Sunday, 19 July, 2009

DAY 2- 26th July 2009 – What Does Your Vote Want?

What Does Your Vote Want?’ Is a non political, non partisan project both initiated and run by young people in 2008 that aims at sensitizing young voters, by giving them relevant and necessary information regarding the Indian Electoral System. The project successfully registered more than 4000 people in Delhi and Raipur, Chhattisgarh.

The natural question, post Elections 2009, is what next? How do we make young people active in governance processes? What Does Your Vote Want now goes on to launch a platform for governance accountability in collaboration with the India Habitat Centre, where the young people can directly dialogue with representatives from government to discuss their key issues and concerns.

In collaboration with the India Habitat Centre and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, The YP Foundation is looking to explore and understand the role of the RTI Act in governance accountability through an interactive discussion entitled "The Right to Information = the Right to Accountability? Exploring the RTI Act", the first forum in this series.

The RTI Act has been an interesting success story in India. The forum examines the current status of the Act, it’s role as a tool of governance, accountability and transparency. With the current proposed amendments on the act by the Centre, it is critical to bring together organizations working with the act, experts in this field, representatives from the government and young people to examine the last four years of functioning of the Act and where it stands currently.

The audience comprises of youth from across the city, with the following speakers confirmed:

§ Mr. Salman Khurshid, Minister of State for Corporate Affairs and Minority Affairs (Independent Charge) in the Government of India, writer and lawyer.

§ Wajahat Habibullah, Chief Information Commissioner

§ Shekhar Singh, RTI expert, part of NCPRI

§ Manish Sisodia, Kabir

§ Representatives, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan

Chayan Adhikari (Vocalist: Advaita), will conclude the discussion with a performance.

Venue: Amaltas Hall, The India Habitat Centre
Event Partner: Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative & India Habitat Centre

DAY-1 25th July, 2009 – What The YP Stands For

· In Concert: A performance by Swarathma, a leading music band in the country. Swarathma was formed in 2002, as a Bangalore based Indian Folk/fusion band. They released their debut album on Virgin Records and were nominated for the Jack Daniels Indian Rock Awards in 2008. Winners of the Radio City Live 2006 nation wide content for Bangalore’s Best Band in 2006 and were finalists for the Radio City Live content for India’s best Hindi Band. In 2008 Swarathma recorded for a compilation album funded by the British Council. They have performed both in India and internationally.

· In Exhibit: 7 Years of The YP: Artwork, paintings, photography and installation art showcasing young people’s work with the issues we work with.

· In Film: Digital Stories by the YP’s Youth-led Staff: featuring staff members' journeys with The YP Foundation, on what it means to run a youth-led organization and projects that create social change. Supported by the Global Fund for Children and the Centre for Digital Storytelling, USA.

Venue: The Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre

Tuesday, 14 July, 2009

Backyard Sound: Why I work with original music in Delhi

Three years ago my friend dragged me to a concert at the India Habitat Centre to volunteer for this “youth organisation” called the YP. Well, I thought the organisation was actually Silhouette, a branch of the YP, and the difference has since been pointed out to me more times than I can count. He told me there was a band called Thermal and A Quarter playing at the Amphitheatre, so called because they comprised four guys, three of whom were “mallu” and the fourth a quarter mal. Now I know you’re expecting me to rave about how it was a life changing experience, how I fell in love with Original Indian bands and the YP and decided to give my life to working for the branch I currently head. Well you would be sorely mistaken. In came final year exams and pressure from my parents, and out went anything that kept me away from the books. But where there is a will there is a way. I kept myself involved with the YP as best as I could, being called in once in a while to help with projects or lend my acting skills (humble though they may be) to a short film or two.

