31 Dec 2013

With Change Comes Trouble

YRC KYP Boys (2013)

Narrated by Group members of YRC KYP Boys and YRC Disha, Kuldia. Recorded by Krishna Goldar and Binita Chakraborty, 2nd October, 2013. Please see the brief note on MSC for a background on the process.

Unlike the other MSC stories in this blog, this one is compiled from testimonies of several group members and members of the community, all relating to the same set of incidents.

Village Kuldia is about 80 km from Kolkata, in Magarahata block of South-24-Parganas district. Our neighbourhood is called Sheikh Para, comprising entirely of about 100 Muslim families. Farming is the main occupation. Many Men and Women are also engaged in floriculture and zari work. Some men also do masonry or painting work, for which they travel to the city, and sometimes out of the country. This kind of work attracts lots of young boys too, but on the whole most children go to school./span>

Azharuddin Sheikh
25 years old. M.A. in History and taking tuitions at home. Youth Facilitator with TF. Main source of income is farming on family land. Family of four - Azhar, his wife, 2 year old daughter, mother. Two brothers, their wives and children live in the same house as separate families.

“A couple of years back, I created two groups in our neighbourhood – one for boys, called KYP Boys, of which I am a member, and the other for girls, called Disha. At first I had tried to create a single group with both boys and girls, but people objected; plus, some boys and girls were also not comfortable about sitting and talking together.
While the groups are separate, when we conduct any programme, members from both groups attend. A couple of members from each group were elected as Youth Fellows by TF, and got the opportunity of being trained on different subjects. Later they trained the other members of the group and conducted programmes in the para.

When we conducted a programme on our feelings and thoughts surrounding our para [Neighbourhood Diaries], most people supported us. But later when we started talking about the equal relationships between men and women, then conflicting opinions were aired. Some felt that it was very important to talk about this, while others felt that such topics went against our religion and had no place in our society.
From then on, both the groups have been going through a very hard time. But this has only increased the self-confidence of some members of the groups, including me. We are seeing the light of hope in the problem itself. The way we are questioning our own stereotypical patterns of thinking, in the same way we are feeling the need for society to change.

20 Dec 2013

Nabadisha : Many New Directions

[Durga Puja is the biggest festival in these parts. Not only is it celebrated with great fanfare in every street of the city, the festival is in fact celebrated all over the world wherever there is a Bengali community. Preparations begin months in advance, until finally, over ten days, the story of the mighty Mother Godess Durga unfolds. She is worshipped as the slayer of the most troublesome and evil demon in the universe. In the city, every neighbourhood proudly puts up their own installation for the different ceremonies. Community members accept it as their duty to contribute money to the local Puja committee. This community contribution is called Chanda in Bengali. It is collected door to door by men, who are usually the ones in charge. This is an account of how YRC Nabadisha challenged the norm. Excerpts from group interview with members Uma, Punam, Abhijit - recorded by Urbi Bhaduri, November 18, 2013]

Girls and Money!

“Our community Pujo is six or seven decades old, but in all these years, never before have women gone door to door collecting chanda from the para members.

Two things were different this year. We had an all girls team from Nabadisha who went to collect chanda; and Sharmishtha, a girl, was elected as the secretary of the Pujo Committee for the first time.”

Out of about 200 households in the para, only about 50 were okay to see the girls in this new unusual role. Most households were critical, even hostile to the girls.

“Have the boys all died, that they have sent you?”
“Why have you come?”
“Send those who are in charge.”
“Send the boys across later. We will pay then.”
“Don’t you have any work? Go back home.”

The girls quipped back. If it was inconvenient to pay now, they would return later — but not the boys. In the houses where they faced the most criticism, they invited the girls to come out too and collect chanda. In one house, an argument broke out when a family member said that rape was on the rise because women were getting more freedom.

18 Dec 2013

"Go alone" my mother said [msc]

Krishna Chowdhury, YRC Sobujer Abhijan
Youth Fellow (2012)

Narrated by Krishna Chowdhury, 15 years, YRC Sobujer Abhijan, Gabberia.
Recorded by Krishna Goldar and Binita Chakraborty, 2nd October, 2013. Please see the brief note on MSC for a background on the process.

