Building Safe Spaces for the YWCA Youth

Our youth is the foundation stone of our future and the owners of tomorrow who carry the potential to design a better society. Every year on 12th August the world celebrates International Youth Day, so let us all again be a part of this celebration this year. It’s a day to draw sincere attention and spread awareness about some serious societal issues and stigmas related to them that surrounds the youth ever since the issues came into existence.

So this time, let’s make our youth aware about sexual harassment and HIV/AIDS and work on providing safe spaces for them to share their concerns and cope with issues that they deal with.

Theme for youth day 2018: BUILDING SAFE SPACES

The YWCA of India has decided to focus on Women against Violence as the agenda for the Quadrennium  2018- 2022. We have chosen to work on ‘Building Safe Spaces’ as this year’s youth day theme as a part of this agenda.

A group of 3 friends sitting together and chatting, sharing secrets is a safe space for them because they are not judged or challenged for what they say as they all share the bond of trust, and this creates a safe space for them.  Where people can separate or isolate themselves from situations and people who disturb their safety and security and share their feelings with trusted peers contributes to become safe spaces.

Today’s youth always find ways to improve their personality; they want to be in the company of  people who will help them in their personal development. The provision of a safe space is thus an essential component that should aim to enhance positive youth development.

The motive behind choosing sexual harassment and HIV/AIDS as the topic to discuss is that people know about their existence but aren’t exactly aware of the truths and stigmas relating to them. People usually ignore these topics to discuss upon may be because of the myths related to them or they fear about what people will think of them is they freely talk about sexual harassment or HIV. Our focus is to empower the youth of your community with every possible details about these issues.  

“In youth we learn, in age we understand”, said Marie Ebner.

Have a look at the curriculum we’ve designed that will assist you in imparting the knowledge at your workshops.  This curriculum will give you an idea for conducting workshops and you can always make changes as per your conveniences and requirements depending on the audience.

  • Organize a workshop
  • Invite the youth nearby to attend the session. Do open it to anyone who wishes to attend.
  • Give a brief about the theme to the audience.
  • Start with a general discussion about the sexual harassment and HIV/AIDS. Ask the audience what they feel about these issues and how they can overcome if they face any problem related to them.

 

  1. For your reference you can go through our designed format – ask us through headoffice@ywcaindia.org.
  2. After the workshop do share your experiences with us about how the session went, what were the reactions, did the session influence people to take these issues seriously from now on. Sharing your experience will motivate us to come up with more workshops that will help in making our society a better place to live in.

 

Youth Department

YWCA of India

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STOP RAPE

A rampant issue that we all are mute spectators to on a daily basis is the one of rape and violent sexual abuse.

It has reached such a magnitude that we seem to take it in our stride.

The outrage that rocked the country after the ‘Nirbhaya Case’ has died down into an uncomfortable lethargy with a few spurts of community response when there is a particularly atrocious incident like the Kathua case for example and in a few days we are back to our usual commonplace routines.

The situation has now begun to cripple the lives of women and children on a daily basis, we are afraid to travel out as we used to, afraid to send children to school, to send them on the school bus, we need to think twice before we go out at night in some places, worry about travelling in certain modes of transport. The number of children that are recipients of this sort of horrible abuse is unthinkable. Children, both girls and boys targeted as innocent victims of some vile creature’s lust, their lives scarred forever or snuffed out for fear of being discovered by the criminals responsible for the heinous crimes committed against these helpless ones. Cities that we thought were safe seem to harbour the worst sort of lecherous wretches on the planet. What do we as a ‘People against Violence’ do in the face of this reality?

Our country is fast becoming or has become the most unsafe place for women and how do we step in to stop this tide from riding over us and everyone else in its path? How long before we recognize that our boys face so much abuse and remain silent for they have no one to turn to; to share their fears and pain, for society expects them to always be strong and brave and tells them that things like this happen only to wimps.

Can we start making a difference by sharing our concerns among our peers, our areas of influence, with our children – teaching to respect each other, about their right to safety and their need to speak up and how to recognize unsafe touch. Can we help them build a better understanding and make sure they in turn influence others to stop the perpetration of this barbarous outrage?

Let’s use whatever means we can to spread the word – Let’s break the cycle.

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STOP RAPE

How do we help the victims? How do we build back self confidence and help them cope with the back lash?

  • Can we begin by taking the first major step in our thinking – stop finding fault with them of all the things they could have or shouldn’t have done –
  • Can we please stop victimizing the victim? The trauma they go through is way beyond anything any of us could ever imagine and if we can just be there for them it goes a long way.
  • Some of them, especially young men and boys go through a worse situation as they deal with so much self victimization and shame without being able to share their pain with anyone.
  • If we can just go the extra mile, find safe spaces for them to share what they go through, ensure that they can access professional counselling and other support services, assure them that they are not at fault for someone else’s wretched perverted behaviour and be the ones that don’t stand in judgment over them, we can make a difference.

