Experiences from my internship at YUVA
After graduating as an architect, I worked as a professional for three years. While my education taught me sensibility and sensitivity around human habitation and how to manifest it into volumes and spaces, it failed to highlight that the service of my expertise is bound to be accessible to only those who can pay well. While I was working as an architect, I continued my exploration of what shelter, housing, and settlements mean in contemporary contexts beyond design, aesthetics, structure, and other physical parameters. This introduced me to various researchers, institutions, and think tanks as inspirational role models and guiding agents. Their consideration of housing as a basic human right, the necessity of its equitable access to all, and the incorporation of livelihood and access to basic social and physical infrastructure in its definition, deeply motivated me to pursue grassroots research aimed at devising bottom-to-top approach in its provision. This also led me to pursue a Masters in Planning in Housing as an attempt to gain professional education to feed my curiosities.
During this academic discourse, I stumbled upon the insightful reports by YUVA and the Indian Institute of Human Settlements, assessing the planning trajectories for slums in the cities of Ranchi (Jharkhand) and Bhubaneshwar (Odisha). I was keen to be a part of an institution so intently involved in a rights-based approach for habitation and intervening at the ground level. It was certainly a wish-come-true moment when I got selected for an internship at YUVA as a part of my Summer Internship.
My experience with YUVA opened my eyes to the diverse and vast range of social work taken under the organisation and their sincere commitment towards its execution. Due to the COVID-19 imposed restrictions, my exposure to their grassroots work was limited, however I was humbled by the efforts of the organization in minimising this gap. The internship was well programmed to maximise the trainee’s exposure to various involvements and activities, on-ground work, and a vast network of social activists and leaders in India.
I was assigned with the tasks of contributing to promote YUVA’s efforts on social media, using my creative and writing skills. This exposed me to an even wider range of issues faced by the marginalised in the country, especially in the urban areas. Assignments, like transcribing for video documentation, capturing the impact of COVID-19 on sexual minorities and other vulnerable sections of the population or, work done by YUVA members/youth leaders in making the government schemes easily accessible and comprehensible to people in need, while pushing through various challenges of street-level corruption showed YUVA’s serious intentions and grasp of the issues gained through its long-standing commitment to work for the rights of the affected and marginalised sections of our society.
I am quite grateful to my mentors at YUVA who guided and helped me a lot in understanding these issues and allowed me to widen my perspective around the complex nature and interdependency of these problems. Especially taking part in webinars on the discussion around forceful evictions, housing, and human rights, with participation from on-ground activists and researchers, was one of the most significant parts of the internship, which are going to stay with me forever. Having worked with such a dedicated organisation focused on the localisation of resources and collectivisation of people to assert their rights, with special attention on youth as leaders and agents of change has motivated me beyond words to stay focused in the pursuit of people-oriented academic discourse and has taught me sincere ways to approach the subject of habitation.
Himanshu Baranwal interned at YUVA from late May-mid July 2021