The attainment of sustainable development is dependent on the recognition of community participation in the planning and implementation processes of development projects. The support of the civil society is essential for any form of development and education plays the prime role in generating the interest of the civil society for protecting the environment. Whereas education is vital for good governance, keeping the civil society healthy is also essential for the smooth functioning of democracy. The ailing civil society is neither able to participate in social deliberation – discussion, debate and decision-making – nor contribute constructively in nation building. As more than a third of the India’s population consists of youth, it has become essential to keep the youth brigade healthy. However, the youths are struggling with reproductive and sexual health problems.
With the aim of addressing the reproductive and sexual health problems of adolescents, through youth forums, the Centre joined Seva Mandir, with other NGOs, for the Sexual and Reproductive Health Initiative for Joint Action Network-Youth Reproductive and Sexual Health Rights (SRIJAN-YRSHR). Through the SRIJAN-YRSHR network programme, the organisation is putting an effort to build the constituencies and the capacities of the rural youths, with the purpose of building a questioning society. The intention is to reduce the incidence of violence against girls, which surfaces in the form of discrimination in food, low enrolment in schools, heavy workload at home, dowry, early marriage, in some cases, foeticide/infanticide and enhance knowledge about sexual and reproductive organs among youth. In the programme, the organisation has created a network for youths in five villages of Banera block of district Bhilwara: Kamalpura, Kajlodiya, Salriyakala, Laxmipura and Kherliya. The main activities of the project during the period April 2007 and March 2008 are:
(1) Village level meetings
(2) Block level orientation and capacity building of youth leaders of both genders
(3) Block level review meeting
(4) International Youth Day Celebrations.
The Centre under the YRSHR project, has:
- built up youth leaders in the village and the total number of youths that have been a part of the project directly is around 200;
- sensitised school teachers and parents on reproductive and sexual health problem of youths;
- linked women and men SHGs with adolescent and youth health issues and members have started discussing these issues during their group meetings;
- organised rallies and workshops on health issues, sex discrimination and education and invited youth leaders to present their views;
- organised individual counselling to youths having reproductive and sexual health problems; and
- invited health experts to schools and youth meetings to deliver lectures on health issues.
The impact of the project:
During the Balika Pravesh Utsav (girl child admission ceremony, a week declared by the GoR to bring drop out girl child back to the school), youths have helped 10 girl children back to the school.
- Continuous interaction with parents, teachers and village elders has helped them get sensitised towards youth health problems.
- Continuous advocacy with the local administration has helped better the health services for youths in the area.
- The project has helped in building the capacity of CUTS’s staff and local youth representatives on adolescent and youth health issues. Frequent training programmes, workshops and seminars have helped everyone in gaining knowledge of various health issues.
- The project has helped in creating an enabling environment for young people. The platform thus formed has been instrumental in educating other village youths on reproductive and sexual health problems.
- Youths of other villages have started approaching CUTS to start similar initiatives in their village.