There are many things that each one of us can do in our own sphere of influence, but when we work together we create a powerful synergy that can overcome this monster of nightmarish proportions that is threatening to destroy the very foundations of our society. Let’s be those people who will stand up to make a difference!

by Mrs. Vinodhini Moses

Surrogacy Act in India & it’s Importance

The YWCA of India joined with India Alliance for Child Rights to discuss Surrogacy from a Child Rights perspective. The difference between Commercial surrogacy or a Altruistic surrogacy is the financial gain to the surrogate in the former. The children born through these surrogates are guaranteed the right to dignity, protection from sale or trafficking, registration of his or her birth and to know his or her parents.

However, circumstances change from the time of conception to birth and the following are a few instances where the child is not wanted:

  • fallout between gestational mother and parents (who may or may not be genetically related to the child)
  • commissioned parents do not want the child anymore
  • circumstances of the commissioned parents have changed [death of a partner / divorce / separation]
  • disability of the child born
  • surrogate mother has twins / triplets and the commissioned parents only want one child

The risks to the children are:

  • they get lost in the system,
  • their births are not registered,
  • they languish in orphanages
  • are stateless,
  • they do not know who their parents are
  • certain cases if the surrogate mother has given birth to twins / triplets, the children are separated, and are either adopted or they cannot be traced.
  • The risks are even higher in International surrogacy

The risks do not stop there. Once a child is given to their commissioned parent, there is no follow up, there are no records maintained, so there is no evidence that the child is in safe hands and being cared for well. There is no evidence that the child may have been trafficked or used for various other activities.

What we can do in a country as populous as ours, is stress on the need to adopt children than surrogacy. If surrogacy is favoured, stringent mechanisms need to be put in place and followed, so that the rights of the children born as well as the surrogate mothers are safeguarded.

By the Woman, For the Woman, Of the Woman, Really? {Part I}

There are not enough jails, not enough police, not enough courts to enforce a law not supported by the people. Hubert H. Humphrey

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This isn’t anything new, and knowing Deccan Chronicle, this is par for the course. However, the irony and the current climate for our efforts to fight for equality make this an issue that should be heeded.

What exactly are we talking about here? 

This article starts as any zine would, detract from the main focus – the winners of the Emmy Awards 2017 – and weave a story about the female celebrities and their garments, because nothing else is news.

 

What was the article about? 

The female writer (yes it had to be female – lets gender stereotype the manner of the writing) weaves a story about gorgeous gowns, envious looks, wardrobe malfunctions and an oh by the way, here are some noteworthy mentions, but lets leave this on a note of these were the best and not showcase that in the photos displayed.

 

What’s the problem with that article, again? 

The article tried to engage the female audience (yes, lets stereotype again, because it’s rare for men to read this segment) through gossipy skin-crawl-worthy adjectives built to dramatise issues that shouldn’t even be discussed (in polite terms / society).

The Emmys were all about the TV shows and the ones that missed out and the winners – who doesn’t love winners? For this authoress however, the Emmys was all about dresses, wardrobe malfunctions – and yes lets highlight that feature with a huge picture to accompany article – and a few blah mentions of attire without even bothering to explain much because there was no ‘scandal’ involved in those or rather they were too squeaky clean to generate interest.

 

Why is this an issue? 

In this day and age, when we as women would ask that we be respected at our home, at our workplace or wherever in society we maybe, this is dreadful to read. How do you justify this as a piece that ‘needs’ to be read? How do you justify the needs for women to move forward when we have articles like this that claim the sum total of a female celebrity is her gown and not her talent, her handwork or her brains? #ASKHERMORE remember that campaign or was that a blip on the radar in this fast-paced world? Women on the red carpets never got asked about their nominations, the excitement, the effort that went into the role, it all centred on their dress and their makeup routine and all the barbie doll questions you could imagine.

When we are trying so hard to make our little girls understand that it’s ok to dress in pants and shirts, its ok to be an engineer or an architect, or its ok to be a scientist or an inventor, articles like these, from another women makes that slippery slope we have climbed on equal rights a little bit of a mockery.

Who would respect a woman after an article like this? Who would say, yes women can be more than just pretty faces? Who can say yes, little girls can aspire to so much more? Who can say that all the women are on the same page in terms of this struggle to be respected? No one.

 

But this happens all the time? 