After I graduated from college I suddenly realised that I had a lot of time on my hands and no way to use it productively. I had joined the Law Faculty of Delhi University, where extra-curricular activities are pretty much non-existent. I had all this passion and energy and nothing to funnel it into. Around the same time The YP Foundation (or, if you would rather, TYPF), no longer the Youth Parliament I remembered, had its 6th Anniversary Celebration. I tagged along with some friends to the India Habitat Centre, a place I have come to see as a third home now (the second being the old Defence Colony Office). As my friends went through the elaborate exhibition, looking for their grinning faces amongst the sea of photographs, I found myself most envious. I wanted that. I wanted to work with other young people who thought like I did, liked the same music, and had a passion for the arts. I wanted to see my mug in an exhibition, take pride in a poster I helped design or the performance of a band I helped pick. So as soon as Raghu Dixit and Them Clones finished a brilliant set each, I set out to enquire when the next YP Induction was. I wanted to sign up!

It has been almost a year now since that day. I have experiences that have been enriching and draining; wonderful and also completely ball-busting. I have had the privilege to meet many passionate and exciting people, all driven by the common goal of working for what drives them, though the actual medium may differ. This past year has also been quite an eye-opener. Up till the TAAQ concert, I had heard of bands like Zero, Half Step Down and PDV but had never gone to any of their gigs. The closest I had come was downloading Bandeh off the net. Not because I couldn’t, mind you. Being in college, getting into bars or pubs wasn’t that hard (the fact that at this point I could grow a decent goatee definitely helped). I didn’t go because I didn’t think they were worth it. Like many of the people whose minds I am now working to change, I couldn’t be bothered to give artists like them a chance. I fantasised about bands like Metallica and Red Hot Chilli Peppers coming to India, and paying 1500-3000 Rupees for a chance to see them, rather than take a 15 minute drive to a pub and see these guys perform. In my mind, the bigger the venue, the bigger the band. Surely a band that performed in a small dark smoky bar couldn’t be all that great, right?

I have since been mesmerised as acts like Indian Ocean, Swarathma, Raghu Dixit, East India Company and Five8 have taken the stage. The last of these in fact is a band featuring two of my colleagues and friends from YP. It is an amazing realisation that talent like this has existed right in our backyards and yet so many of us have not given it a second thought, for whatever reason. Things are changing, slowly maybe, but they are. Every week I hear a new song by an Original Indian artist on the radio; I catch videos by Them Clones or Indian Ocean on VH1; I see an album by a Swarathma or Raghu Dixit in Music Planet. I wouldn’t think to presume that I have any great role to play in this evolution, but I am happy that I am trying to do my part. As a young “Music Enthusiast” I am proud that the people from my city, and from my country, are taking a chance to pursue their passion. And I am proud to support them in whatever way I can. Even if it’s just by standing in the crowd with a lighter shouting my lungs out.

Zafar Khurshid

Sunday, 12 July, 2009

Blending Spectrum: On Location

The first day I walked into the Nizamuddin basti as a volunteer in August 2007, a group of excited children came running towards me and asked me if I was a new didi. Then each one of them eagerly introduced themselves to me and greeted me; some brought flowers, some gave me a hug, and some just could not help smiling. It is that one experience that has stayed with me ever since, and makes me go back to Nizamuddin again and again. Over the past two years I have seen many volunteers come and go but, like me, those who decide to stay on are the ones who built that very special bond with the children.

The Nizamuddin basti is a rag-picker colony with about thirty families living in it, some Muslim and others Hindu. Because of their economically disadvantaged background, the upbringing of these children is often unpleasant. Frustration caused by the lack of basic necessities in the area is released through violence, and in their years of innocence these children are exposed to a much darker side of life than we ever are.

A slum child’s eagerness to learn gives us all the positive energy we need, on location. After about two months of teaching the children about hygiene, one day this little girl at the basti came up to me and showed me her hands. She told me that she had washed them because she did not want to fall ill. That, for me, was by far one of the most heartening experiences.

Still, there are some problems we encounter on a daily basis. The attitude of the parents is one such problem: they are not always comfortable letting outsiders interact so closely with their children, but this attitude is changing as the parents are beginning to understand what we are doing and why we are doing it.

