As organisations make shifts in their medium-to-long-term strategies to address these, they are also actively looking to learn from each other. With this realisations, the 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative remains committed to creating a collaborative space of knowledge, supporting organisations in amplifying and disseminating learnings, including voices of adolescents and young people and document scalable solutions.


On June 1 and 3, 2021, Dasra organised voluntary virtual meetings with its National Communities of Communities of Practice. The National CoP Meet was attended by 45 organizations from across the country — across two sessions — with varied focus and demographic interests, who also shared with each other how are they currently responding to the ongoing second surge of the pandemic.

APCO Worldwide

Lok Jagriti Kendra

Badlao Foundation

Lok Swar


Love Matters India / Development Consortium


Mahila Mukti Sanstha

Centre for Unfolding Learning Potentials (CULP)


Centre for Youth and Social Development

Micro Enterprises & Sustainable Project

Child in Need Institute



Onkar Seva Sansthan


Pilchu Sewa Sansthan


Piramal Swasthya


Population Foundation of India

Feminist Approach to Technology


Foundation for Education and Development


Gram Nehru Yuva Trust

Quest Alliance

Humana People to People India

Rastriya Jharkhand Seva Sanathan



Jago Foundation

Rural Development Institute, Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust

Jan Lok Kalyan Parishad


Jharkhand Gramin Vikas Trust


Jharkhand Mahila Uthan



The Naz Foundation India Trust

Lend A Hand India

Urja Trust

Vacha Trust (Mumbai)

Key Highlights and Learnings

The two sessions in early June were opportunity for organizations to share their experiences of the ongoing crisis and to share, openly, the various challenges that they and their communities are currently facing.

The session began with initial series of polls with the participants highlighting the stark reality of organizational and financial health in the current scenario. The polls revealed that organizations have put in place mechanisms for flexibility to ensure their employees are being supported, and have been encouraged by funders to do so. They have also had to significantly pivot their ongoing programs and a majority of attendees feel that they will be grappling with the consequences of COVID on their programs for up to 12 months. Details of the poll results can be seen in the Annexure, Questions 1-5.

Voices of Young People and their Needs

The consultation, which also saw participation from 15+ young people, was able to hear from them directly about the key challenges and impact of the pandemic they’re facing.


  • A pause on education due to various reasons, ranging from poor infrastructure and resources for virtual learning to shift in priorities for family decision makers, has impacted learning opportunities for young people. Meanwhile, lack of Internet access or capacity to afford smartphone and data have pushed many students to put a hold on their education.

  • Since the cancellation of Class XII Board exams, students are clueless and unable to apply for jobs and higher education or plan for their future.

  • In families where there is one digital device and more than one child, the son’s online education is prioritised over the girls’. Further, with education put on hold or completely stopped, several young girls have been pushed into early marriages


  • Students fear at the end of the pandemic, many young people would be forced out of educational institutions to fend for their families. Many others have already been forced into picking up odd-jobs.

  • The two years of the pandemic has meant job loss for a lot of families, resulting in financial implications. This has affected families’ ability to feed themselves, leading to hunger and undernourishment.


  • Most health care centres and workers have shifted their focus to tackle Covid-19. This has impacted young people’s access to other health care services.

  • With the markets and schools closed, and household income affected, young girls are unable to access menstrual hygiene products and are being forced to return to cloth pads.

  • Families that have been affected by Covid have struggled to obtain medical supplies or have had to resort to black markets for essential drugs.

  • With the surge in death rate across the country, some families who have lost their loved ones

to the pandemic have had to pay bribes to bury or cremate them.

  • There is vaccine hesitancy among young people due to rumours and fear-mongering of the vaccine leading to new illnesses, disorders or event death. Those that understand the benefits of the vaccine are struggling to convince their parents or grandparents to take the vaccine.

Mental Health

  • The pandemic and its impact on various aspects of life for young people has greatly impacted their morale and mental health. Young people are struggling emotionally, mentally and psychologically, and have access to few outlets or resources to help them in this period.

  • Lack of education and nutritious food, along with the impact on mental health, has pushed a lot of young people in certain geographies into drugs.

