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Reflections and expressions galore!

YUVA changes you. YUVA keeps you youthful. YUVA means no worries. YUVA is perseverance. YUVA is inclusive. YUVA means do something new. YUVA is fearless and bold. YUVA is an opportunity. YUVA is diversity …

Reflections poured in on the statement — what does YUVA mean to you — from those who have been with YUVA since its founding day to newly joined employees. The reflections were varied and its timing was significant — on the occasion of YUVA’s 35th founding day. The poignant and candid expressions reflected how YUVA has touched lives, not just in areas where the work is located and among marginalised communities, but within its own staff too, as they take forward the work every day.

Notes of gratitude to one another on YUVA Day

Preparations for YUVA 35 began weeks in advance, with communities sharing their experiences while engaging with YUVA over the years, and the impact the organisation has had on them. Watch the clip below to know more.

We reached out to 1,000+ individuals associated with YUVA in over 15 communities and beyond, and interacted with 20+ community based organisations. In late July, we reached out to the people, asking them to share their YUVA experiences and we were heartened with the 30+ accounts we received, which were published as a 5-part YUVA Meri Nazar Mein series (#1, #2, #3, #4, #5).

Reflections were just one part of the YUVA 35 celebrations organised at YUVA Centre, Kharghar, on 31 August 2019. The staff and Board Members undertook a visioning and planning exercise to further strengthen our work for the times ahead.

Songs and discussions at YUVA 35 celebrations

YUVA 35 also offered us the chance to connect with all our well-wishers, present our work in innovative formats and express gratitude for people’s unstinting support over the years. The Centre took on a festive look, with multiple creative exhibitions of our work across the spaces. Interactive displays revealed the depth of our interventions on habitat, livelihood, towards upholding child rights and youth rights, and efforts on media advocacy. Panels also depicted highlights from YUVA’s journey over 35 years.

Being Homeless, gave a glimpse of insecure living and the hardships faced daily by millions
Insecure Housing and Forced Evictions recreated a home in an informal settlement with its everyday objects, to offer a glimpse into lived realities
Establishing Citizenship through Documentation revealed the painstaking way in which people’s identities are claimed in cities, and how insecurities in housing and livelihood (such as issues of forced evictions) often lead to the loss of hard-won legal entitlements
Struggles to access basic services like water revealed how marginalised communities labour daily to access a basic necessity
Informal Work as Street Vendors and Construction Workers, the City Builders, highlighted how the city’s informal workforce constantly negotiate for their right to work
Models, illustrations and graphic representations of YUVA’s work by students of School of Environment and Architecture enriched the exhibitions further

Minar Pimple, YUVA’s founder, mentioned how the exhibition helped him view ‘housing’ as a verb rather than a noun, to see what it does rather than what it is.

Sara Shirodkar, who had interned with YUVA in 2018, mentioned how the authenticity and attention to detail paid in setting up the installations helped better reveal how closely YUVA works with people and communities.

The exhibits on YUVA’s work with youth displayed the energy and exuberance which is characteristic of young people.

At the Just-a-Minute session zone, participants were blindfolded, asked to reach a grid without stepping on to the line and talk about the topic given
The youth café was a space for the youth to come and spend time and share experiences with their peers
The manually-operated, handmade bioscope, Halkat Nazar presented some stereotypical visualisations associated with the youth (the youth are lazy, they are prone to addiction, etc) to question these assumptions and better think about how the youth can be engaged with constructively

‘The space looks vibrant and attractive. The whole notion of trust and warmth with the community is coming out very well through the exhibitions. The best part is that this is a youth exhibition and a space managed by the youth’, said Kajol Menon, Co-founder, child rights organisation, Leher.

‘The entire space is done beautifully. I didn’t have much knowledge and idea about YUVA’s history and work related to housing, but I got the essence of the work in a very short period of time’, said Subhabrata Biswas from AkzoNobel.

Exhibits on YUVA’s work with children were creatively displayed too.

The hopscotch game took participants through the concepts of the Child Protection Committee, further explained by members of children’s collective, Bal Adhikar Sangarsh Sangathan
The Childline stall better explained the functioning of the 1098 helpline for children in distress across the country

Bodean Hedwards, Manager — Global Immersion Guarantee Programme, Monash University, particularly liked how the exhibition was ‘accessible’ to different people, whether through visual representation, written explanations or dialogues in local languages. ‘I cannot wait to see what YUVA will achieve in the next 35 years!’ she said.

YUVA’s Urban Resource Centre had a wall dedicated to media coverage of YUVA’s interventions over the years, and black and white photographs on Mumbai’s water challenges were displayed. Typewriters, cameras and other equipment used over the years to record issues and stories were on display.
Panels displaying highlights from YUVA’s work over 35 years drew a steady crowd, and many viewers shared their YUVA memories

A celebratory event was organised in the evening, which saw the launch of Isliye Raah Sangharsh Ki Hum Chune (Why We Choose The Path of Struggle), a book detailing YUVA’s journey over the years, from the young group that sought to build youth leaders in Mumbai to the organisation that we are today. Another book launched was a photographic presentation of our holistic village transformation efforts in Akola, Maharashtra.

Some more glimpses from the evening are present below.

Celebratory events were full of energy, vibrancy and enthusiasm proving to be the perfect end to the day

35 years of unwavering commitment to social transformation allows the path towards lasting social change to reveal itself more clearly, although with new and emergent challenges. 35 years ago, we set out with a lot of ideas and optimism to do our best towards people’s empowerment. Over the years, numerous frameworks and concepts were practically tested and adapted as per contextual needs. From the learnings, failures and milestones arrived at, further strategies were put in place to guide the work and take it forward. What has always set YUVA apart is the organisation’s holistic effort towards social transformation, with integrated interventions to tackle challenges of inadequate habitats and livelihoods, to empower children, youth, women and marginalised persons across locations. 35 years later, a lot still remains to be done. What remains unchanged, however, is the commitment to people’s empowerment and the energies and spirit to drive efforts towards that in every way.

With inputs from Debolina Roy, Anuja Sirohi, Madhumita Raghavan, Ashna Ghosh and Sneha Tatapudy. All photographs by Jimit Dhanudharmi.

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