‘For The Youth, By The Youth’: Interview With Ishita Chaudhry{2}

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‘For The Youth, By The Youth’: Interview With Ishita Chaudhry{2}

Ishita Chaudhry CEO & Founder, The Youth Parliament Foundation

Ishita Chaudhry CEO & Founder, The Youth Parliament Foundation

In our previous edition we brought to you the interview with Ishita Chaudhry, CEO of The YP Foundation. The YP foundation is a youth led organization working for the youth and their rights and helping them explore their full potential.

Here is the second part of our interview with Ishita and more about The YP Foundation. For those who missed out the first part, please find it here

What are the major problems or social issues in the current scenario that bother you as an
individual? Tell us more about The YP Foundation

Our journey since has challenged our own assumptions and pushed us beyond what we thought we could do. Each young person explores their leadership potential, in the social project that they commit to and aspect of development of that programme that they are accountable for. In my tenure with this organization, I have mentored programmes that have grown from working locally to partnering with youth organizations and working with policy at international levels. By synchronizing our local, national, regional and international approaches to working with young people, we are trying to ensure that human rights and social justice aren’t just words in young people’s vocabulary, but that they have a lived meaning in how young people acknowledge and address inequities. The biggest changes that this organization makes, is in the mindsets, values, attitudes and lives of the young people it works with each year. I have seen people grow and tremendously.

The YP Foundation (TYPF) is a youth run and led organization that supports and enables young people to create programmes and influence policies in the areas of gender, sexuality, health, education, the arts & overnance. The organization promotes, protects and advances young people’s human rights by building leadership, and strengthening youth led initiatives and movements. Founded in 2002, TYPF has worked directly with 5,000 young people to set up over 200 projects in India over the last 8 years, reaching out to 300,000 adolescents and young people between 3-28 years of age.

Ishita Chaudhry at TYPF FIlm Festival on Afghanistan

Ishita Chaudhry at TYPF FIlm Festival on Afghanistan

– Our Vision is of a world where young people’s human rights are realized, their leadership skills are enhanced and they are recognized as powerful change makers and equal stakeholders in society.
– Our Mission is to promote, protect and advance young people’s human rights by building leadership
and strengthening youth led initiatives and movements.
– Our Goal is to support and enable young people to create programmes and influence policies in the
areas of gender, sexuality, health, education, the arts & governance.

We believe in empowering young people’s access to information, services and rights such that they can build collective platforms to challenge and develop their leadership potential, politics and identity. We empower young people by supporting their work through three key focus areas, namely:
– Awareness and Advocacy: Young people’s work with Gender, Sexuality, Health & Rights,
– Peer Pressure and Mental Health, Life Skills and Education, Healthcare and Governance and
– Accountability (focussing on the implementation of The Right to Information Act in India).

Community Based Partnerships: TYPF works primarily in the National Capital Region (NCR) and works with youth led groups with partnerships at national, regional and international levels. We have collaborated with youth groups and young activists from 13 states across India, including Punjab, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Bengal, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Kashmir, Nagaland, Gujarat and Bihar. TYPF has supported 250 slum and street children across two locations in New Delhi and partners with Today’s Youth Asia in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Communication & Skills Development: TYPF trains young people to develop their communication and technical skills, and skill to work with film, literature and to build and support platforms for
independent music in India.

Through our 3 focus areas, TYPF engages young people to develop projects through 5 programmatic
divisions that work with:
1. Empowering Street Children (With Health & Hygiene Awareness, Life Skills & Education)
2. Addressing Mental Health Issues & Developing Life Skills with Adolescents
3. Awareness & Advocacy on HIV & AIDS, Gender, Sexuality, Health and Rights
4. The Right to Information Act, Governance & Citizenship
5. Promoting, Protecting and Sustaining Independent Music
6. Encouraging Human Rights through Film

What are some of the activities that YP works for?
Our focus is to build understanding, accountability and leadership amongst young people, enhancing
partnerships between young people and youth led/focused groups. Our programmes engage over
300 volunteers from across India each year. TYPF was developed by young people who have worked
together as staff and volunteers from an idea to an institution over the past eight years. Our work has
been made possible by the solidarity, support and encouragement of individuals, communities and
organizations who have believed in our vision. We have 5 programmes:
Blending Spectrum – Empowering Street Children (With Health & Hygiene Awareness, Life
Skills & Education)
Know Your Body, Know Your Righs – Awareness & Advocacy on HIV & AIDS, Gender, Sexuality, Health and Rights
The Right to Information Programme – The Right to Information Act, Governance & Citizenship
Silhouette– Artist Rights, Music Education, Promoting, Protecting and Sustaining
Independent Music
The Butterfly Project – Encouraging Human Rights through Film, Digital Storytelling with
All projects in The YP Foundation base their work and prioritize program issues based on Comprehensive Needs Assessments conducted with the stakeholders and target communities that the projects work with. Further the organization works internally on developing the capacity of all its staff members as well as volunteers to ensure technical expertise and dissemination of correct information. The organization’s management team
– known as the Organizational Development Committee (ODC) – monitors & evaluates both projects & program staff through a 4 Phase Cycle. Thus, 2-3 months in the year are allotted to capacity development of staff, through field based research, technical training as well as organizational training retreats. Additionally, partners and professionals in the field play a major role in mentoring, training and guiding all the projects.

