MASUM’s programme with groups of adolescent girls and boys at the village level aims at creating an environment conducive to harmonious human relationships based on gender equality, non-violence, religious and cross-cultural tolerance, and values of democracy. Two residential camps are held each year for adolescents and youth to encourage collective leadership qualities.
Through village and college based interactions, young people are encouraged to recast their self-image positively, evolve a self-affirming sexuality and gender identity, and learn negotiation skills on issues pertaining to their own lives. Believing that people have the right to decide whether, when, whom, how and for how long they wish to be married, MASUM coined the term FECH marriages to address Forced, Early, Child and Hasty marriages, all of which impinge upon people’s human rights, especially reproductive and sexual rights. Creating awareness within the community and enhancing youth led advocacy are some of the ways in which we continue to intervene on these issues. Empowered youngsters have challenged sexual harassment in schools, public places and inside the home during the past few years, creating the possibility for young people to question perpetrators.
Adolescent girls’ mobility and decision-making being rather restricted, trained teachers have been conducting computer training, tailoring classes for married and unmarried adolescent girls in Purandar taluka. During the training period girls learn cycling, physical exercises and yoga, self-defense techniques, information related to health, rights of women and relevant laws, as well as negotiation skills to stall early marriage. Already married young women use this space to make friends in their husbands’ villages and to be introduced to MASUM’s programmes.