Recently, The YP Foundation conducted 12 consultations for the National AIDS Control Organization in India, in partnership with Plan India, consulting young people for recommendations to best address HIV prevention education. We did this with 280 young girls and boys from 5 states and in one community center, I got asked a question by 21 year old young man in a group discussion that really struck me. “Is sex an illness? Do we get sick from it? What’s the difference between HIV and sex?” Recently, a 19 year old boy who is a peer educator with us asked another question, he said –
‘How do you identify the difference between consent and violence if you don’t know what sexuality is? If I don’t know how to recognize what is acceptable and normal within me, if I can’t accept and celebrate the differences in myself, how do I know how to reach out for help, when I do need it and whom to go to?’
The National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) reviews its strategic objectives and operational plan once every five years, with a high emphasis on young people and adolescents as a key vulnerable population. Currently at the close of its National Aids Control Programme III (NACP III), that is scheduled to reach its targets and objectives around mid-2012, NACO has renewed a multi stakeholder platform for civil society, working groups and technical experts to provide key recommendations for NACP IV. The programme will build on the successes of NACP III, focusing on increased coverage and prevention services for high-risk groups and vulnerable populations. As part of this process, ensuring participatory and inclusive decision making, TYPF worked to engage young people and adolescents to provide key recommendations for NACP IV.
I continue to think of The YP Foundation as an organization in the present tense, and not really a figment of the past. I think it holds relevance to me personally, and certainly to my work today. I can say the same for many others whom I have known, worked with and interacted with over the course of my association with the organization.
I remember my first meeting at Tarini Barat’s house over 4 years ago, with team facilitator Harsh Malhotra, both of whom now alumni of the organization, and also dear friends today. To me this is the true relevance of TYPF – it creates lasting relationships and relevant situations for young people to converge and converse, and to create conventional, and sometimes exceptionally unconventional change.
I never believe in pivotal turning points in time, an “aha” moment – they is illusory. One of the key values I learnt during my time working with TYPF as a team member and staff member was perseverance. I worked in the Facilitative Branch (project on the Indian Education System), and as the Administrative Coordinator (2007-2008) with a host of projects. Subsequently to leaving the staff team, in 2008 I worked on another project of which I am very proud – a cultural exchange project with Afghan students in Delhi through film, art, literature and dialogue. TYPF gave me 100% freedom and creativity to source, compile and edit and design a 180-page magazine featuring work on the issue of “Understanding Afghanistan Today”. I can’t think of any other organization that would do that!
– Sumaya Saluja, Programme Coordinator
Blending Spectrum began in 2007, on the basis of 3 realizations:
When I was 17 years old in 2002 I saw a video on television that I will never forget for as long as I live. It was an image of a group of children being burnt alive in a street in Gujarat, a state in Western India. These children were from Hindu and Muslim communities and they were being burned alive in the name of religious fundamentalism, in one of the worst incidents of state sponsored genocide in India’s history. We were having dinner at my home that day, 3 generations of family sitting together and this was the evening live news coverage.
And later on, when the media asked the Chief Minister of that state, what he thought was the reason for riots between two communities and why the government had done nothing but watch this massacre, I will never forget his response. ‘Every action,’ he said, ‘has an equal and opposite reaction’. It hit me hard, when I read those words that we live in a country with zero accountability. Where government officials can quote Newton’s Third Law of Motion as sufficient justification for communal riots. Where so many of us silently accept the violation of people’s human rights because somewhere, we’ve accepted the idea that we can do nothing.
I was a high school student that year, preparing to give my final year examinations. The images and statements from the riot kept coming back to haunt me. As a young woman, I realized that I was powerless and that I was not alone. Young people constitute 31% of India’s population. That’s 315 million young people in India, who think they have no ability to affect change. Would this be the legacy that we left for future generations to come? That my generation stands and watches silently as people lose their lives?