For any entrepreneur it’s tough to make the first move and overcome the surrounding challenges. Did you face any challenges while starting up? How did you overcome those?
Personally, it’s really challenging doing this work as a young woman at times, where both parts are hard – being a young person and being a woman. India is such a strongly male dominated leadership space, I’ve gotten used to being in rooms with meetings of mostly men. There is an inherent discrimination present in certain part of the system around women and their roles in work. Like the tax officer who gave us our exemption license, who asked me when I was getting married, since it was such a good thing that ‘ladies did charity work’. I’ve learnt over the years though, to not accept such statements silently and to challenge them back. Youth led programs also specifically have certain limitations, which TYPF also faces & hopes to overcome. Some of these it will, and some it won’t, which is the first part of what we had to learn to accept in our management systems.

A major stumbling block is that many adults don’t always take the organization seriously, and are unsure of the ability of young people to work comprehensively and professionally, also stemming from the overall conception of young people as flippant and unconcerned. We’re challenging that.
Sometimes, the organization also faces limitations in terms of varying levels of dedication, time and commitment that participants can give to different programs, which is to be expected, considering the life cycle a young person is in, at the time that we are working with them. We chose the 13 -28 age group, as it is the time when people are still formulating their identities, and still largely have the freedom to be able to take risks with their choices. As we transition to a full time team, ensuring consistency is a big part of the work.

The nature of youth volunteers is such that the organizational has a 2 yearly cyclical structure whereby which the staff and volunteers change periodically. This creates a certain cyclical loss of knowledge and experience but on the other hand, also ensures that there is consistent youth leadership being developed and mentored, and that changing generations of young people are participating in taking TYPF forward.

A fairly valid critique has been that TYPF is urban centered or elitist since we work with urban young people. Whilst we began doing so out of necessity, as a small youth led forum of concerned school and college students, today our work is scaling gradually and we are more diverse in range of socio-economic youth that we reach out to. What worries us though, are the stereotypes that young people from urban and rural backgrounds have nothing in common. The more we bring young people from different backgrounds together, the more we are learning that whilst the lived realities of youth are different, their essential need to access information and services, their aspirations, really aren’t.

Ishita Chouadhry- The YP Foundation on DQ

Ishita training at International Women's Health Coalition at NYC

Upcoming events organized by YP. Also many youth want to be part of/ volunteer for
social causes. How can they contribute and be part of YP?

Know Your Body, Know Your Rights – www.knowyourbodyknowyourrights.com
Is a bi lingual campaign for young people, as well as parents, teachers, educationists etc., to talk
about the need for sexuality education and explore positive approaches to implementing it in schools.
The campaign also looks at getting young people’s feedback on the current draft of the Adolescence
Education Programme curriculum, that the government has recently released, that will provide Life Skills
and Sexuality Education to close to 33 million students over 2 years. We need young people from India
to speak up and share why they think Sexuality Education is important. They can do 2 things:

The Open House Series – http://theopenhouseseries.posterous.com/
The Open House Series is an interactive, multi year workshop series for interested, upcoming and
established young artistes that explore information, ideas and models that protect promote and
publish Independent Music in India The Open House Series brings together professional musicians,
amateur artists, music enthusiasts, students, media representatives and members of the community to
disseminate existing knowledge, create new avenues of collaboration and build capacity on independent
music as a viable career option. Some of the artists who are teaching are Them Clones, The Raghu
Dixit Project, Swarathma, Vishal Dadlani, Uday Benegal and Shubha Mudgal. Workshops resume in April
2011 and people are encouraged to register.

The YP Foundation is presently hiring for some of the positions. If you have the zeal, want to see and be the change TYPF has the following to offer:

Full Time Positions:
– Peer Education Coordinator for our Gender & Sexuality Programme – ‘Know Your Body Know Your Rights’
– Executive assistant to the CEO

Part Time Positions:
– Events Manager
– Chartered Accountant
– Project Head for our Film, Literature and Communication Programme – ‘The Butterfly Project ‘

The final deadline for submission is MAY 20th, 2011. Please note that applications beyond this date will be entertained only if positions have not been filled and that applications will be accepted and processed as and how they are submitted. We encourage you not to wait until the deadline to submit your application as the position may be filled by then.

To apply, download two documents, the Staff Vacancies and the Staff Application Form the latter of which, you need to submit to jobs@theypfoundation.org.
For further queries, please contact jobs@theypfoundation.org or +91-11-46792243/44.
For details on the organization please visit www.theypfoundation.org
Should the link in this email not work, please visit http://www.theypfoundation.org/typf/jobs to download the forms and find more details on the application process.

Gurwinder S Jathoul is the Founder of DesiQube Media [www.DesiQube.com] A design & new media enthusiast, he provides process improvement and creative solutions to businesses. He loves to think, being close to nature, writing & Bhangra. Follow him on twitter @ gjathoul

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