In the month of February, Nirantar, a center for Gender and Education conducted its Yuva, Yaunikta, and Adhikaar course 2016, a seven day residential training. The venue was Delhi and involved participants from all over the country. Soon after the training, we got a chance to interview the people behind the training this year, to know more about this course. Meet Apeksha, Ipsita, and Priya – aka the Early Marriage, Young People, and Empowerment team at Nirantar.
Tell us about the idea behind the Yuva, Yaunikta, and Adhikaar course?
Yuva, Yaunikta, and Adhikaar course is an institutional course that Nirantar started about 4-5 years ago. When Nirantar started integrating a sexuality lens into its work, we realized that it is often very difficult for organizations working on the field to approach conversations around sexuality with young people. Often, because of the silence within our own sector around sexuality, we all find ourselves struggling to understand what does and doesn’t constitute sexuality.
Another need was about how these concepts and its understandings can be contextualized in the lived realities of our own lives and those we work with.
The course was thus meant to help people working in grass-root organizations, to understand gender and sexuality within their lives and within their respective contexts.
What was the focus of the course this year?
This year, the course focused largely on gender and sexuality – on understanding how gender is constructed. Our focus was to have conversations around gender transgression, patriarchy, and understanding gender (and sex) as a spectrum across which we all stand.
Following this, we unpacked some key ideas around sexuality – what is sexuality, looking at our lives and society with a sexuality lens, and how complex it can be. We also aimed at talking about the norms that govern sexuality and the consequences for transgressing those acceptable norms, as many of us, including sexual minorities, do.
We followed this up with a conversation around marriage, and the institution of marriage which finds itself so central to all our lives. As a lot of participants were organizations working on the issue of ‘Early and Child Marriage’, it became important for us to unpack marriage as an issue in our own lives first and therefore see that it plays a very governing role in the lives of young people too. This was done from the perspective of how the youth they work with cannot just be approached with delaying marriage or stopping underage marriage, but to look beyond such ‘solutions’.
Tell us about the participants who came in this year?
We had a very diverse group who participated this year. We had organisations from Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, and New Delhi. Each of these groups worked in varied contexts, like labor unions, women’s and young girls’ collectives, etc.
What are the challenges you faced this time in organizing and conducting it?
Reservation riots broke out, a day before the course, in Haryana, and because of that many participants from Haryana and Himachal could not join the course. We anticipated a bigger group this time, but felt that the current group was decently sized as well. As a process of learning, we struggled with engaging with the diversity of perspectives, questions, and making the content of the course more relevant with the work realities of the participants.
However one thing we realized a day into the programme was the magnitude of the course content. While we had planned to cover several topics and activities, many concepts were just touched upon because of the time limitation. This is also a take away for us as a team for planning the course for the next batch of participants.
Lastly, another challenge surfaced during the course of the programme, regarding making it practical, along with being theoretical too. But a challenge helps us learn and strive for better, rather than limiting ourselves.