Yes, yes it does. And that is the most tragic problem. We women want to be respected, but we write articles that strip a woman of her dignity and share it with the world – hey world there is scandal here, she exposed this or she did something so scandalous! We want to be respected, but we want to read about another woman’s downfall or are rather rooting for it! We want to be respected and we cannot stand up for ourselves so we dream of the celebrities in their world and tear apart or read the most horrendous news about their lives to make us feel pleasurable about ourselves. When does this vicious cycle stop?

 

But what can really be done about this? 

*shaking head in abject despair* What can we really do? We should all be on the same page for the equality of women, but it should be a concerted effort. Not a ‘for women, by some woman and off with that woman.’ Where’s the fairness in that?

A woman rises in ranks and we gossip about how she slept to get where she is. A woman manages home and work balance a bit better than us and we decide to mock their achievements and pick holes or spread rumours. A woman decides to up her self esteem by sharing her beauty regimen or changes in her wardrobe and we decide to mock her behind her back and laugh at her being ‘ugly’.

We haven’t even left the starting line in this battle for equality because before we can put ahead theories for why we should not be taken for granted, we women pull the other women in front of us down and glorify in it. It’s articles like these that get asked for by the us women, that get written up by us women and that get published by us women that make us all a laughing stock. Would you take yourself seriously after reading articles like these.  .  ?

The How, Why & What of Indian Child Marriages

We know the legal age limits for men and women in India, but I’m sure, most of us have not questioned it. Nor have we asked why is the legal limit very very serious. Did you know, the legal limit used to be 18 and 14 for boys and girls respectively? Did you also know that India ranks 10th in the world for it’s child marriages? Shocking isn’t it? Here’s more information at your fingertips.

ORIGIN STORIES : 

There is controversy over how child marriages occurred, some blame a certain religion, others blamed marauding camps attacking girls that for their security they were married off. However, there are signs that before the 19th century, there was child marriage world over. Basically, there is no conclusive reasoning for why it’s now important for Hindus or Muslims to marry their children before the consent age.

THE STATISTICS OF IT ALL : 

Nearly 12 million children (boys and girls) below the age of 10 were married according to a survey in 2016. More so in the rural areas than in the urban areas is what the stats seem to showcase.

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THE LAWS :

The 1929 child marriage law, firmly defined what constituted as a child and placed the legal age limits as 18 for girls and 21 for boys. There were consequences listed as well within this law, however, it proved tedious to follow through.

The 2006 child marriage law, was more stringent in terms of the name, the options for voiding a child marriage and more stringent consequences were listed. It also allowed for a girl to nullify the marriage and to be provided for monetarily till she was of legal age or she was married.

While these laws applied to the entire nation at large, the Muslim clergy spoke against this invasion into their personal law, as marriage was a religious event, not something that the law should be interfering with. There are many debates centring over this topic, and while both sides have a point, the main issue is about protecting a child’s innocence than a personal insult against a religion.

REASONS FOR A CHILD MARRIAGE :

Whatever the origin story, whatever the stats or the laws, it’s still disconcerting that child marriage is a thing. To most of us in the urban and privileged background, we cannot understand why child marriage occurs in the first place.

RELIGION, is one of the primary reasons for child marriages. Tradition and religious rights dictates a lot of our lives and it follows through with this as well. However, it does go a little more deeper, with the issue of DOWRY for a girl child. The later a girl takes to get married, the more dowry is required by the groom’s family – even though dowry is a serious offence. POVERTY, is another reason for child marriages as this ensures monetary gain through a successful alliance – a throwback to the old days of alliances formed between families. It also helps cut out extra EXPENSES such as daily amenities and education for the child.

CONSEQUENCES OF A CHILD MARRAIGE:

Yes, it is true there are bound to be consequences to violating a law, whether it is tradition, religion or poverty at play. Children need a certain maturity to make decisions, especially with something important as the institution of marriage.

Marriage, even with guardians dictating the way they live, there are issues pertaining to HEALTH of both children. They need to know about sex – safe sex to be exact. Most child marriages also occur where there is a high prevalence of illiteracy, so EDUCATION pertaining to anything relating to hygiene, good nutrition and sex education will be limited or sparse.

MORTALITY RATES is higher in these circumstances, because they don’t know how to take care of themselves when they are pregnant, nor do they know how to care for their babies nutrition, hygiene, etc. With no proper guidance, they also are unable to decide about FAMILY PLANNING and thus have a high prevalence of unexpected pregnancies, with unfortunately a few leading to PREGNANCY TERMINATIONS, such as miscarriages, stillbirths, etc.

Another surprising consequence of child marriage is DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. Younger girls are more open to domestic and sexual abuse from their husbands than girls at 18 years and older.

