Our Adolescent Health and Sexuality Education program has a strong community focus and is implemented in three sites: Kalwa, Dharavi and Kandivali and targets beneficiaries from informal settlements aged between 10 and 19 years. The overall vision of the program is to impart gender-equitable values, health and sexuality education through a gender-transformative approach and to create youth change agents. Below is a round-up of the August EHSAS community engagement activities by Shamolie Oberoi.
Mental Health Awareness Campaign
The EHSAS team, along with SNEHA’s Prevention of Violence against Women and Children (PVWC) team organized a mental health awareness campaign at Chatrapati Shivaji Hospital, Kalwa, upon request from the hospital authorities.
The SNEHA team conducted three street plays on mental health at three OPDs in the hospital. The street plays were performed by five of our young change agents who are active in creating awareness in their communities on issues affecting adolescent girls. These girls have been trained in theatre skills.
The girls performed confidently, clearly putting across the intended message. They portrayed the specific problems faced by adolescents, for e.g., anxiety about exam results, adding that such things are a part of life, and shouldn’t be the cause of mental health issues like anxiety, depression. However, the message was also given that anyone suffering from these must seek help, and there is no shame in doing so.
The Dean of the hospital joined in to watch the plays. She encouraged our girls to speak up about mental illnesses, and to communicate and provide assistance to those who are
suffering from such illnesses. She suggested the setting up of a newspaper library that can be accessed by adolescents in the resource centre set up by SNEHA in vulnerable communities in Kalwa.
We also played a special game of ludo, with questions related to myths about mental
illnesses along with 56 women. The myths were clarified and a discussion was held with
these women participants. The campaign thus went off successfully, and our change agents were excited about the opportunity to spread awareness about such an important issue, while also showcasing their theatre skills!
Campaigns during Ganpati season
31 st August in Kalwa: Our team organized games and other activities as part of their Ganpati Campaign in Jai Bhim Nagar. The event was supported by Mandal volunteers. 36 boys and girls from the community participated in competitions which included essay writing and drawing. A play titled “Main Chalati Hoon”, which covered issues such as safety and mobility, was also enacted. Approximately 150 people from the community gathered around to watch the play, and many girls came forward to speak up about their rights.
While the play was on, a boy passed a comment about one of our girls. To this, the girl remarked on the mike, “If we are not safe in our community, how can we move further…nobody is interested in putting a stop to eve teasing”. Her comment was appreciated by all those present, and the Mandal members spoke to the boy in question. The campaign went off successfully and was enjoyed by all who were involved.
28 th August in Dharavi: Our team held a street play and organized games and activities as part of our Ganpati Campaign. About a 100 children from the community participated in the event, along with around 15 Mandal coordinators, 12 staff members and 15 youth volunteers. The participants thoroughly enjoyed the games, which included 4 corners, puzzles, a GK quiz and a few one-minute games.
Our Associate Project Director, Neeta Karandikar, then spoke to the crowd about child
sexual abuse, and the difference between “good” and “bad” touches. Our Community
Organizer Hansraj Pawar sang a self-composed song on SNEHA’s work for the crowd.
At the end of the event, EHSAS’ youth group performed a moving and educational street
play on the issue of child sexual abuse, which was watched by the 100 children who
participated, as well as another 30-40 members of the community. The play sent the
message that sexual abuse happens to both girls and boys, and any child facing such abuse should speak about it to a trusted adult. Information about the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, was also given to those present.
The event was a success, and the Ganpati mandal organizers felicitated SNEHA by
presenting us with a shawl and shrifal, as a token of appreciation for our efforts.
Workshops for Change-agents
A two day workshop with 51 Change agents, organised by SNEHA and supported by UNFPA, was held at Thane on 18th and 19th August 2017. Aimed at building responsible citizenship through personal transformation, the workshop included sessions on legal rights, brainstorming on personal values, development perspective and leadership styles. The group of change agents comprised young girls who have been active in performing street plays and identification of cases of gender based violence and sexual abuse in their communities in informal settlements across different parts of Mumbai.
A churning of thoughts has begun among the young girls and they felt compelled to think about the interrelationship between social structures and individual rights that they are entitled to. Given below is a brief on the various sessions with key discussion points:
Citizenship and Legal Rights
On the first day, an excellent ice breaking session on knowing each other was followed by Rama Shyam, Program Director, SNEHA, setting the tone regarding the constitution of India, our rights and responsibilities as Indian citizens. She placed the Constitution vis-à-vis the history of India’s freedom and need for safeguarding rights of citizens in a socially diverse nation.
This was followed by an informative and interactive session by Advocate Ujwala Kadrekar where she covered the Preamble and the significance of Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 in the context of equality before law, equal opportunities, freedom of expression and right to life with dignity. She introduced the salient features of the POCSO and Domestic Violence Acts while encouraging participants to narrate personal experiences of violation, discrimination and violence based on sex and gender.
Value Clarification and Taking Stances
Neeta Karandikar, Associate Director, Anjali Pore, Programme Coordinator and Rama Shyam from SNEHA facilitated a session on enabling the Change Agents to debate, think and share perspectives around a statement “Violence is Justified for the Right Cause”.
A long brainstorming on violence as the language for improving behavior arose during the discussion with each side debating their stand, feeling confused, changing sides and trying to defend personal stances. The key takeaway was that values may be commonly shared and perhaps each side was striving for peace, love, equality and understanding. However, the approaches were different based on different perspectives shaped owing to the differences in the environment that nurtures individuals. Participants analysed the key aspects that go into shaping values and perspectives – family, culture, social structures, school/college, media.
Development Perspectives: Power Structures and Access to Resources
The second day began with an energizer and recap from the previous day. This was followed by an exercise on distribution of and access to resources. Participants could relate with how resources such as educational opportunities, land, wealth, water, health facilities are distributed unevenly. Some participants strongly affirmed the need to work hard to access opportunities.
The next exercise was a power walk that laid bare the social and economic structures that make opportunities inaccessible. It was revealed how population segments such as the homeless, children from marginalized backgrounds, women in general and religious minorities faced discrimination and alienation. Participants cited instances of discrimination against Muslims while seeking jobs and of vulnerability of women and children within homes and outside in the society.
This session facilitated by Ms. Anjali Gokarn was extremely interactive with all the participants engaged in a small group activity that clearly brought out the three leadership styles viz. Democratic, Autocratic and Laissez Faire. The Change Agents were encouraged to share their experiences from each group before venturing into the next exercise on how each person must assume a leadership role at various points across life.
Towards the end of the session, each small group came up with a logo and slogan on what the EHSAS project means to them.
Some of the powerful feedback we received from the participants in the workshop:
“This is the first time I realised that I have a right over my body and even a husband/partner cannot violate it without consent”
“I have gained a lot of clarity on gender based violence”
“My key takeaway is that Articles 14 and 15 guarantee equality before law”
“Violence begins with language and gestures used at home and children often learn that this is the only way! Love and understanding are the only ways to break this cycle”