Ishita Chaudhry speaks to the folks at the Population Institution in Washington DC about the need to invest in young people’s sexual reproductive health and rights. Read more about our campaign ‘Know Your Body, Know Your Rights‘.
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I’ve just come back from an evening of having met up with 10 YP Alumni, who worked with us anywhere between 3-5 years ago. We caught up over the little details, the happy memories, the recurring arguments, absorbed how we had grown, changed, made a difference in our own ways, each of us having found (or in the process of trying to find) our place in the world. For me, this moment is more than about affirmation. It is recognition of the work that these young people have built in The YP Foundation since its founding in 2002 and the transitions they have overseen. It is almost with a huge sense of pride that I watch many of them work in development spaces today – some are lawyers, others are studying and a few are transitioning from non-profit work to working with the government at a state level.
Earlier this evening, one of the groups struck up a conversation about how the YP has given us the space to make realizations that we often take for granted today about the lack of power, rights and privilege faced by young people and what we can each do, in order to change that. Many of them notice the changes it has made in their approach to their work, their sensibilities, their decisions, and experienced shock when they graduated and actually saw how excluded young people are from development and policy spaces in India. They realized how much needs to be done to ensure that all young people’s human rights can be recognized. We rested on the agreement that there are far too many gaps between young people who work at the field level, with communities and at larger international policy tables, or those who live in the glasshouse comfort of their homes.
An Evening of Music!
The YP Foundation in collaboration with The Kri Foundation present an evening of music featuring Members of The Texas (TPSMEA) All-State Choir, Chayan Adhikari (Advaita), Adhir Ghosh (Five8), Faith Gonsalves and Ishita Chaudhry (Social Entrepreneurs and Singers), Dharna Noor (Western Classical and Folk), Gangotri (Indian Folk) & Cobbled Street (Funk Jazz).
Date: 5th August
Time: 7 pm
Venue: India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road.
For any queries please contact +91 9910337160 / +91 9811073010
We look forward to seeing you there!
~ Entry is Free. Bring your friends! ~
Written by Ishita Chaudhry for Music Basti, featured at musicbasti.org
Six years ago, I met a young lady over a cup of coffee. A few features of that meeting stand out in my mind. It was early evening; the lady in question was meticulous, interested, with a cool reserve and friendly interest in exploring not just what was, but the possibilities of what could be. Her notebook, stands out in my mind, for no particular reason, other than the fact that I had nothing to write in and wasn’t quite sure what my answers were going to be, to some serious questions about what The YP Foundation was and how we could work together.
But if you know Faith Gonsalves like I have, the questions are always specific. A blend of curiosity mixed with intent, pure purpose, genuine passion and the seriousness of ability in a conversation that will always challenge you to think and then think again. The stakes are always higher with some people when you work, because they raise the bar, by virtue of how they think the picture can be re-crafted to begin with. They bring a new kind of challenge to the work that you do, force you to move outside your comfort box. They help you grow, in immense outspoken, quiet ways.
Close to nine years of working with more than five hundred young people, in the staffing structure of an organization like TYPF that has worked with over five thousand young people over the past nine years, sometimes it is hard to remember each and every contribution made without needing to peer down the books of memory lane.
Yet sometimes, it isn’t hard to remember at all, for people’s presence is marked so clearly by their contributions, their inimitable footprints in the sand.
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?