Youth Rights and Leadership

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On the 24th of February, we at One Future Collective hosted an IG Live on ‘Youth Rights and Leadership’. With Deepa as the moderator, a former One Future Fellow and we were joined by Deepa Pawar, the founder of Anubhuti and Sukannyaa, a member of Pravah.

 

Deepa started by asking what the speakers’ definitions of youth rights were. Deepa Pawar takes the examples of Babasaheb Ambedkar and Savitribai Phule who were young themselves when they started working on creating a change. This shows how important youth rights are in a country like India. We must all help in building a stronger bridge to connect the effort of the youth in taking part in the revolution and we must be inclusive in this effort. According to her, youth rights are no separate component of the values of India’s constitution. However, they do require more attention to the process and implementation. 

 

Sukannyaa believes the stage between adolescence and adulthood is a very important and eye-opening phase where one experiences many aspects of life like work, justice, and equality in a different light. Each person experiences unique challenges and difficulties in this journey. We must highlight these challenges and bring them into mainstream conversations.

 

Pravah does this on three levels: First is by changing the way we view the youth and avoiding stereotypes where we look down on them or view them through a tokenistic lens of pawns needed to create a better economy. This in turn avoids creating a barrier and empowers the youth. The second is by creating spaces for the youth to represent their communities when it comes to conversations around rights and equality and doing this through an intersectional perspective. The third is by questioning ourselves on how we can create safe environments for the youth to work and build on their strengths and meet people of different identities. 

 

Deepa then goes on to question how Anubhuti has made sure to address intersectionality in its efforts. Deepa Pawar highlights how there is a common misconception that the youth are not interested in politics in general. Engagement in politics must be created in educational institutions, but when these institutions shun students from understanding, critiquing, and participating in politics it creates a bad environment. These spaces must promote political literacy and not political hatred. Anubhuti works as a mirror to show the youth what they can do. The youth have their own lived experiences to reflect on and we try our best to question the root causes of these experiences. Fortunately, the marginalized communities of our country, be it nomadic tribes, the trans community, or working women are naturally equipped to understand the issues that all Anubhuti has to do as an organization, is to facilitate. Deepa reminisces about this process and says it’s been a two-way street. Anubhuti has learned just as much as it has taught while working with the young.

 

The statement ‘personal is political’ rings true to covering intersectionality. For instance, being a woman, you naturally are drawn to and affected by women’s rights. Anubhuti designs its approach underlining these specific identities as these identities dictate the strengths, challenges, and living situations of these individuals.

 

Deepa then goes on to ask Sukannyaa how Pravah has made efforts to create a safe environment for young people to grow. Sukannya addresses how Pravah tries to create these spaces without setting prior expectations that are often a burden and allows the youth to create and explore on their own. Our internship programs also see people from different parts of India such as Jammu and Kashmir and the south as well interacting among themselves. This not only is educative but also increases empathy for those different from us.

 

Deepa Pawar says that creating these spaces is not easy, especially in movements. Asking questions has become more and more dangerous over time. We are indoctrinated with the ideology that marginalized communities do not and should not be given the capacity to participate in political scenarios. Fighting such social biases is no easy feat. When speaking about these safe spaces, Deepa wishes to highlight the need for a support system to rescue the youth when they are caught in the realms of authority for standing up.

 

The panel concluded the talk by lending their idea of the concept ‘Young Feminist People Power’. Sukkannyaa believes this concept stretches itself to all forms of representation. Deepa Pawar then questions why we still don’t recognize the feminist movements native to India far before the movement was given a name in the west. Savitribai Phule and Fatima are perhaps the best examples of Young Feminist People Power narratives. She wishes for us to resurface these narratives, learn from the past experiences of the women that have helped create a change with integrity and create our own stories as we go on.

 

You can watch the full video here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CaXYZX9pnn2/

Pride with OFC, 2022

Who decides what queerness looks like?

Who decides what queerness looks like?

