KOUSAL: Knowledge on Utilizing Skills and Leadership
Guwahati, known as the “Gateway to the Northeast” is one of the fastest growing cities of India due to the influx of people from other parts of the country migrating into the city for better livelihood opportunities (Nath, n.d.). Most of the people migrating are from a lower socioeconomic class, majority uneducated, and this displacement from their home lands have resulted in many slum communities developing in the city center, notably near areas of mass transportation hubs, e.g. near train stations, freeways etc. (Borah & Gogoi, 2012). According to Kalita and Harsha (2015) “Slums are the settlement of urban poor. As the demographic pressure on towns and cities grows, the needs of urban infrastructure also increase” (p. 29) and that in Guwahati specifically the growth of the slums was due to “concentration of beggars, sweepers, cobblers, street vendors, rickshaw and cart-pullers and day labourers” (p. 29). This rapid urbanization in India has taken a toll, in regards to health, social, and economic aspects on the adolescents who reside in the slums (Sharanya, 2014).
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) all over the world have promoted the use of developing practical “life-skills”, to develop the youth in an underserved and underprivileged community, like a slum area, or to children deemed “at-risk”. Life-skills, as its name implies, are skills that one uses daily, but is not necessarily taught in an academic or formal setting. These include skills like identifying emotions, having respect for self and others, leadership skills, and effective communication. Conducting life-skills programs in the slums is not a new concept to India, with many urban cities like Chennai, Hyderabad, and Mumbai havinghad projects launched and studies done on the positive effects of having a life-skills program for youth in poor communities. (Bhatt, 2017).
Foundation for Social Transformation: Enabling Northeast India (FST) is a philanthropic organization that has reach in many different projects and areas of Northeastern India, and this life-skills project would be the first of its kind in this specific context. Due to the success of a previous life-skills building project done with youth in Assam, with the use of theater as a mode of delivery, this project will expand on that base with a different demographic as well as a different mode of learning (sports).FST has identified Bhaskar Nagar slum as its target area for this project.
Bhaskar Nagar is a notified slum under ward number 41 situated in Guwahati City which has a population of approximately 6,500 residents, and approximately 1,200 households. The slum consists of migrants from different districts of lower part of Assam. Many of the adolescent girls of Bhaskar Nagar have dropped out of school (for various reasons), and very few have attained a college level education. Early aged marriage of the girls is a common practice in the area, as well as continuous issues of domestic violence and addiction to hazardous substances. This is the first project that FST will conduct in this area of Guwahati.
The purpose of this is to initiate a pilot project focusing on an urban population that falls within FST’s target population and mission. By focusing on adolescent females (ages 12-21) in an urban slum setting, Project KOUSAL(Knowledge On Utilizing Skills And Leadership) will focus on the development and building of life skills of the participants through non-threatening sports and physical activities. By doing a situational analysis through a survey of at least 100 girls living and/or going to school in the area, modules of life skills lessons will be tailored and implemented to meet the needs of the girls in the area.
The expected outcomes of the program are as follows:
1) At least 60 girls will participate fully in the program, and
2) Six girls will be identified and trained to continue this program with support from FST in the future, subsequently they will be considered Peer Leaders.
The direct beneficiaries of this project are the girls who are willing to participate in this project, mainly in the life-skills modules that will include topics such as financial literacy, sexual reproductive health, effective communication, leadership, and goal setting. Indirect beneficiaries of this project will be the participants’ families, girls in the community who are not yet age eligible to participate in the program, and the Bhaskar Nagar community. The adolescent males of this community should also be included as an indirect beneficiary, as males are an important factor in the social change process, and will be included in this project to the greatest extent possible.
FST has four broad thematic areas of operations, and Project KOUSAL would fall under both “Fostering Youth Development and Action” in cultivating youth leaders in a slum community that is underserved, as well as “Ensuring Gender and Social Justice” (Foundation for Social Transformation, 2016) by purposefully targeting female participants in this project to educate and empower them about issues that affect females in all socio, biological, and economic aspects of their lives. This project falls directly in line with FST’s mission of “Invest in and support and promote Northeast Region’s abundant human, cultural and creative resources. Enable communities in the region to be owners of development processes. Promote and support rights based approaches and gender equality. Channel youth energies and potential through creative activities to bring about constructive social transformation.”
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