In India, adolescents reach the legal working age of 14 when in Class 9. Many drop out after the compulsory eight years of school, or earlier, leading to a skills deficit. Youth unemployment due to lack of skills and poverty is a long term challenge for India. In a study carried out by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in 2018, where 150,000 youth appeared for an Employability Skills Test across domains, only 41% were found employable. The Census of India shows that youth from poorer strata of society are not in the labor force due to a lack of resources, skills, familial constraints, and their poor economic conditions. The state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) has the lowest per capita GDP ($289) of India’s 28 states. UP’s literacy rate of 69.72% is India’s eighth lowest state. UNESCO in its 2018 report noted that most children drop out of school with leading the ranking with 1.6 million out of school children in India among other states. After the implementation of the Right to Educate Act, school enrollment rates went up in UP, yet learning outcomes and attendance rates in secondary school remain poor (65.5%). A fourth of UP’s 200 million people are between five at 14 years- India’s largest child population- but the state has the fewest teachers per student ratio, the poorest transition rate from primary to upper primary school and amongst the lowest learning outcomes in the country.
A UNICEF sponsored South Asia regional study, “All Children in School”, noted that UP, among 4 other states, has significantly higher rates of girl dropout than the national average. It says that school exclusion is “considerably more prevalent among Muslim and Dalit (formerly known as untouchables) children”- girls attend the poorest performing educational institutions because their families prefer to invest in the education of boys, and face family and social pressure to get married. Girls are pressured to accept certain kinds of jobs, significantly reducing their career options. Sadbhavana Trust’s program addresses the needs of young people from low-income and marginalized communities. Girls there face deep, cultural and religious barriers to pursue their life and career plans. They often have witnessed or faced violence in families and communities. They are vulnerable to early or forced marriage, coupled with lack of access to education, information, skills, and restrictive attitudes, leaving them little or no opportunity to learn about or make informed choices in their lives.
Emergencies and pandemics are known to lead to large scale psychosocial impact. The psychological impact may include emergency or pandemic-induced distress (e.g. fear of the virus, death anxiety, diffused anxiety which is future oriented, grief, physical isolation of individuals, families or communities leading to non-pathological distress and mental health problems in a small minority), worsening of pre-existing problems (e.g. severe mental disorder; alcohol abuse) and humanitarian aid-related problems (e.g. anxiety due to a lack of information about food distribution). The social problems on the other hand include pre-emergency social problems (e.g. poverty; economic disparities, being a member of a group that is discriminated against or marginalised; political subjugation); emergency-induced social and economic problems (e.g. drastic decline of income generation, economic crisis, family separation; disruption of social networks; destruction of community fabric, resources and trust; increased violence against women and girls); and humanitarian aid-induced social problems (e.g. undermining of community structures or community’s existing support mechanisms). While emergencies are likely to affect masses, certain groups of individuals such as women, children, elderly, poor, migrants, frontline workers, marginalised and those with pre-existing vulnerabilities etc., are likely to be disproportionately affected by the emergencies.
Surviving a catastrophe requires resilience of the spirit, not just the body. The template for the emotional and social wellbeing of these children is already being formed as alienation, parental job losses, deaths of family members, educational disruptions, domestic violence, forced home confinement, sexual violence, trafficking, child marriage, excessive digital exposure and warped human interactions have plunged the children of India, and humanity as a whole into an almost insurmountable crisis.
A UNICEF report in March 2020 projects that when audited, India will have the highest number of Covid-19 related deaths among children under five, and the highest number of maternal deaths in South Asia in 2020; 29,0000 such mortalities have already occurred in the region. “The number of children who are hungry, isolated, abused, anxious, living in poverty and forced into marriage has increased. At the same time, their access to education, socialisation and essential services, including health, nutrition and protection, has decreased. The signs that children will bear the scars of the pandemic for years to come are unmistakable,” says a worried Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.
Sadbhavana Trust was formed in 1990 by a group of women who worked on empowering and enabling women laborers through education in urban areas of Delhi and UP. In 2000, Sadbhavana Trust began working with Muslim women and adolescent girls in lower-income areas in the old city of Lucknow, including Charbagh, Talkotara, Daliganj. Sadbhavana Trust aims to support Dalit and Muslim females with limited access to education, resources and financial means with a goal to empower them through capacity building skills and leadership development. Their programs are spread across three major areas: 1) A skill development program for girls focused on computer skills, gender rights, videography, and photography and film-making to help them transition to higher education and employment, 2) Provide legal aid and counseling to survivors of GBV and facilitate economic rehabilitation of survivors of communal violence, 3) Mobilizing youth-led community-based social actions. Sadbhavana Trust partnered with EMpower grantee CREA in 2017, to develop their Skill development program for adolescent girls. This program focuses on building capacities of females in non-traditional skills such as computers, videography, photography, and film-making and connect them with opportunities to gain job exposure in these fields. The population that Sadbhavana Trust works with are adolescent girls studying in government schools or pursuing education through open schools. They belong to low-income urban families. Most of the students belong to vulnerable minorities such as Muslim and Dalit households. By partnering with NGO’s, schools and social enterprises, they work at the intersection of education and livelihoods to provide females with marketable skills and job exposure. They have plans to expand their work in UP in the next five years. Hameeda Khatoon is the director of Sadbhavana Trust and a dynamic leader. She holds a Masters in Social Work and has more than 10 years of experience working with female collectives, and leading youth groups on issues of gender-based violence, digital storytelling, leadership development and community research design.
EMpower’s 1st grant to Sadbhavana Trust will support 70 females from 4 resource-poor communities of Lucknow to gain employability skills and life skills.
EMpower’s small grant to Sadhbhavna will enable them to provide mental health and emotional wellbeing support to 200 young women in their communities along and will be able to provide COVID related relief support.
Primary Location: Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
Funded Since: 2019
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