Jyotsna Chahal, Nahan, 23rd July :Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan is an autonomous body of Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India. It has been working to mobilize youth for self development. NYKS has its district Kendras in almost 520 districts all over India. In each district, it has youth clubs and Mahilla Mandals at village level. Taking advantage of this organised setup with the potential to contribute significantly to the development of adolescents, UNFPA and MoYAS as nodal agency, started a pilot project on Adolescent Empowerment and Development Project in 63 districts of India with focus on reproductive and sexual health and to provide assistance for career development. The programme also started sirmour district of Himachal Pradesh. The programme focussed on teenage groups called teen clubs which is a crucial period of development that is in the age group of 10-19yrs. This age comprises of 23% of the total population, most of them in crucial stages of decision making on personal with Life Skill Education and career choices.
The purpose of this project was to sensitize adolescents in channelising their energies during their formative years into developing a creative present for a dynamic future. Adolescence is the crucial link between childhood and adulthood. But it is only in the National Youth Policy 2003 when adolescents were given special focus especially girl child. NYKS with UNFPA and MoYAS took this opportunity to address the needs of adolescents in India. The programme coverage extended to 126 blocks of 63 districts of India. Through this innovative programme, involving NYKS’s youth clubs, stakeholders like family, community, teachers overall development was facilitated.
NYKS started with two blocks in each selected district and started forming teenage groups called teen clubs, selection of peer educators in 1:1 (male/female) and also sensitization of peer eduactors through extensive trainings and organization of various competitions at village level, teen club activities and at district level to promote the hidden talent of rural teenagers like in painting, acting, singing folk songs etc. these activities were regularly supervised by adolescent peer volunteers at block level and monitored by project officers. Two peer educators in each project village used to help in mobilizing adolescents for project activities and also in sensitizing the community on issues related to adolescents.
Earlier they find it very difficult to talk with community people about reproductive and sexual health as it was very sensitive issue for rural villagers. But then, we took career as a medium of communicating and establishing rapport with them and it proved successful as we built rapport at village level and started to work on project objectives. While the programme was specially designed to address the needs of adolescents, one of the most important and innovative startegies were adopted to involve communities and ensure their support for the initiatives. Linkages were built with the existing GOs working on health/HIV & AIDS/ICDS/Welfare and most importantly with the youth clubs and Mahila Mandals of Nehru Yuva Kendra’s so that ownership for adolescent issues could be further strengthened to develop community based partnership.
The field trainers or peer educators as they were popularly known were trained intensively on issues of adolescent reproductive and sexual health/ life skill education/ different health related issues of adolescents to handle adolescents’ needs and concerns more effectively. A highly effective and innovative aspect of this programme was that adolescent issues were not just reproductive and sexual health but to the broader concept of growth and development. There was a strong emphasis on self development and education to motivate the students to actualize their potential. Students were motivated to talk of their future plans and explore various avenues through career melas at block level. Adolescents were told about various career options available for them.
This programme understood from the beginning that adolescents reproductive and sexual health issues cannot be dealt with in isolation from community and the overall felt needs of the adolescents. Learnings from this initiative are:
1. Need to develop special kits for training.
2. Need to establish career guidance cell at district level so that continuous guidance could be given to them.
3. Need to sensitize teachers as well as parents towards needs and concerns of adolescents.
(Jyotsna Chahal, Project officer Adolocent Project, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan , Nahan)