  • With restrictions on movement, young people are unable to pursue their passion, hobbies, other vocations or unable to engage with their peers.

  • The lockdowns and Covid precautions have restricted on-ground operations for a lot of NGOs. This has created a void for young people, who relied on them for various basic facilities and support. Further, there is a fear among young people and their families about the possibility of a third-wave.

Voices of the Civil Society & their Challenges

Resonating with these challenges, the participating organisations shared from their own experiences what they’ve been hearing from young people in their respective communities and how they are tackling some of these issues amid the pandemic. Lack of sufficient access to SRHR and education services, anxiousness about the future and increasing rates of child marriages seemed like recurring issues across the geographies during the pandemic, and the organisations acknowledge that these have been exacerbated during the second surge.

The organisations also shared a few organisational challenges and programmatic challenges that they’re facing, which hinder their engagement with young people. Some of them have been articulated below:

  • Limitations of technology: Access to digital infrastructure is a challenge in rural and remote locations, which has affected several services especially education for young people. At the same time, while most of the community engagements have shifted to WhatsApp, it’s hard to have private and confidential conversations over tech platforms with young people, as it’s still a new medium of interaction for many and often requires mediation and frequent troubleshoot.

  • Years of efforts undone: Organisations are devastated about the fact that the pandemic hit undo on years of development efforts in 2020, and has now taken steps further back on behaviour changes that communities and civil society organisations had come to celebrate.

  • Limitations on funding: While most organisations have able to negotiate with their funders who’ve shown agility and flexibility in responding to the pandemic, there are still limited funds to address a crisis this large. This limits the scope of the organisations to engage in Covid relief and response, where certain services are prioritised over others (for example, ration and sanitary napkins are prioritised over contraceptives and iron tablets). On the other hand, for a lot of organisations, most of the funding has been diverted to Covid relief, leaving them with little resources to address other critical issues.

  • Government prioritisation of Covid-19: Given the nature of the pandemic, the local governments have had to prioritise Covid response across its institutions and services. These means that almost all officials are engaged in Covid relief and response with little or no time to address other issues.

Covid Response and Relief

As the civil society has been largely quick to make pivots or plan for pivots, they have also made several intermediate efforts to quickly support their communities with Covid relief or response, especially to respond to the needs of the young people and their families.

While some organisations have set up help desks to facilitate access to health care or distribute ration, others have rolled out awareness drives to promote Covid-safety precautions and bust vaccination myths and hesitancy.

Some of the other efforts have been more focussed on education — ranging from setting up community learning centres and mobile libraries Since gender and mental health have been key priorities for organisations with a youth-focus agenda, several of them are taking various steps to address these — through awareness workshops and training drives on MHM, local pad banks and efforts to make young people feel heard. Some of the organisations have even been able to showcase best practices by working with the government to identify and support vulnerable children and adolescents.

While most of these efforts are short-term to address the ongoing pandemic, the organisations feel there is a greater shift required to enable organisations to pivot for the medium to long term.

Consolidated Efforts

The National Meet was not a lone effort to hear from the civil society but a follow-up to a Jharkhand state-level consultation that Dasra organised on May 21, 2021. At this consultation too, we heard of similar challenges that organisations are facing. At the organisation level, health of staff has been affected in the pandemic, and travel restrictions and Covid precautions have made communication with communities difficult. There have also been funding cuts or repurposing of the funds to respond to the Covid crisis. At the community level Impact, marginalised and vulnerable communities have been pushed into further marginalisation and vulnerability, particularly due to the loss of livelihood, and vaccine hesitancy remains a behavioural issue. You can read more about the Jharkhand CoP meet here. These consultations are part of the larger action plan that DAC has put in place to respond to the situation. However, we hope that these conversations will help DAC build a charter of recommendations for the government as well as for other key stakeholders.

Key Priorities and Next Steps

This National and State-Level CoP Meets were steps towards understanding the many challenges that the sector and our country’s young people are currently facing, in light of the second wave. The conversation highlighted not only several key priority areas, but also the need for a coordinated and shared response from stakeholders across the sector to ensure that we are able to protect and support our communities.