IS THIS REALLY A MAJOR PROBLEM ?

Yes, child marriages are a problem, not just for the VICTIMS in a child marriage, but also society and the country at large. If the children are allowed their right to education, there are a vast variety of benefits.

Girls once educated are able to take care of the HYGIENE and NUTRITION of the family. Educated girls are also able to family plan and thus in effect this brings down the POPULATION at large. Bringing the population down, also helps with each nuclear family having sufficient funds for their children. Having more than one child can be a CHOICE and not something unwanted that stresses the FAMILY FINANCES.

Educated girls also bring down the MORTALITY RATES of both pregnant girls and infants.  And at this point, though it might be a big ask, DOMESTIC ABUSE can be curtailed with older women knowing their rights and how to get help from it.

This all boils down to one main thing, EDUCATING children and letting them enjoy their childhood without forcing them to grow up unnecessarily.

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

You can join the YWCA of India in taking part in the advocacy issue of fighting against child marriage among other things. Forming think tanks to protect the rights of other children and helping them get their basic rights. Educating those around you to raise awareness about this issue.

 

‘Keep Calm and Get Tested’ Campaign

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The YWCA of India has been conducting a ‘Keep Calm and Get Tested’ Campaign in an effort to raise awareness about HIV / AIDS. A video study here, shows the current knowledge from the public about what is HIV and why there is a need to get tested.

Here are a few facts to guide you on what is one of the world’s major health concerns particularly in nations were the stigma is the strongest.

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus – in simple terms – this is a virus that infects the body’s immune system thus decreasing the natural ability to ward off infections and other diseases.

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome – in simple terms – this means that the person is in the most advanced stages of the HIV infection and it is defined as thus when they suffer from more than 20 opportunistic infections and related cancers.

HIV is TRANSMITTED by:

  • unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal) or oral sex with an infected person
  • Transfusions of contaminated blood or blog products or transplantation of contaminated tissue
  • The sharing of contaminated injecting equipment and solutions (needles/syringes) or tattooing equipment
  • Through the use of contaminated surgical equipment and other sharp instruments
  • The transmission between a mother and her baby during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding

The spread of HIV from person to person is called HIV transmission. The spread of HIV from an HIV-infected woman to her child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding is called mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

HIV is NOT TRANSMITTED by: 

  • Shaking hands or hugging a person infected with HIV

  • It is not transmitted through contact with objects such as dishes, toilet seats or doorknobs used by a person infected with HIV

  • It is also not spread through the air or through mosquito, tick and/or other insect bites

How to PREVENT HIV transmission: 

  • Practice safe sex – use condoms
  • Get tested and treated for sexually transmitted infections (including HIV)
  • Avoid injecting drugs (or use sterile needles / syringes)
  • Ensure that any blood or blood products you require are tested for HIV
  • If you have HIV, start treatment immediately to prevent transmission to your partner or child

SYMPTOMS for HIV / AIDS

After getting infected, flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache or rash have been known to show up. These may come and go for a month or two after getting infected. (these varies across patients).

At the earliest stages, HIV multiplies but very slowly. Severe cases can include chronic diarrhoea, rapid weight loss and signs of opportunistic infections (infections and infection related cancers that occur frequently because of the body’s weakened immune system), however this takes a few years before they show up.

Without treatment, HIV can advance to AIDS. The time it takes for HIV to advance to AIDS varies, but it can take 10 years or more.

HIV transmission is possible at any stage of HIV infection—even if an HIV-infected person has no symptoms of HIV.

What is the TREATMENT for HIV?

Combination ART which stands for Antiretroviral Therapy treatment prevents the HIV infection from multiplying in the body. In simple words – its a combination of medicines that stops the infection from growing and allows the body’s immune cells to prolong the HIV infected person’s life, reducing the chances for spreading the infection.

Recent advances in access to ART, HIV-positive people now live longer and healthier lives. In addition, it has been confirmed that ART prevents onward transmission of HIV. Progress has also been made in preventing and eliminating mother-to-child transmission and keeping mothers alive. In 2015, almost 8 out of 10 pregnant women living with HIV, or 1.1 million women, received antiretrovirals (ARVs).

While this is mostly good news, the bad news is that

there is no cure for HIV / AIDS.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Look into more information on HIV / AIDS from WHO or any other NGO near you that has access to this information. The YWCA of India has been following this campaign closely and has been trying to spread as much information about this as possible. So get tested regularly. Donate blood when you can, but make sure sterile equipment is used. Spread all the information you have as much as you can. Most importantly, don’t get mired in the stigma surrounding getting tested, your health and others is more important than your pride.

KEEP CALM and GET TESTED. Have you done it yet?