Like other villages, our village too is surrounded with greenery. Most homes here are made of mud, just a few brickwork ones. My neighbourhood is called Chowdhury Para, named after a family, just like the other paras nearby; Halder Para, Mondol Para, etc. There are many Muslim families too, but they live quite a bit away in a different neighbourhood. People in most paras are quite familiar with each other, but not so with the Muslim families. The Muslim girls study with us in the same school, and so we talk a little bit, but that is the limit of our friendship.

Most men commute daily to Kolkata for work; some are engaged locally in farming or masonry. Women are mostly home makers, few earn through domestic work; many women are members of a self help group. Most children go to school. However, the freedom that boys get to go out to study or work, the girls do not. Girls face many restrictions; so they don't get the opportunities even if they really desire freedom.

In my family there are four - my parents, my sister and me. Ma works as a domestic help, and is also member of a self-help group. Baba does not have one permanent job. He does farming, masonry, painting, whatever is available. I'm in class nine, and my sister is in her third-year in college.

There were no youth clubs in our area. Maybe one, but that's only for boys. There is this theatre group named Jajabar [Itinerant]; they travel and put up plays in different places, but there's not a single girl from our area in that group. However, thanks to the initiative of a youth group in Namkahana, we had a camp here, which gradually led to the formation of our very own youth group. We've named it Sobujer Abhijan [Green Rush]. It's been a couple of years now, I've been a member right from the start, and now i'm an Youth Fellow [TF - YRC programme].

Through my group I found my voice, my confidence, and a sense of responsibility - both for myself and my peers. I learnt to travel far on my own, helped other girls to join the group, and talk about important issues that affect us. Along the way I have received a lot of support from my mother, and have found the courage to push at the boundaries.

14 Dec 2013

No Marriage Now

Narrated by Uma Singh, YRC Nabadisha, Lake Gardens, Kolkata. Recorded by Revathi, December, 2013.

Tina (left) with her friend
Tina lives in Gobindapur slum of Kolkata. Her father is a daily labourer and mother works as a domestic help. Tina has an elder brother. Her family shares a very small shanty with another family and live with very basic facilities. Tina’s mother is the bread earner of the family and is often overworked and stressed. Tina was often shouted at for little things.

Tina was 15 then and was in a relationship with a boy. She was a regular at the YRC support group meetings. She would share with the Peer Counsellor her status at home. She would, after every meeting, sit with the Peer Counselor to ask for suggestions on handling situations in her relationship. Tina’s partner was forcing her to marry with the promise of letting her continue with her studies. On the other hand her parents were against the relationship and restricting her movements.

During this time at the YRC, sessions on Child Marriage were being held. Tina remembers that at the session Peer Counsellor Punam would share the No Marriage Now booklet and they would hold discussions on marriage and about girls and boys being independent before they choose to marry. The adolescents had even taken an oath not to marry early and also motivate others to do the same.

After several sessions one day Tina shared with YRC members Punam and Uma that she was thinking of running away with her partner. At every session this thought would bother her and she was no longer able to keep it to herself and had to talk about it. Punam and Uma encouraged Tina to continue to attend the meetings and this would help her think more and in taking her own decisions. They would keep time to talk to Tina after every session. Tina’s board exams were around the corner.

Tina completed the sessions on child marriage and continued to attend the reproductive health trainings at the YRC. She convinced her partner that if theirs was a true relationship they could wait until she is a graduate and standing on her own feet.

After her board exams Tina moved on to Higher Secondary school, and was not be able to attend all the sessions at the YRC, but as a peer leader would motivate her peers to attend the support group sessions. Tina takes extra responsibility during the YRC camps, community events and even counsels her peers. She is keen to take up a Fellowship or any training and become a core group member of the Nabadisha YRC and become like Uma and Punam.

12 Dec 2013

Father and I [msc]

Pinki is a founder member of YRC
Alor Sandhan, Youth Fellow (2013)
This is the 2nd MSC story from the group
Read Rina's story

Narrated by Pinki Sardar, 25 years, YRC Alor Sandhan, Dum Dum.
Recorded by Krishna Goldar and Binita Chakraborty, 29th September, 2013. Please see the brief note on MSC for a background on the process.

I live in Birsa-Munda Pally near the airport. In my family there are my parents, my younger brother and me. My mother is a member of a local self-help group and a homemaker. My father works as a driver, and has to often stay out of the city because of his job. I am in 1st year college and my brother is still in school.

