Youth Grassroot Leadership for social, political and economic justice

Deepa Pawar
Posted July 27, 2018 from India
Girls Leading Street Play
Girls Leading Street Play: With girls as they perform street play to advocate for better public toilets (1/6)

Deepa began working as a social activist when she was 14 years old. Belonging to a nomadic tribe (de-notified tribe) who are extremely vulnerable socially, politically and economically in India, she has closely seen, experienced, fought against and overcome gender-based and caste-based violence. It is this background that has driven her activism, taught her strategies and developed her leadership since a very young age.

As she started developing lenses of gender, class and caste oppressions, Deepa realised that the people who are affected by these are best suited to solve them in the most equitable way possible. She thus began working to develop grassroot leadership.

While she consistently grew and overcame deep challenges in her personal life, professionally she began forming youth groups and started mentoring / training them. She also identified that these young people must work in collaboration with other stakeholders such as their parents, peers, community leaders as well as government systems. Deepa therefore started forming women’s groups who can support the youth’s initiatives in their areas and started participating in campaigns – networks of NGOs and individuals who advocate with relevant government departments to bring about systemic and policy level change to solve a certain issue. She made sure that the youth and women’s groups were also engaging with relevant government bodies, officials or elected members so as to collaborate with the democratic system and bring about concrete change. 

During this work, Deepa met other like-minded women who were working in the grassroot for organic change. All of them shared the common experience of being socio-politically active since a young age. Anubhuti was thus formed. In the last two years, the organisation has reached over 10000 people with its programs on Youth Leadership, Sexual & Reproductive Health, Mental Health, Women's Economic Empowerment and sensitization of Boys & Men.

Today, youth leadership forms her core expertise area. In almost two decades of work, she has formed youth groups who have gone on to form their own organisations and be one of the accepted leaders in their areas whom people approach when in need. Young men in these groups mentored by her have taken difficult stands in family and community for rights of choice, education and career for their sisters and wives. Some have given up abuse of drugs. Both young women and men in her mentorship have helped stop public sexual harassment in their community. Local leaders and community religious leaders have changed their views on gender rights having been influenced by the work of these youth. Young women living in a home for trafficked and homeless have overcome severe trauma and started pursuing avenues for their development. Youth mentored by her are part of national campaigns for equal rights of sanitation, food and dignity and they are successfully bringing these campaigns to the grassroot by implementing them in their own communities.

Deepa is a core team member of the national and internationally acclaimed Right to Pee campaign which is a grassroot young women-led campaign for safe, accessible, dignified public toilets for women, girls, trans persons and the disabled. Similarly, she is also part of various rights-based campaigns such as for food, water, housing, unorganised workers’ rights and so on. She is invited as an expert trainer by other organisations, corporates and government departments. She writes in newspapers and magazines, speaks on news channels about issues, and advocates with government officials and political leaders for their sensitivity and support. Her work has been recognised nationally and internationally such as by the CII Foundation’s Women Exemplar Award 2018 in which she was a finalist in the area of Health, and by UC Berkeley’s Tell Her Story contest, in which she is the Grand Prize winner for her work in sexual & reproductive rights.

Deepa has worked closely in the area of economic empowerment of women and girls, which is from the perspective of developing women and girls’ capacities, their understanding of rights in the workplace, and their leadership in attaining these rights as well as advocating with relevant government departments regarding the same. It is also from the perspective of social justice for vulnerable populations, equitable development of marginalized regions and communities and advocating for safer and more accessible workplaces which shall enable the overall social and economic empowerment of women and girls. As the rest of her work, this is also informed by the principles of grassroot, collective and feminist leadership.

 

Comments 10

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Jill Langhus
Jul 28, 2018
Jul 28, 2018

Hi Deepa,

Welcome to World Pulse:-) Thanks for sharing all of the awesome work that you have done, what your initiatives are, and what you're passionate about. Some really great work that you are doing in your country... I applaud you, and your work! I'm following your organization now on Facebook and Twitter.

You may want to write and submit your story for the current story awards "Wealth of Women:" https://www.worldpulse.com/en/voices-rising/story-awards/85951. Be sure to include your social links and website. (ends July 31)

Also, you may want to apply for the following awards/prizes:
https://www.girlrising.com/challenge (ends August 15)
https://amplifychange.org/grant-model/network/ (ends July 31)

Additionally, you may to collaborate with other amazing individuals that are creating a lot of positive change in your country, too, on the "Community" page, if you haven't already: https://www.worldpulse.com/en/my-pulse/community. You may want to connect with Urmila: https://www.worldpulse.com/en/community/users/urmila-chanam, and/or Safecity:
https://www.worldpulse.com/en/community/users/safecity

Good luck, and hope you have a great day!!!

Deepa Pawar
Aug 31, 2018
Aug 31, 2018

Thank you so much! These are such important resources, will surely follow up on these!

Jill Langhus
Aug 31, 2018
Aug 31, 2018

You're very welcome:) I think they have all expired now, but there will be more. Have a great day!

Tamarack Verrall
Jul 30, 2018
Jul 30, 2018

Dear Deepa,

Beginning at 14! What an amazing activist you are. Your story is a study in how to develop truly grassroots activism. How great that you have been recognized for your work internationally. A big welcome to WorldPulse. Here you will meet many who are deeply committed to social change, as you are. In addition to those Jill has suggested, I am sure that meeting Kirthi Jayakumar would be a mutual celebration if you haven't come across each other already. I hope that we can be wind beneath your beautiful wings.

In sisterhood,
Tam

Deepa Pawar
Aug 31, 2018
Aug 31, 2018

Yes, it will be wonderful to meet such activists and connect with them - very important for movement-building. Will look for her on WorldPulse.

Solidarity and Sisterhood

Laila_Oakland
Aug 30, 2018
Aug 30, 2018

Hi Deepa,
It's great to be connected to you via CIP. I know I will learn so much working with you through this program. Your work and presence are inspiring.

Deepa Pawar
Aug 31, 2018
Aug 31, 2018

Really glad to have met you too through CIP!

Jeanine Becker1
Sep 02, 2018
Sep 02, 2018

Inspired by your work and I look forward to following you as you share more on World Pulse! <3

Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi

Hi Deepa,
Thank you so much for your post. You are surely doing amazing work. Looking forward to more of your posts.
Have a great day

SIMON MUREU
Apr 20
Apr 20

you have done wonderful work --thanks