In the Indian society, the self-worth and potential of young people are primarily judged on the basis of good academic performance. Due to an education system which is highly based on rote memorization and competition and doesn’t leave much space to creativity and individual aspirations, students suffer high level of stress and anxiety, especially in case they are not able to perform as per societal expectations. Furthermore, the absence of structured and constructive platforms to guide and support them has led to a scenario where young people feel under-confident, directionless and are prone to falling prey to antisocial elements and addictions. Keeping the above in view, in 2003, Patang has launched the SMILE (Students Mobilization Initiative for Learning through Exposure) program, later renamed as “Pathmakers”, a transformative program based on experiential learning which gives college students first-hand exposure to grassroots realities and challenges them to broaden their perspectives on various social and economic issues. The idea behind it was to bring young people together, build their skills and support them to support each other.
The program aims at creating an alternative learning process for young people to develop their understanding about social issues, to recognize their potential and develop their skills to become responsible citizens. This journey from “isolation” to “participation” consists of three steps.
Isolation (Astitwa) – This is a forum for young people to meet, interact and work on various issues through interactive methods such as games, plays and exercises.
Assimilation (Vyaktitwa) – In this phase, students select an organization and participate in exposure visits during summer and winter vacations. In their host organization, they work on projects that help them interacting with the community.
Participation (Netrutwa) – On their return, participants present their experience in a feedback camp. This is an occasion for the students to come to know and to discuss about different kind of development initiatives all over the country.
Increased awareness of young people regarding social and economic issues such as caste and gender discrimination, corruption, road safety and environmental pollution.
Young people recognized as agents of change by the local community.
Strong cooperation built with the local administration.
From its experience in working with young people in Western
Odisha, Patang observed several challenges related to gender and SRHR. The major factors behind this situation are the lack of accessibility to scientific information and the absence of
non-judgmental spaces for young people to freely discuss on these topics. In 2014, Patang launched the Kasturi program focusing on three major goals:
Create a safe and empowering space for young people.
Build young people’s capacity to address gender and SRHR issues.
Facilitate the access to information and these services on these issues by supporting volunteers in the local communities.
The Kasturi program is structured around five components:
Anubhav Shiksha Kendra – This is a youth-led space which aims at involving people from the local community and facilitating discussions to build awareness for social change.
Community Gender Resource Center – The Center is a platform for young people to access material about gender and sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) and to discuss about these topics.
Certificate Course in Youth Facilitation – In this course, special attention is given to gender and SRHR topics and to the enhancement of design, facilitation and leadership skills.
Making Change Makers – This program aims at building leadership for social change among adolescents (aged from 13 to 15 years old) by providing them with the skills necessary to play an active role in the society.
Yuva Sarathi – A volunteering program where young people are given an opportunity to act and innovate in their community for positive social change.
Developed capacities of young volunteers on gender and SRHR issues and on taking leadership in awareness campaigns and other programs.
Significant attitude shift of boys and family members towards girls and women.
Developed partnerships with several NGOs in different states to develop workshops and training session on gender and SRHR subjects.