Most residents of our neighbourhood belong to the tribal community. Though it is a part of the city, our neighbourhood has lots of trees, green fields and ponds that give it a restful, rural ambience. Most houses are made of mud; but Government assistance has made it possible for many cement houses to come up as well.

Most men and women work as daily labourers, women work as house-maids. Some people work in a soya-bean factory nearby. Young people are mostly going to school, but then again many are also dropping out due to different reasons.

Amidst all these, a new thing has happened here in our neighbourhood. It has been two years now that we, the young people of the locality, have built a youth group here. The group is called Alor Sandhan [Finding Light]. Many boys and girls, starting from age 10 onwards, are a part of this group. The group is playing a noticeably important role in many of their lives. The effect of the group is reflecting in my life as well. It is because of the group that I am succeeding in making my personal relationships easier, more honest, and stronger. I want to tell everybody about these changes.

The biggest change that has happened in me is the development of a strong belief that no one should be judged solely on the basis of one kind of behaviour that they exhibit, and that discussions have the power to solve any kind of problem.

6 Nov 2013

Who is Pranay Dolai?

Pranay Dolai
member of YRC GSRI-Sunderbans (2011)
TF Youth Facilitator (2012)

Before I joined my group in 2011, I used to think very differently. Lately I often find myself asking -
Who Am I?
This triggers many thoughts and memories and helps me discover myself in many ways. I am not just a boy, I have many other identities.

A family member
I used to think housework is for girls, why should I do it? When my father was violent with my mother, I kept quiet. It hurt inside, but I didn’t have the words to protest then.

One day my father physically abused my mother badly, and she fell ill and was bedridden for a month. I had to do all the housework and it was then that I realized that housework was not only for women. When the time comes, everyone has to do everything. Also, it was then that my father who began taking care of my mother. I chose that time to discuss this with him. I asked him, with a smile on my face, “Baba, just like you and me, Ma too has the same right to life. It is wrong to try to discipline her at every step. Besides, any problem can be resolved by talking to her, isn’t it?”

17 Sept 2013

My Dream Becomes Reality [msc]

Narrated by Ashok Majhi, 16 years, YRC, Swapno, Namkhana
Recorded by Binita Chakraborty, 5th May, 2013. Please see the brief note on MSC for a background on the process.

I live in a village in the Namkhana Block of the Sundarban area. It is few kilometers walk along a dirt track that leads from the highway. A lovely little river called Chinai flows by here. Our village is very beautiful.

At home, we are four people – my parents, me, and my younger sister. My father has a business of growing betel leaves and my mother is a homemaker. I am in class XI, my sister is in class VI. I go to the Union High School located in another village called Shibnagar Abaad. It was through my school that I got associated with a group called Swapno [Bengali: "Dream"]. We meet in Shibnagar Abad every Saturday after school hours.

The most significant change for me has been seeing my dream for a health centre in my village come true with the help of my group and family.

Me and my Group [msc]

Narrated by Rina Dhara, 25 years, YRC Alor Sandhan, Dum Dum
Recorded by Binita Chakraborty, 5th May, 2013. Please see the brief note on MSC for a background on the process.

I am the youngest in our family with two elder brothers and two sisters. My eldest brother and sister are married and now there are 8 members in our family. We have three rooms in which all of us live together. My father used to drive a tram, now he is completely out of work. I had to give up my studies after class X. I now work as a beautician, as well as take tuitions from home.

A number of years back, I had seen boys and girls from our adjacent neighbourhood holding a programme in our local field. They were discussing equality of women and men in society. Many people participated in that discussion. I wanted to be part of something like that. A year ago when I saw my friend Pinky holding a discussion in the neighbourhood clubroom with some local boys and girls, I knew that this was my chance to join a group. And so I joined Alor Sandhan [Bengali: "In Search of Light"].

The most significant change for me has been the unconditional love and support I have received from my group. It has helped me value myself and made me want to address my weaknesses.

14 Sept 2013

No More Name-Calling [msc]

Narrated by Tinku Sarder, 13 years, YRC Alor Sandhan, Dum Dum
Recorded by Krishna Goldar, 5th May, 2013. Please see the brief note on MSC for a background on the process.

I am Tinku Sardar, a student of class VII. My home is in Birsa Munda Pally near Dum Dum Airport. People in my neighbourhood - both women and men - are mostly daily labourers. Some also work at tilling land or reaping grain. My father works as a driver while my mother is a housewife. Besides them, our family is made up of my elder sister and myself.