Communal tension is another problem that we have tried to address over the years as these children imbibe intolerance to other religions from their home environments. This attitude is difficult to deal with as it is deep rooted and reinforced by families, however we have been able to address it to the extent that whatever their home environment may be like our classroom is a place of secular learning where they sit together and work with each other.

The change I see is very slow, but the trust a child builds in me gives me the courage to do what I am doing and have a vision for these smiling faces.

Devyani Dutt

Saturday, 11 July, 2009

TYPF Birthday Teaser

What happens when you take forty young people, put them in a room, and let them design projects about the issues that matter to them?

What happens when you give young people the skills and the self-belief to actually make a difference to the world around them?

What happens when you try to bottle the madness, the creativity, and the excitement with which the youth works, and use it to inspire others?

What makes so many young people come and work insane hours, day after day, despite how much it annoys their families and friends?

We, The YP Foundation, have been doing it for seven years now, and we discover a new answer for these questions each year, with every new team and with every new project. TYPF is a space where young people are given a chance to design and run projects about the issues that they’re passionate about. These issues range from governance and the law to sexuality, health, rights and HIV/AIDS; from original music in India to adolescent issues in schools; from using film and literature for social change to working with urban slum children.

We first used to be The Youth Parliament, now we’re registered as The YP Foundation, and we’re turning seven this July. And on this occasion, we have taken a stab at defining what The YP means. What it means to our staff, to our volunteers, to our alumni, to our stakeholders and to our audience.

So, come join us in celebrating seven years of our work, seven years of social change, and see the evolving answers to the questions we posed in the beginning of this post.

Venue: India Habitat Centre
Date: 25th and 26th July, 2009

Wednesday, 8 July, 2009

Current Projects

A few of the projects that are currently functioning in the YP are:

1. The Blending Spectrum Project which works with providing healthcare and non-formal education in the form of certain life-skills training (hygiene, memory etc) to urban street children in Delhi. We work with a team of 30 volunteers and reach out to over 110 children over our two locations: the Nizamuddin Basti (South Delhi) and the Sarai Hostel (North Delhi).

2. Project 19 is a 3 year long initiative set up to work with young people on the issues of HIV/AIDS and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights. By training young people in Delhi to conduct awareness workshops and discussions around issues of sexuality, gender, identity and sexual reproductive health we are helping to break down the culture of silence and taboo around these issues and provide spaces where accurate information can be disseminated to young people.

3. The Butterfly Project provides young film-makers and writers with the training, resources and platforms to engage with socio-cultural issues through audio-visual and written mediums. Through the publication of our magazine, The Bridge and our annual film festival - The Film Series, we provide young people with alternative mediums to connect with issues they are passionate about and work towards social change and justice.

4. The RTI Programme provides young people with a space to engage with the legislative systems in our country, demystifying the laws, their application and the political process as a whole with the larger aim of encouraging a culture of active citizenship amongst the youth. The project undertaken by this branch is What Does Your Vote Want?, a non-partisan, non-political initiative set up to prepare young people for the upcoming General Elections, be it by providing them with the necessary information required to get registered as a voter, or by creating dialogue for young people to discus issues around politics, governance and voting.

5. VOICES - The School Project looks at taking the education programmes for school students beyond the formal structure of the classroom by conducting specialized awareness workshops on issues of peer-pressure, bullying and mental heath. Through these workshops, conducted by college students who act as peer-educators, VOICES aims at developing an informed decision making capacity and stronger life skills for adolescent students in urban Delhi schools.

6. Silhouette supports young people working in the fields of performing and visual arts by providing them with a platform to showcase their work, and a space to exchange ideas, information and innovation between artists, amateurs, professionals and enthusiasts. This year, Silhouette is focusing on issues of music education and careers in music through conducting workshops and organizing performance platforms.

More information about these projects will be available soon, please subscribe via email for further updates.

Monday, 6 July, 2009

The YP Foundation and Sexuality Rights Online in India

TYPF's Ishita Sharma and Ishita Chaudhry talk about building awareness about sexuality rights online.