Pride with OFC: Over the Years

Gendered Access To Justice

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On the 8th of March, we at One Future Collective hosted a zoom panel on ‘The gendered access to justice’. With Shreyasi as the moderator, a former One Future Fellow and we were joined by Chandni Chawla, who practices criminal law at the Bombay High Court, Mrinalini Rabindranath, a Research Associate with the Criminal Justice and Police Accountability Project in Bhopal, Jeevika S, who is a social worker and a lawyer, Malavika Rajkumar from IT for Change and Mishika Singh, the founder of Neev – Foundation for Legal Aid.

Shreyasi started the panel off by asking each one of the panelists what justice means to them. Chandni and Mishika agreed that justice means ‘listening to the voices of survivors. To Malavika, justice is a system that is not just inclusive but also intersectional. Jeevika says, ‘feminist justice needs to look at different spectrums of needs of different communities. Mrinalini wonders if primary justice is only through law-making? They ask the panel to have alternative imaginations of creating well-informed communities.

Shreyasi then asked Chandni if they can give examples of statutes in India that present a challenge for women who seek justice. Chandni believes today’s news highlights this very issue. Marital rape and the hijab row show that statutes allow for misogyny and patriarchy. The challenges survivors face are gendered, along with the weight of caste and disability. Do judges today look at the many intersections? That is the question Chandni wishes they would address.

Shreyasi then goes on to ask Mrinalini why spatial dynamics of police custody are unsafe for marginalized communities, referencing the case of Mathura that exemplifies how state violence and repression and a quest for resource control are intimately tied to the bodies of Adivasi women. Mrinalini highlights that being habituated to sex does not mean consent in light of Mathura’s case. They recall how the women’s groups organizing protests hadn’t even contacted Mathura or informed her about the protests held in the account of her case until the day before the protest. When Mathura was asked about this, she said she wouldn’t join the protest as she was indifferent to it. Mrinalini then asks us why do we still struggle to question the compounding effect of caste on cases with power rape. There is a clear understanding that not everyone is treated with the same security when they access the court of law. The mainstream interventions are still to seep into the Prevention of Atrocities Act.

Mishika spoke about the changes in attitude that were discernible with many of Neev’s awareness campaigns. They tell us that one of the biggest challenges they faced is the gap in legal awareness that is faced by both educated and uneducated people. That being said, when we get to the place of educating them about the law, different degrees of patriarchy exist in different communities. They highlight how every community has a different way of functioning in the micro-level of things, especially when it comes to views on violence towards women. They tell us how they’ve been trying to break things and make sense of them at Neev.

Shreyasi shifts to questions pertaining to gender gaps in the digital economy. Malavika takes this forward by talking about how AI creates a patriarchal system of dispossession and exploitation. As a result of these capitalist, colonialist, and patriarchal systems, there’s always a question of ‘How much data can you extract from a woman?’. They go on to explain how it is a complete circle of exploitation where they take free data from us, create a product, and sell it back to us. According to them, these are the dominant structures of power created by AI. Access to justice equals labor rights equals economic rights. You cannot segregate it and view it only from a legal point of view.

Shreyasi then asks Jeevika how far policymakers in the Delhi government are to providing Anganwadi workers the status of government employees and hence facilities like retirement benefits, pensions, medical benefits, paid leave, travel allowances, etc. that adhere to the labor laws? They start by insisting that the Delhi government needs to address the needs of the informal workforce, their social protection rights and look at it through a gendered lens. Tokenistic raise in money does not equate to better labor rights. The Anganwadi protests are much larger and represent the plea of forest rights workers, sanitation workers, food production systems, etc.

Shreyasi suggests the existence of legal remedies and mechanisms alone cannot be made to measure women’s access to justice when the circumstances of access remain to be affected by factors not only inside the legal system but outside it – structural inequalities, patriarchal systems, and inherent biases. How does one navigate these challenges to move forward, they ask the panel. Chandni says they can only speak under legal remedies and goes on to highlight the need to sensitize all parts of the judiciary and bring in an intersectional lens.

Malavika notes that courts need to address the offline-online continuum and start recognizing all of them under the umbrella of violation of privacy. Of the many cases Malavika had studied, not one was from a marginalized community. This goes to show how many barriers there must be for people of such communities to even get their foot in the door. Offline skill-building, and allowing collective bargaining is required to enhance the economic participation of women.