The most significant change has been in myself because I learned to respect people.

Resolving Conflict [msc]

Narrated by Sariba Khatun, 22 years, YRC, Disha, Kuldia- Mograhat
Recorded by Krishna Golder, 19th May, 2013. Please see the brief note on MSC for a background on the process.

I am Sariba, doing my B.A. 2nd year. My family consists of my parents, my elder brother, four younger sisters and four brothers.

I live in a beautiful village with trees, fields, ponds and cultivable land everywhere. Most of us are Muslims and we - both women and men - survive on farming, zari embroidery work, or have nurseries. All the people in our neighbourhood are related to one another in some way or the other. My paternal grandfather and uncles were born and raised in this village. We have lived our lives in this close-knit way having good relationship with our neighbours.

The most significant change for me over the last six months is related to how the group has helped me deal with a conflict with my closest friend.

13 Sept 2013

A Normal Sacrifice

Piyali Paul
This is Piyali's third post
read her earlier post

I’m Piyali, and I live in a small neighbourhood near Dumdum. I have grown up amidst a lot of hardship, but I’m an optimist – every moment finds me walking towards my goal with unbounded hope. Life’s experiences impel me to question and enable me to learn new things.

Although I do have many questions regarding religion, I fundamentally believe that all religions are the same - humanity and relationships of love constitute the most important religion for me. For this reason, I have friends from different backgrounds and I interact easily with all of them.

I have a very good friend who works in the same office with me. I used to visit her at home frequently and was with her at her wedding. Everyone in her family loves me a lot and I’ve grown to be friends with many people in her neighbourhood. I used to visit her area every week and conduct workshops with the local kids. The kids also loved me very much, so I really enjoyed going there.

This incident took place one such Saturday when I happened to be in their locality. Four-five people

28 Jun 2013

To Help Is To Heal

Mousumi Choudhuri
member of YRC Youth Voice
peer counsellor (2012)

At that time I was in class 11. I was on my way back from my Sanskrit tuitions. I had left home around eight that morning, having eaten nothing but a serving of Maggi, and now it was past seven in the evening. I was ravenously hungry. I bought a couple of chops and some muri [croquettes and rice crisps] and was about to eat - when I saw this boy, about 8 years old, standing beside, looking at me in a pitiful way. It looked like he hadn't eaten anything all day. “Want to eat?” I asked. He nodded. I had no money on me other than my bus fare. What to do, I thought. Let me give him some and eat some myself.

Then I saw a little girl with him, perhaps his sister, no more that three or four years old. I could not see anyone else with them. As soon as I paid the vendor, they came a little closer. And then I forgot how hungry I was. I gave him the small bag of muri and the three chops that I had bought. As soon as they got the paper bag with the food, they started gobbling it up. I don’t know why, but a great feeling of peace descended on me. It made me very happy. I thought, I would get something to eat when I reached home, but who knew whether they would get anything at all?

13 Jun 2013

Speak up for Freedom!

Md Shoaib is a member of YRC Roshni,
Gender Volunteer (2013)

“I do not hear those lovely sounds in my cage now
I wish my freedom was in my own hands”

from "parinde ki fariyad" by Dr. Allama Iqbal

I am Shoaib, 20 years old[2013], living in Rajabazar and a member of Roshni youth group.
I am a boy and because of this, I am free. I can go anywhere I please. If I am late in returning, people at home tend to shut up after chiding me a couple of times. But a girl, from when she is 12-14 years old, cannot come and go as she wants. If she is a bit late in returning home, she is questioned about her whereabouts; her parents and her brother too can raise their fists to beat her, if they think it should be done. I have witnessed violence on women in my society since childhood; I never liked what I saw. Girls seem to have chains tied to their feet all the time.

I have a friend who is very scared of her younger brother, because despite being younger than her, he abuses her a lot and feels he has the right to ‘discipline’ her. “A boy and a girl cannot be friends” – this is what society believes. If a girl stops on the road to exchange a few words with a friend, and people at home get to know, from then on she is denied permission top go out. She becomes like a caged bird, who can see the world outside but cannot go there.

31 May 2013

Reclaiming Rights!

Farheen Khatoon is a member of YRC
Roshni. Gender Volunteer (2011)

I am Farheen, and I believe that in society, girls have the same rights as boys.

