Link to Webinar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZbG028ghgc&feature=youtu.be
On Sunday, August 12, 2018, on International Youth Day, Martha Farrell Foundation (MFF), in collaboration with The Red Elephant Foundation (REF) organized a Webinar on ‘Youth for Safety of Girls and Women’. The Webinar was aired live on the Youtube Channel of REF between 11:00 am to 12 noon. It was moderated by Kirthi Jayakumar, Founder of REF and TedEx Speaker. The panelists consisted of Neharika Mahajan and Praatibh Misha, team members of MFF and Mohit, Sarita and Aditya, Youth Leaders from Haryana, who are associated with different programmes of MFF.
Following the Delhi gang rape case of December 2012, public safety for girls and women has been increasingly deemed a policy issue worthy of concern. Public spaces like schools, colleges, parks, marketplaces etc. have been envisioned as spaces of liberation, social interaction and ideas. But for many girls and women, public spaces are spaces of fear, which they access while having to constantly look over their shoulders.
This year, the global call for action for International Youth Day is #SafeSpaces4Youth. Through this Webinar, MFF and REF raised the important issue of safe spaces for girls and women and how their vulnerability to violence and marginalization in public places prevents them from meaningfully engaging in political, social and civic matters and realizing the global vision of democratic engagement of youth across all spaces, platforms and sectors. The Webinar also brought out how youth can come together to envision and enable safe spaces for girls and women and use different mediums to make their voices count.
To kick start the conversation, Kirthi Jayakumar provided a brief background of International Youth Day and its continued emphasis on youth’s participation in different discourses, platforms and sectors. She also said, “We are currently at a point in time, where the planet is at its youngest. We are currently witnessing the wide spread impact of human action and therefore, it is very essential to harness the energy and capacities of youth. At the same time, we also need to see them as important stakeholders in solving various problems, especially for ending violence against women and girls, that with their creative energies and ideas, they can completely eliminate these problems from the roots.”
Drawing from the work and experience of MFF, Neharika Mahajan said, “At MFF, we aim to initiate and build youth leadership. The youth that we work with, identify their own issues of gender-based violence that affect them, their families and communities. Then they collectively find their own solutions to these issues, which are often local and contextual. While we facilitate and support, our aim is to let youth find their own course of action and become gender champions in their locations.”
Bringing out different strategies of working with youth on issues of safety of girls and women, Praatibh Mishra said, “We use participatory activities to engage with youth. We also emphasize a lot upon mixed-gender activities; we make boys and girls play sports together, come up with creative forms of expression or simply have a conversation with each other on issues that they have never been able to talk about. These activities help them in knowing themselves and understanding their own patriarchal socialization. At the same time, it also helps them in understanding and working with each other and creating a level-playing field.”
Youth Leaders Mohit, Sarita and Aditya also brought out a number of challenges that they, as youth face while working on gender-based violence. Sarita said, “Girls like me are often ridiculed by the society. Our customary patriarchal beliefs do not allow us to step outside our homes to question what is right and what is wrong. When we do, the same beliefs mock us, delegitimize us and tell us to conform to our prescribed gender role of performing household work.”
The story for the boys is also not very different. Being a young musician, who like to rap, Mohit said, “When I started working with MFF, I realized that as a boy, I am ignorant of so many realities and never participate in any activity in my household. Slowly and slowly, this understanding started reflecting in my music, in my raps. But others used to make fun of me, that I am not a ‘man’ enough because I bother myself with these ‘women’ issues.” Same was articulated by Aditya, who said, “As a young boy, I often feel a lot of peer pressure. It is considered ‘normal’ for boys like me to whistle and comment at girls. When we question the normalcy of such behaviour, our own peers mock us or alienate us.”
The Webinar concluded with a rap from Mohit, in which he questioned democracy and how any democratic vision is incomplete without the inclusion of girls and women.
Since its inception in September 2015, Martha Farrell Foundation has been working with young boys and girls on issues of safety of girls and women in public spaces, across 27 locations in 14 states in India. Through our programmes, we have been collectivizing young people (between the ages of 14-22) to identify these issues in their communities, cities and villages and to find solutions to them. We equip them with the skills and tools to turn into leaders, who influence their homes, communities, government, police, judiciary and other institutions to join them to bring about a change. So far, we have collectivized nearly 22,000 youth, created more than 3,000 youth leaders and reached out to 2.9 million people.
The Red Elephant Foundation is an initiative that is built on the foundations of story-telling, training, tech-for-good and advocacy for gender equity and civilian peacebuilding. The initiative is titled "Red Elephant" to stand out as a vehicle that projects stories that must never be forgotten: stories that show you such courage that you should never forget, and stories that show the world such profound lessons that the world should never forget, issues that must be talked about, addressed and truths that must be acted upon. In doing so, the initiative aims at creating awareness and opening up channels of communication towards creating societies of tolerance, peacebuilding and equality.