Youth Forums for Gender Equality

Since 2005 the ICPRD initiated an innovative program, ‘Youth Forums for Gender Equality’ engaging male youth to address the violence against women and enhancing the rights of women and girls. The project was spread across rural Karnataka and Rajasthan in which young men of 14-24 years from low income communities were engaged in combating violence against women at household and community level.

The project built alliances with young men to actively participate in reducing gender discrimination and inequality through a process of re-socialization. The outreach efforts were based on values of equality, responsibility and honesty. Youth forums were formed to run various outreach programs. The main outreach programs included street theater, public events such as cycle rallies, cricket matches, debates, poster competitions etc. The project invested in skills and capacity building of Youth Forum Leaders on gender based violence. Using Information, Education and Communication (IEC) tools, youth forums organized several events for mass awareness on such issues as alcoholism, dowry, girl child discrimination, female foeticides, child marriages and domestic violence.

As Karnataka is a drought stricken area, committees have been formed at the local level to address issues of agricultural distress caused through consecutive droughts. These committees comprise of women self help groups, male youth forums, government child day care and health workers, panchayat members, teachers and other stakeholders.

Girls’ Clubs were formed for those girls who desired to be a part of the project activities on gender based violence. Members included students, teachers and women members from SHGs. The project formed links with multiple stakeholders – panchayat (village level) members, teachers, government health workers, women self-help-groups, police and individuals. These stakeholders have been assisting the Youth Forums and Girls’ Clubs in various ways.

Youth Forums for Gender Equality has been a unique project for motivating men to act against gender based violence at household and community level. Through this unique methodology, young men were transformed into allies and promoters of the rights of women. Post project undertaken in Karnataka and Rajasthan, many child marriages, dowry deaths and female foeticides were averted. Youth Forums connected women with various SHGs, and in turn, linked them with various income-generating activities and thus supported women empowerment, both social and economic. ICPRD’s Youth Forum project has received many accolades such as in appreciation of the initiative the U.S. Department of State Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues MellaneVerveer launched the film, “Youth Against the Gender Based Violence” in September 2010. This unique concept is now growing into larger areas and being replicated in other states and countries as well. Nearly 200,000 benefitted from this initiative.

Institutionalized Governance Mechanisms for Women’s Safety and Security: District/Local/Village level

With the experience of the youth forums against gender based violence (GBV) in the target area, ICPRD recognized the need for higher mobilization, greater awareness and pro-active actions to make GBV a village, district, and national agenda. To achieve this, it targeted local institutions come together into a platform against GBV. ICPRD developed three layers of mechanisms for women’s safety and security at the local village and district levels in Channapatnataluk in Karnataka. These were developed by building village level platforms for gender equality in 2011; district level co-ordination committee for women’s safety and security in 2013; village level committees for women’s safety and security in 2014-2016. The objectives of the platforms for gender equality were to create an enabling environment for women’s empowerment; to support action, interventions, and solutions by platforms for gender equality in cases of girl-child discrimination, eve teasing, illegal liquor shops, wife beating, child marriage, female foeticide, and dowry; to promote women’s rights through better access to micro-credit, government schemes, and resources. The next logical step was to build platforms for gender equality with multi-stakeholders – panchayat members, teachers, government health workers, women self-help groups, the police, teachers and lawyers.

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