I used to face violence frequently in my own life. My brother was sent to an English-medium school because he was a boy, he would get a good job in the future; I was sent to one that was Urdu-medium because I would get married anyway and didn’t need such high qualifications. Like this, in evey big and small things, I felt wronged and I didn’t like it.

There is a youth group called Roshni in my locality, Rajabazar, and I got involved there. Through this, I got the opportunity to be a participant at a Thoughtshop Foundation Gender Training. Here, in a card game, I saw the picture of a boy going to school, and the girl doing housework; a woman cooking as well as managing a baby. Seeing these I felt that these things happened at my home too, with me and my mother! At that time I understood that it was not right! When discussions continued to happen in the group around other picture cards, I gradually came to understand what violence was. What happened with me at home, the things that I didn’t like, the things that hurt me – that was violence.

25 May 2013

Speaking as a Family Man

Md Azaharuddin is the founder member of
YRC KYP Boys, Change Maker,
Gender Volunteer, Youth Facilitator (2013)

I am Azahar and I live in Kuldiya village, Sheikhpara, South 24 Paragnas [West Bengal]. Here, most people survive on daily labour and are little-educated. When I first participated in a Gender workshop [as part of We Can Campaign] at TF in 2009, perhaps I couldn't accept it so much. What I had seen in my family while growing up continued to seem natural and right to me. As part of the workshop I was asked to commit to one change in my personal life. At the time I committed to sharing household chores by doing the task of fetching water and that commitment I kept.

About three years ago I got married and then we had a daughter, Ashifa. These changes in my personal life and at the same time attending workshops regularly, got me reflecting about what I had learnt. And I began to think differently from before.

My wife's name is Jasmina. After our marriage, people at home imposed all the housework on her, and she had to do it all, whether she liked it or not. If she wanted to tell me something, I too, under the pressure of my family, didn't give her too much importance. I used to say "Who will do the housework then, I?" Jasmina would cry and be unhappy. She stopped sharing with me. My family used to make her work extra-hard; because she was from a poor family and her parents had nothing to give us during our marriage, she had to tolerate it all. She would eat after everybody else had eaten. At that time, we were dependant on my brothers, so I could not say anything to change things.

10 May 2013

Politics - My Perspective

Young Shahina Javed in the spotlight [Eastern Age, May, 1996]
this is Shahina's third post, read her earlier post

Childhood brush with politics
My father is fond of politics. From my childhood, I have heard political discussions going on at home. I would hear but not understand these. My school friends didn't want to talk very much about it, and from whatever they said, I felt politics was a bad thing from which I had better stay away. When I was 10 years old, I used to imitate a political leader who I had heard giving a speech. One day the local Councillor visited our home, and prompted by my father, I spoke in front of him in that style.

He liked this very much. He said he would put me on stage during a meeting. I asked my mother, "Ammi, what will I say?" Ammi explained to me what a Councillor's job was and wrote a speech down for me, which I promptly memorized in the way I learnt my lessons by heart.

23 Apr 2013

How My Mother Found Her Voice

Swapna Paik
member, Youth Voice Group (2011)
We Can Change Maker (2011)
Peer Counsellor (2012)

I am Swapna, a 20 year-old girl living in VIP Nagar [2013]. Let me start by saying something about my mother, things that people in my family don’t speak of, or even think about.

My mother’s name is Sumitra Paik. She lived in a small village in South 24 Parganas, and was very keen about studies. My grandfather had sent my elder aunt to school, but because she was not interested in studies, he decided against sending my mother to school at all. My aunt eventually got the opportunity to study for three more years despite her lack of interest, but my mother on the other hand was married off. She started managing her in-laws’ household in Joynagar when she was all of 10 years old!

Can anyone do so many things at such a young age? Planting grains, threshing paddy, cutting fish, cooking – Ma used to stumble at every step, and each time she had to hear abuses, and sometimes get beaten up too. My father also behaved very badly with her, and Ma used to be sad all the time. She would sometimes ask her parents, “Why did you get me married so early?” As a married woman, she was not allowed by her in-laws to attend any functions outside home, or to move around freely. Only her grandmother-in-law loved and supported her a lot and her father-in-law also looked upon her as his own daughter. Ma tolerated many things for many years, because of the love and support of these two.

