Lessons: facilitating youth in their late teens/adolescence

Third meeting:  mixed group of boys and girls (step one of CLCP) 

We started CLCP with adolescents who attend computer classes in SAATHI Community centre of Institute of Social Studies Trust, Delhi in India. The aim is how they can be themselves and discover their inner potential. Additionally, how can they value and support each other and work towards a community they want. We met the adolescent girls, then boys and finally on 2nd November 2018, we invited both the groups to meet and share with each other. 

 In the meeting, we had 17 participants- 12 boys and 5 girls. We observed that  11 out of the 17 participants were those who had attended the first meeting. Six were new- three  boys and girls each.  Learning: We will get new attendees in every meeting but we need to ensure that some old participants turn up and ask them to share key points of the last meeting. 

Some of the girls who had attended the earlier meeting and were eager to come had to stay back home to help in whitewash of the home with the upcoming Diwali festival. Thus we see that  for boys in late teens means more possibilities and mobility, for girls it means greater limitations. So, we need to find a way to keep the girls who do not make it to the meeting informed and engaged.

It is usually difficult to get boys to attend subsequent meetings but to our surprise they came. Ivanka, SALT facilitator and their computer teacher, says that after the first meeting the boys seemed excited and they shared about the first meeting with other boys. In this third meeting we found that boys opened up more. Lesson: Not all boys opened and in the future, we need to find ways that they share without hesitation.

In this meeting we could go a bit deeper on the issues in the community. The participants outlined issues like crime, alcoholism, drugs, safety of girls, gambling and a larger issue like pollution. I learned as a facilitator that  when we start with strength-based questions, discussion on the difficult and sensitive issues does not create despondency but an enthusiasm to take action. 

 Young people are full of energy and this discussion stirred them to take immediate action. Lesson- We as adults need to facilitate and encourage them  to deliberate before jumping into rash actions.

Why do you want to take actions for the community I asked them.  They responded that we care about where we live. We are worried about the smaller children who see smoking and alcoholism and get into it at as young as 6-7 years of age. We do not want these children to ruin their future. Sneha, my co-facilitator observed, “ I am impressed how these young people want to do for their community. Now the space we are creating can give them a platform and confidence to take action.” “These meetings are also providing them an opportunity to share with each other”, added Ivanka

Whom do we invite in this conversation? The participants deliberated on whom to engage in conversations for a community they want to live in. They made a list of stakeholders and we decided to focus on primary stakeholders. They said that we need to invite children from grade six around 10-11 years old. They are very vulnerable and the participants felt that we need to start working at this tender age. It reaffirmed my belief that those affected by the issue know their situation best. Our role is to illuminate their collective concerns and hopes.  

Small changes in the participants-  Ivanka who takes computer classes sees small changes in the participants who are opening up and seem more confident in the classes. Ivanka also has used elements of appreciation in SALT in her teaching and she has found it helpful in improving the relation between some students. Lesson: Appreciation can help people realise their strengths and motivate them to take action. 

Co-facilitation with the boys and girls- In this meeting we asked them to take turns in capturing group inputs on the flipcharts.

Some ideas for the way forward

Saathi centre provides girls with access to vocational education and economic opportunities. Through CLCP,  girls’ group can help them build their  agency, strengthen social networks and self-esteem. Care India publication highlights these experiences- the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) notes that the youth development field is moving away from the model of one individual leader to a model of shared leadership. According to GSRI, this more inclusive and empowering approach is the one girls value most.“Youth programs have sought to serve youth as passive recipients, young people are now taking an active role in their personal and leadership development in organizations with a youth leadership approach.” Hart et al. shows how this may be done. The authors define leadership as “the capacity to guide others in the achievement of a common goal” 

However, peers groups are not sufficient, to shift deep-rooted gender norms and enable girls to realise their choices. So we are trying an ecological model to work with the boys, parents, families, friends and to engage with institutions like School Management committee (SMCs) to create an enabling environment for change.

 Adolescents’ are not a homogenous group, and considerations around age, order of birth, education, caste, poverty etc can affect their participation. We have to be mindful of who is excluded from our meetings. 

I noticed that in the mixed group meeting, girls did not bring up certain issues which they had discussed in the girls meeting. We can have separate groups for girls and boys and  bring the groups together at regular intervals to dialogue and share experiences. 

( I have included some of the learnings in blue font from an excellent publication by Care India, 2009 The Power to Lead: A Leadership Model for Adolescent Girls https://www.care.org/sites/default/files/documents/GE-2009-PW_Leade...)

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Comment by Phil on November 17, 2018 at 9:00pm

What I like is the way that you are given them time to let the boys and the girls to think through your questions and their answers to the questions. And I don't think this is particular to young people. I notice the same trait in myself. If I feel that I am being pushed into taking an action, I resist. I think that you are giving them time to make sense of their world in the light of your questions and their answers. 

I am enthusiastic to read the next episode....

Comment by Birgitta Schomaker on November 15, 2018 at 10:01pm

11-13 years old as stakeholders, a whole new perspective!

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on November 15, 2018 at 9:56pm

You will find two interesting things in the meeting held on 2nd Nov where the youth did stakeholder mapping. They identified 11-13 years old as stakeholders and our next meeting on 8th Nov with this age group proved how right the youth were.  People including the youth and children in the community have a lot of knowledge  as they live and experience it. our role is to help them reflect on this knowledge- this is what I have learned from the youth in SAATHI centre.

Comment by Birgitta Schomaker on November 15, 2018 at 8:03pm

"Why do you want to take actions for the community?"  What a great question, and the answer moves me: as young as they are, they care about their neighborhood. 

"... we asked them to take turns in capturing group inputs on the flipcharts." Wonderful how you involved everyone.

thanks for sharing, Rituu!


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