Based on the conversations between organisations and young people, the following have emerged as key priorities for youth-facing organisations (see Annexure, Questions 6):

  • Mental health among young people

  • Education for young people

  • SRHR for adolescent girls

  • Livelihood and well-being

  • How to engage with young people

To hear directly from more young people, Dasra is organising a series of consultations with young people, starting June. One such consultation, with 50 young people in Jharkhand, was hosted earlier this month. In these session, young people shared their experiences and concerns from the pandemic and shared coping mechanisms that have helped them navigate the stressful times- with a focused discussion on mental health, education & livelihood. Dasra has planned for four more of these consultation, with young people across India, over the next few months.

If you would like to nominate young people for any of the upcoming sessions, please reach out to us at

 We also heard from the organisation about their interest in engaging in more such conversations around young people and their communities (see Annexure, Questions 7-8). Thus, as we move forward, here is how Dasra hopes to leverage the power of the community:

  • Invite Collaborations: Invite organizations, networks or initiatives to partner with us to include the civil society for their perspectives and feedback so that any material we create has the input of practitioners serving the most vulnerable.

  • Amplify and Disseminate: Exchange useful efforts with this group of organizations and campaigns, and create a match-making efforts to facilitate an efficient way of mutual sharing that will be valuable to all.

  • Engage Adolescents and Young People: In everything we do, we hope to include and centre the needs, perspectives and inputs from young people themselves. We are in the process of bringing together a set of young people to form our working group to review and steer our efforts. We also hope to continually incorporate the participation of young people from partner NGOs to have their representation. We look forward to having you help us through this process and recommend adolescents and young people to include in this group.

  • Document Systems Change and Scaling Solutions and Failures: Through the above, we hope to also document certain efforts that are working on systems change or best practices and models that could scale. This is a time of innovating and working in an unrelenting environment and we are aware that there will be many challenges and pitfalls. These are equally important to understand, track and share learnings from.

Annexure: Poll Results

10to19 Friends & Partners on challenges in the community during COVID-19

The conversation highlighted not only several key priority areas, but also the need for a coordinated and shared response from stakeholders across the sector to ensure that we are able to protect and support our communities.

10to19 Friends & Partners on challenges in the community during COVID-19


This is an extremely difficult time that we are facing personally, in the communities we work with and in our organizations. We this realization, the 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborate felt the responsibility to resonate the need for connection, coordination, and camaraderie. Thus, the Friends & Partners Meet on May 19, 2021 was a first step in this direction — to bring together some nonprofit organizations as a community and network, in a virtual space, to share challenges, struggles, and create a space to openly share, listen and learn.

The objective of this free-flowing, no-agenda session was simply to create a space where we could manage some of the isolation and helplessness all of us are feeling currently, with the hope that coming together, and sharing would help us better understand our role in responding to the impact of these times on the people and communities we serve.


The Friends and Partners Meet was attended by 12 organizations from across the country with varied focus and demographic interests, who also shared with each other how are they currently responding to the ongoing second surge of the pandemic.

Key Highlights and Learnings

This session was an opportunity for attending organizations to share their experiences of the ongoing crisis and to share, openly, the various challenges that they are currently facing. The session began with initial series of polls with the organizations highlighted the stark reality of organizational and financial health in the current scenario. 

The polls revealed that organizations have put in place mechanisms for flexibility to ensure their employees are being supported, and have been encouraged by funders to do so. They have also had to significantly pivot their ongoing programs and a majority of attendees feel that they will be grappling with the consequences of COVID on their programs for up to 12 months. Details of the poll results can be seen below: 

Additionally, key themes that emerged from the conversations include:

Organizational Challenges:

  • Limited on-ground mobility: The imposition of new lockdowns and rising cases have meant that field staff is no longer able to visit communities to gauge the on-ground scenario or ensure programs continue to be delivered. They are also unable to support communities through the growing fear and anxiety as the situation further compounds.
  • The lack of strategic clarity: Organizations shared that emergency responses resulted in a loss of clarity for long-term strategic and organizational goals. Existing projects have been paused and for many, core areas of work – such as SRHR – have taken a backseat to immediate on-ground relief efforts. 
  • The impact on organizational staff: Particularly for those organizations conducting immediate relief efforts, the toll of the past few weeks has been immediate and intense. Team members are facing immense pressure of responding to the situation while themselves dealing with illnesses and grief caused by Covid. This has had a significant impact on their mental well-being, and has required organizations to respond proactively and with compassion towards their own employees.

