MAVA's youth initiative ‘Yuva Maitri’ is currently featured prominently as an example of ‘Best Practice in Public Service Delivery’ at Government of India’s website. Click on this link for more details: indiagovernance.gov.in/bestpractices.php?id=712
Yuva Maitri : Landmark Initiative Engaging Young Men, since 2006
The initiative began in August 2006, when 33 male students ( of 18 - 19 years’ age-group) from 6 rural and semi-rural colleges in Pune district, having leadership skills and creative potential, were selected and intensely trained as ‘Communicators’ for a year. A wide range of youth-friendly and innovative, cost-effective communications media like interactive group-discussions, games, awareness-songs, posters, film-screenings, street-theatre, exposure-visits, youth-meets, debates and attractive wall-newspapers (monthly, every issue focusing on one gender theme) were used as part of the intensive one-year training.
In the second year of the initiative, 17 trained student communicators began communicating with their peers on gender, healthy relationships, masculinity and related matters. Weekly awareness sessions (one to one and a half hours each) were conducted by them in groups in their respective colleges, from mid-August to December 2007. Through experiential learning, personal dialogue and revisiting formation of gender norms, they provided platforms to communicate with peers using all the youth-friendly media (used in the first year) extensively. They conducted several outreach programs for general student population (including girl students) and the neighboring community. These included film-screenings followed by an interaction, street-plays, Inter-Collegiate and Inter-District debates and focused group-discussions. Wall newspapers were prepared and displayed prominently by the communicators on varied themes like Male-Female Friendship, Ban on Sex Education in schools, Farmers’ Suicides, Sex-selective Abortions, Women and Anaemia. There were stimulated discussions, comments and contributions by many peers on wall-newspapers. From time to time, the trained communicators also took specific stands on incidents of gender-based violence against women in their area through rallies and public protest demonstrations (here too, female classmates joined them voluntarily) appealing several young men to join their campaign. Throughout the initiative, students were encouraged to raise questions, doubts and seek clarifications on a wide range of gender matters covered. A booklet, answering key 40 questions was published and later copies of the same distributed to several students across Pune district.
With the help of this team, the initiative has been gradually spreading to other 4 districts of Maharashtra : Mumbai (since August 2008), Satara and Kolhapur (since June and July 2009 respectively) and later to Buldana, Bhandara and Nagpur districts (2011).
A rich pool of over 400 male facilitators have been generated through this landmark youth initiative. These self-motivated and committed youth leaders (in their twenties) are mentoring and inspiring their peers and men in communities, spreading messages on the rights of women to safety and dignity. These youths have been questioning gender stereotypes and intervening on incidents of discrimination meted out to women in their personal lives and while setting up example of positive role models through their changed outlook towards women, they have been engaging hundreds of other young men in their neighborhood to address gender matters. Collaborations for this youth initiative with grassroots voluntary organizations, youth bodies and Universities in 7 districts of Maharashtra State has shown a very positive impact and gives reassurance that young men can play a key role in preventing gender-based violence.
‘YuvaMaitri’ youth initiative was selected as Grand Winner for providing most innovative solution to Preventing Violence Against Women, at a global competition organized by AshokaChangemakers, US in 2010 among 155 entries received worldwide.
Taking note of the Yuva Maitri initiative, MAVA team has been asked to conduct several trainings and workshops on gender and sexual health for various groups of Men across Maharashtra.
In 2014, MAVA would be up-scaling this youth initiative at a national level through Gender-Sensitization and Advocacy Workshops for groups of young men in 3 newer cities and enable many young men promote a wider, healthy dialogue on issues of gender, sexual health, masculinities and violence.