Mishika says the quality of legal aid must improve and have better checks and balances with lower courts. They insist on the importance of implementing the Justice Verma Committee report recommendations. Mishika says, ‘It’s important to address agency, which gets taken away when we talk about violence towards women. Don’t take away their consent and make decisions for them.’

Mrinalini highlights that we need to begin talking about what the impact of criminalization does on other parts of people’s lives. The socio-economic factors for the communities we work with are extremely low in terms of education, livelihood, health.

Jeevika suggests that we must do better when it comes to investigating marginalized communities. The panel came to a close on a ray of hope by deciding to be more cognizant in navigating how we can empower marginalized communities and better enable them to negotiate with the law.

 

You can watch the full video here: https://youtu.be/Z6oOrw-D2oc

Pride with OFC, 2022

Who decides what queerness looks like?

Who decides what queerness looks like?

Pride with OFC: Over the Years

Mental Health and Work

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On 25th February 2022, One Future Collective hosted a live session on ‘Mental Health and Work’; the session was moderated by Subhiksha, Program Officer at One Future Collective. Subhiksha was joined by Vandita, an aspiring mental health professional, and Anannya, the founder of Metta Foundation and a social worker. The discussion focused on how workplaces deal with employees’ mental health and mental health effects on individuals in their workspace. 

 

The discussion started with a discussion on why very few young Indians feel that a person with mental health issues should reach out to a qualified professional for help. Anannya pointed out how the privileged people in the Gen-Z age group can easily talk about mental health since social media has destigmatized the concept. However, the same privilege is not enjoyed by the young people from marginalized groups who lack access to technology and bear the brunt of stigma as the people in their immediate environment do not provide empathetic support. She mentioned that even though technology has become more service-oriented and efficient, a considerable barrier still hinders access. Vandita agreed that a conversation on mental health could not happen without acknowledging the privilege of who can talk about their mental health.

 

The second discussion looked at the new Budget, which promised to start a government scheme for providing quality mental health support. Vandita mentioned how even starting such a scheme in the Union budget was a positive step in the right direction. She also felt that this would increase public awareness and recognition, especially in older demographics. She also thought it was important for such a scheme to exist beyond the scope and duration of the pandemic. She pointed out how the same government had once spread leaflets promoting yoga and meditation to answer mental health issues, excluding many people who struggled to meet their daily needs. 

 

Next, Subhiksha raised how very few policies or articles explicitly address mental health and how to address such silence. Vandita suggested structural adjustments and required changes to integrate the issue of mental health into different policies, including educational or workplace policies. In a context where the mental health cost in India amounts to 3.5% of its GDP, Subhiksha raised a question of how smaller organizations could work towards making a workspace that is mindful of employees’ mental health issues. To this, Vandita pointed out the need for organizations to look after the mental health of the individuals for their holistic wellness rather than hoping that they would become more productive. She also pointed out the need for higher authorities or Human Resource departments to be sensitized, understanding, and safe towards employees. Anannya agreed on how mental health issues have become more pronounced during Covid-19 and how that shows the need for a robust and effective mental health system. She spoke about the need for creating psychologically safe spaces in both formal and informal workspaces. The conversation should include drivers, cooks, and domestic workers who work in households. Even though mental health days can be beneficial, it is still quite scary for a person to take advantage of them since it means the risk of exposure, further shame, and stigma. She emphasized how workspaces are generally not built for neurodivergent folks and how ‘sick days’ and ‘mental health days’ are essentially different for them. For Anannya, it then becomes essential to have neurodivergent people in leadership positions who would understand that mental health is a vast spectrum. 

 

The discussion then turned to how mental health issues can affect an individual’s workspace. Anannya shared her own experiences to show how neurodivergent was not just an experience but part of her identity and lifestyle and affected her workspace. Vandita questioned the entire concept of work-life balance and how most people feel afraid to bring up their mental health issues in the workspace out of fear of termination. To teach such a culture of sensitivity and awareness, Vandita pointed out the need for adding mental health to school and college curricula to create safer workspaces in the future. The discussion ended with talking about how more insurance policies should cover cognitive health-related costs.

Pride with OFC, 2022

Who decides what queerness looks like?

Who decides what queerness looks like?

Pride with OFC: Over the Years