Challenges on the ground:

  • The need for medical support: The most urgent emerging issue is the lack of medical resources and support particularly in remote and rural communities. These areas are unable to rely on existing public healthcare systems and are disconnected from social media, which has been critical to providing relief supplies at the last mile.  
  • The impact of the pandemic on vulnerable groups: Marginalized or vulnerable communities were and continue to be disproportionately impacted by the pandemic as well as by lockdowns and income loss. Women and girls have also lost access to safe spaces and community support, as well as access to education. They are also experiencing the significant mental toll of isolation, along with anxiety, and, in many cases, grief of the loss of a loved one.  
  • Income loss and poverty: Organizations have also noted an increase in reverse migration and loss of employment among communities that they serve, which has plunged many young people and their families into poverty. As a result, they are also anticipating a rise in cases of malnutrition and anemia. 
  • Disruption of on-ground services: Service provision at the last mile continues to be a challenge. Particularly in rural areas, organizations shared that frontline workers and teachers were among those affected. They are therefore unable to provide essential last-mile services and remain unable to address newer emerging issues such as vaccine hesitancy either. 
  • Lack of accurate data and evidence: Several organizations also stated that there is no clear picture of the current on-ground situation — the impact of Covid on health and the impact of the pandemic on other aspects of life — making it difficult to gauge and analyze the full impact of the second wave on communities. 
  • Vaccine awareness and access: Access to and awareness of the vaccine is limited on the ground. Vaccine hesitancy is prominent and even those who are willing to get vaccinated are often unable to access it due to limited and inaccessible supply. While one organization began a vaccine drive, the uptake continues to remain slow, especially in rural and remote areas. 
  • Possibility of a third wave: While organizations are responding to the immediate on-ground situation, they are also trying to plan for a third wave, anticipated later this year. They are unsure how to account for it, ensuring that they incorporate learnings and lessons from the current situation as well as keep a long-term view on youth-focused indicators. 
  • Providing and ensuring the availability of medical support in rural and remote areas
  • Ensuring consistent and ongoing investment into health, nutrition, particularly for young women and girls 
  • Identifying sustainable and scalable solutions to address mental and emotional health, both for communities and for organizations
  • Centering youth voices to understand how the situation will evolve
  • Collecting data from the field, to understand the impact of the crisis on communities and to replan priorities
  • Pushing for investments to provide technological and infrastructural support, especially for rural communities, to address growing challenges in spaces such as education, healthcare provision and employability
  • Amplifying and listening to young people
  • Addressing mental health and well-being
  • Articulating a collaborative response to the pandemic 
  • Re-thinking sector priorities for the long and short term
  • Breaking the digital divide

Needs and Future Priorities 

Based on the insights from the conversations, the following areas have emerged as being critical needs in the months to come, including:

Organizations also highlighted the value of these conversations through platforms like the Friends & Partners Meet, sharing themes and issues that would continue to remain relevant in the future, and would benefit from similar open conversations in the future. These issues ranged from immediate to longer-term goals, focusing on engaging young people and equipping them to survive the pandemic, to understanding where the sector is moving and identifying priority areas. Other key themes include: 

Next Steps

This session was a first step towards understanding the many challenges that the sector and our partners are currently facing, in light of the second wave. The conversation highlighted not only several key priority areas, but also the need for a coordinated and shared response from stakeholders across the sector to ensure that we are able to protect and support our communities. 

It is clear that we will need to continue pushing to prioritize the well-being of each other and the communities we serve. We will also explore how to better utilize this space and come together again to further discuss the critical themes that emerged from this initial discussion. Meanwhile, the Collaborative will continue this series of consultations with various stakeholder groups, including members of our 10to19 Community of Practice. Our next consultations will be held on Tuesday, June 1st and Thursday, June 3rd, and will be open to all.