17 Apr 2013

On Participation

Krishna Goldar
This is Krishna's third post
read her earlier post

This February [2013], nine of us from Thoughtshop Foundation had gone to Puri to participate in the MDG Youth Consultation. MDG refers to Millennium Development Goals. This consultation was to discuss young people’s opinions about the youth issues the government needed to work with over the next five years, and the policies that need to be set up for the benefit of young people the world over.

Young people from different states got together to discuss and discover what our needs really were, and what challenges we were facing in the process of meeting these needs. While creating Development Goals from 2015-2020, the government would take into account our recommendations and these would play a key role in actualizing young people’s needs worldwide. What a great opportunity to articulate our needs to an international audience!

What I liked most about this consultation was this opportunity to participate. Here we were representing not only the young people of West Bengal, but those of the whole world! We were trying to understand the diverse needs of young people from different places, and the challenges faced in trying to fulfill those needs. While listing these needs, I kept feeling – what a great responsibility! If we overlooked something, that need wouldn’t be met, and we would be responsible! We must keep the needs of everybody in mind. After a three day discussion, we were able to come up with 15 things that young people especially need. Most important among these were gender equality, health, education, equality, peace and justice.

16 Apr 2013

Hope Has Wings

Piyali Paul
This is Piyali's second post
read her earlier post

I live in a small neighbourhood adjacent to the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, and I've grown up watching aeroplanes. When I was small, I would make paper planes and fly them, and when an aircraft flew overhead, I would dream 'when I grew up, my husband will take me on a plane to a faraway place…'

From childhood I was a bit different, not like other kids. My parents would usually not be at home. I was the one who had to look after my younger brother, and hence most of my time was spent with him. I used to play by myself with him by my side. Sometimes I would climb big trees. Sometimes when the snake charmers came to town, I would follow them through the neighbourhood all afternoon, my brother in my arms, until evening.

I used to think that I would need another person to fulfill my dreams. I never imagined that I would get an opportunity to do so myself! So when I first heard that I would need to FLY to Delhi for a workshop, a riot of feelings started in me! I wasn’t able to share these with anyone. And I will never forget the date – 19th November, 2012.

8 Apr 2013

What Youth Want

Tahsina Bano
This is Tahsina's second post
read her earlier post

My name is Tahsina and I am a Youth Facilitator at Thoughtshop Foundation. I have my own youth group, and I also monitor two other such groups. Through this I get many opportunities to understand young people and get to know about them. And it was for this work that I got the opportunity to attend a Youth Consultation at Puri.

This was a consultation about Youth Needs, and was attended by young people from four states. Our recommendations would go directly from here to the UN, and keeping these in mind, the UN would bring out new schemes for young people in the year 2015. This made me and my friends very happy. Never before had we got such an important opportunity. I am from a Muslim family, and that too, a girl! Ever since childhood, no one had given me much attention or asked for my opinion at home, which was crowded with seven kids. And now I was about to give my suggestions at an international forum!

4 Apr 2013

Things about my Mother that Nobody Knows

Sanatan Sardar
is a member of YRC Ujaan

I am Sanatan. My parents raised me with a lot of love. They worked very hard to secure my future. I often saw my father looking very worried. But they never let me feel it. I know that earlier Ma used to work very hard. She used to wash dishes, mop the floors and cook in other people’s houses. I have two sisters, both are married. Ma always seemed to be more reserved in their presence. It seemed that Ma loved them a little less. I didn’t know why.

One day suddenly I saw a garlanded picture of a lady in my elder sister’s house. When I asked whose picture it was, she said, “My mother’s.” I was shocked! “But she is alive!” I said. Didi said, “No, your mother is different from mine. This is your elder mother. Father married twice. When the first mother died from an illness, he married a second time so that we could be brought up properly.”

26 Mar 2013

My New Window

Shabana Khatun
Member of YRC Roshni

I am Shabana, I live in a slum area of Rajabazar. Now I am 28 years old. My father passed away when I was 5, our family went through very hard times.

When I recall my childhood, my heart feels heavy. My mother and sisters used to be away, working in other people’s homes. My whole childhood went by in doing housework and in play. I was like one of those paper planes that children fly, that has no direction. When I saw other kids eating something good or wearing nice clothes, I used to feel very bad.

