In the latest of our series of Q&As by Douglas Imaralu, Douglas speaks to Franklin Paul, Restless Development India’s Values Champion and a Women Deliver Young Leader
What do young people and women have in common?
Both groups have been underrepresented in influencing pertinent global, national and local issues and have had to push for access. However, progress has been made, though much more still needs to change.
“This is a defining moment when women and youth make an alliance… with the potential to change the world,” says UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, speaking at the launch of the UN Women’s Youth and Gender Equality Strategy earlier in March 2016. But how are young people working to make this a reality? Enter Franklin Paul, who works as Monitoring, Evaluation and Research Manager at Restless Development, India. Franklin was instrumental in starting and leading the Comprehensive Sexuality Education program in two districts in the state of Bihar directly reaching more than 8,000 young people through 8 volunteers. He now works to ensure program quality through developing effective monitoring systems, trainings, and evaluations. During a recent visit to New York, Franklin had a chat with Douglas Imaralu, an Atlas Corps Fellow serving at Restless Development’s US Hub. Here’s what Franklin had to say.
I work as Monitoring, Evaluation and Research Manager at Restless Development India. My role allows me to work directly with diverse young people across India on issues that matter to them. Owing to my multi-lingual ability, I am also involved in training our new national volunteers at Restless Development, working with young people who are committed for a social change and training them on program roles always makes me happy and keeps me inspired.
One of the things I am most passionate about and have been working for in my various roles is Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, and more specifically on Comprehensive Sexuality Education. As a Women Deliver Young Leader, I got introduced to an amazing cohort of young people globally who share the same passion and are working on it in their own countries. I also got the opportunity to learn about various best practices followed in this field and share my work at Restless Development through the Women Deliver Young Leaders platform.
“Youth-led Development for me means that young people are involved in every aspect of the program cycle”
What does youth-led development mean to you? How does it differ from youth development/other development approaches?
Youth-led Development for me means that young people are involved in every aspect of the program cycle – from planning and conceptualization to its implementation and evaluation. This involvement must not be tokenistic – young people should be respected for their views, taken seriously and given platform for action. I believe that young people should be seen and considered as partners in development work rather than beneficiaries. In India, where more than 50% of our population is under the age of 25, this is important. This approach differs from other approaches as it values young people for their skills and potential and gives them the opportunity to contribute meaningfully. Although the approach invests in building their skills for program delivery, it gives young people ownership.
“I strongly believe having Comprehensive Sexuality Education is necessary for adolescent and young people so that they are not only aware but can take action to create a more equitable society.”
How do you feel about gender equity – specifically the state of girls, adolescents and women in relation to SRHR?
Gender Equity does matter, and it is essential if we wish to see more sustainable change. I believe that it is necessary for young boys and girls to be aware of the strengths of gender equality. India has long had a patriarchal culture and hence most of the adolescents lack awareness on this issue. This in turn has spiralled into many other problems that we face today, i.e. Child Marriage (1 in every 5 girl in India is married before the age of 18), disparities in accessing health services and education, limited mobility for girls and women. I strongly believe having Comprehensive Sexuality Education is necessary for adolescent and young people so that they are not only aware but can take action to create a more equitable society.
“Gender Bias is a major issue and it requires interventions at various levels from our own families, our workplace, to our national parliaments.”
How can young people address gender bias in the society?
Yes! Young people are leading and taking actions! Though often not recognized enough for their initiatives and action – they are doing it. Gender Bias is a major issue and it requires interventions at various levels from our own families, our workplace, to our national parliaments. Apart from ensuring that young people are aware of the negative effects of gender bias, we also need to advocate for policy changes with decision makers. Although policy changes require a lot of effort, it has the potential to impact many lives. I believe by coordinated efforts and networking among young activists and youth organizations we can make a strong case. We also need to be innovative in doing this – use more of technology and social media to mobilize support, lead offline and online campaigns, etc.
You were recently in New York for the Women Deliver Conference/UNGA. How did young people shape the outcomes of the conference? Were they leaders or mere participants?
I was recently in New York for a training workshop by Women Deliver, having been selected by Bayer and Women Deliver as one of 10 ‘World Contraception Day Ambassadors – 2016’. As part of this initiative, I will be receiving a seed grant of $5000 to design and implement an innovative project through Digital Storytelling about Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights of people in my community and country – my proposed project envisages to create digital stories of diverse young people from urban and rural india – boys, girls and transgender on their perspectives of access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Services. During my time in New York, I had the chance to learn about designing projects that are of high impact, technical and practical training on using digital tools. I shared and learned from other young leaders at the workshop. We also participated at various events on the sidelines of the UNGA. But more importantly, we led and designed the projects and were adequately supported by technical experts.
What lessons have your learnt working alongside young people? Any tips for engaging young people effectively?
My engagement with young people and youth organizations has shaped my opinions on youth work. I have learned that ‘youth work’ is very dynamic and stakeholders in the development sector need to be ready to change as per the trends of young people. For instance, stay updated with social media channels they use and design our messages in a way resonates with youth. I have also learnt how critical it is to involve young people while designing programs for them – they are the best advisors on what works/will not work. Also, in order to engage young people effectively we need to create more spaces that are youth friendly and accessible. Finally,we should share results of programmes and projects with young people and get their feedback…we must consider them as valuable partners, not beneficiaries.