One afternoon my friend Mussarat and I were sitting outside my home, chatting. I told her that I had never tasted ice-cream or chocolate. I had no idea that she would actually get these things for me! Within a day or two, she did, and I tasted the first Cadbury Chocolate of my life! I was 8 years old then. While eating, I started to cry.

25 Mar 2013

Little Birds Will Fly

Punam Sadhukhan
Youth Mentor, YRC Nabadisha (2011)

My name is Punam. I live in the Gobindopur locality of Kolkata. A few years back my cousin sister had formed a neighbourhood children's group called Nabadisha. I used to be a member of that group. I now work on child rights with this same group.

Where I live is basically a slum area. The kids here need a lot of things. When I started working with them, I started understanding which of these needs is the greatest.

When I was a kid, there were lots of things that I missed. No one would listen to me. No one ever asked me what I liked, what I wanted. In childhood, the person closest to you is your mother. But my mother could never be there for us. Our father had abandoned us. My mother wanted to give us an education and raise us as good human beings. So she would go out to work every morning and return at night. All day we would be without her.

22 Mar 2013

Youth Matters

Sangita Das
this is Sangita's third post
read her earlier post

I am Sangeeta, perhaps you know me. I work as a youth facilitator in Thoughtshop Foundation. I live in a place called Kadihati that you can reach after crossing Dum Dum Airport.

Sometime back, in February, I got the opportunity to participate in a Youth Consultation Meet in Puri [Orissa], to discuss the needs of young people. About 65 young people from West Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa, came to present their opinions at the East India Chapter of this Consultation. I gathered that our recommendations would go straight to the UN, and they would be taken into account to frame new laws on Youth Needs in 2015. I was feeling very proud and excited, I had never thought my opinions would one day get so much importance!

The journey for the nine of us from Thoughtshop Foundation started at the Howrah station, aboard the Garib Rath Express. We reached the next day at dawn, and took an auto to Hotel Gajapati. On the way, looking at the sea, I was feeling that there was in me a life-force as tumultuous as the sea, which couldn't be contained!

21 Mar 2013

Finding Joy

Jagannath Samanta
this is Jagannath's second post
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Hi! I am Jagannath, 26 years old, and I live in a remote village further south of even South 24 Parganas. I work with a youth group and have been part of the We Can Campaign for the last 6 years.

Like others in my community, I too used to think stereotypically about women and men and the roles they play in society. After joining the 'We Can' campaign, I thought a lot about it, hammered them into different shapes, understood many things, and changed myself in many ways. As a change maker, I now think that women and men should get equal rights. Girls should be able to move about freely, women and men should value each other’s opinions, shouldn’t hurt the other in the process of saying something that is apparently funny, should fulfill their responsibilities towards themselves and their families – I believe in all these things. In struggling with these ways of thinking in the last 6 years, not only have I strengthened these values within myself, but have also tried to change the mentalities of family members and people in my community.

5 Mar 2013

It's No Secret

Krishna is a youth trainer
with thoughtshop foundation
this is her second post
read her earlier post

I have been conducting Adolescent Reproductive Health (ARH) training in different villages and towns since the last five years. It is a five-day training during which we talk about the physical and emotional changes that adolescent boys and girls undergo. There is a lot of hesitation in talking about these things, as society doesn't give us the space to talk about adolescence.

Usually, whenever we want to talk about the changes that happen to us as we grow up, we have to talk in hushed tones so that no one can hear us. I use a toolkit [the Champa Kit] that not only helps us talk about facts, but also approaches the subject through conversations and play, helping us to get rid of our hesitation and making it easier and more acceptable for us.

20 Feb 2013

Dilli Chalo!

Sangita Das
this is Sangita's second post
read her earlier post

Recently I got the chance to go to Delhi on a meeting related to the We Can Campaign, which speaks out for the equality of women and men.

I was going to Delhi for the first time, so I was very excited! Four others were travelling with me, and our train was at 8.30 am from Howrah station. The night before, I didn't sleep at all – I would have to get up early, I shouldn't miss the train!

"Toofan Express" turned out to be a painfully slow train. The moment it reached Bihar, we had a novel experience. A family with tons of luggage boarded the train and told us that we would have to let them sit. We gave them space, which the family held on to for a full 3 hours, and before getting down, announced, "You were fools to let us sit." Maybe only fools find themselves doing something for others. If this was the case, I prayed to always remain a fool.