Some highlights from 36 years of driving change
As we step into another year with renewed spirit and commitment, we reflect on our journey of over three decades.
First Decade (1984–1994)
On 30 August 1984, Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA) is formally established as a non-profit development organisation committed to helping marginalised people access their rights. With 23-year-old Minar Pimple at the helm, among YUVA’s first efforts are developing youth leadership in communities.
In the formative years, YUVA’s efforts focus on community organising and building youth capacity in Jogeshwari, and working with pavement dwellers in Cross Maidan to help them tackle evictions and associated challenges (police harassment, difficulty in accessing schools on eviction, lack of access to basic services, etc). YUVA works with the marginalised across age groups — children, youth, women etc.
With massive evictions and deportations of pavement dwellers in Mumbai in 1986, YUVA initiates the city-level Committee for Right to Housing and the National Campaign on Housing Rights.
YUVA further develops the model of integrated work on related human rights issues, from interventions on housing rights to women’s rights, youth and children’s rights and later informal worker rights across the city of Mumbai.
A Legal Resource Centre is set up in 1989 to address injustice arising from evictions, violation of rights pertaining to housing, labour and basic amenities, violence against women, and so on.
Training is an important focus area from the start. YUVA anchors a Youth Animators Training Programme to build youth capacities, and an Urban Animators Training Programme (UATP) to help those from marginalised communities acquire important self-development and community organising skills. The Anubhav Shiksha Kendra (ASK) programme offers youth training and exposure on diverse socio-political and development issues.
In 1990, YUVA sets up an open shelter for street children, named Ghar Ho Toh Aisa by the resident boys. The shelter remains functional till 2004.
With the announcement of the New Economic Policy in June 1991, YUVA rethinks its strategic approach to develop as a People Centred Collaborative Institution helping secure rights through the development of People’s Organisations, and build assets of the poor through People’s Institutions.
YUVA develops 5 non-negotiable core values that would be the underlying principles of the work — Social Justice, Gender Justice, Secularism and Democracy, Honesty and Integrity, Environmental Sustainability — and 11 levels of intervention for a multi-pronged approach to change.
YUVA develops a demonstrative model for housing development using the Community Action Planning methodology. Our work in Sewadal Nagar, Nagpur, where the community collectively resists their eviction by collectivising as the Sevabhavi Sangharsh Samitee eventually leads to a resolution on land sharing.
Post the December 1992 riots in Mumbai, YUVA refocuses efforts to build peace and harmony. Radhabai Chawl, the site of violent deaths during the riots, is revived as Sadbhavana Kendra, a community resource centre that brings people together. The centre runs till 2008, and after a gap of a few years restarts again as a hub of learning and collaboration.
Post the 1993 Latur earthquake, YUVA extends its response mechanism from man-made disasters to natural disasters as well.
Second Decade (1994–2004)
YUVA facilitates the rehabilitation of communities forcefully evicted from Bhabrekar Nagar in 1997, approaching the Housing International Coalition and the National Human Rights Commission.
YUVA offers solidarity and support to the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), which monitors India’s water sector and acts as a bridge between civil society, research organisations, communities and the administration.
YUVA supports a variety of people’s organisations around different rallying points and with different population groups — women, children, youth, unorganised sector workers and more — towards the progressive realisation of human rights.
YUVA’s belief in the cooperative approach towards sustainable livelihoods and significant contributions to the economy leads to facilitating the growth of several credit cooperatives and service cooperatives across Mumbai and Nagpur from 1999.
Two more sectors of work initiated — the social security and legal protection of the unorganised sector, and strengthening of urban local governance through the implementation of the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act in Maharashtra.
YUVA co-creates and disseminates research to shed light on the realities of the marginalised, empower communities with knowledge to secure their rights, and drive evidence-based research aimed at formulating and influencing policy.
YUVA’s work in rural spaces is initiated in the Vidarbha region, to take forward developmental challenges and work towards natural resource management.
In 2001, YUVA Centre is inaugurated, a collective learning and engagement space, in Kharghar, Navi Mumbai. The Centre plays a critical role in empowering individuals and organisations in facilitating human rights learning processes. The Centre opens its doors to non-governmental organisations, community-based organisations and other groups that seek to utilise the space for their own training programmes.
YUVA’s scope of work gradually expands beyond Mumbai and Vidarbha regions to other towns of Maharashtra and in Delhi.
With an increase in infrastructure development-induced displacements in Mumbai, YUVA works with affected persons towards their effective rehabilitation and the upholding of their rights in rehabilitation and resettlement colonies in Mumbai.
YUVA joins the citizen’s movement against the privatisation of water supply. The Pani Haq Samiti, facilitated by YUVA, brings to focus the fundamental right to water and sanitation. YUVA continues to play a strategic role in the right to water for all.
YUVA participates in the state-wide campaign for effective implementation of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005. YUVA anchors the Maharashtra chapter of the South Asian campaign ‘We Can End All Violence against Women’, engaging with close to 50,000 changemakers. With the collective advocacy, the government declares it will appoint full-time protection officers.
A renewed emphasis on policy and practice change and model building takes place, with many policy interventions ranging from commenting on policies, initiating networks and collective efforts, collaborating with government committees to prepare policies, etc.
YUVA engages with informal workers, facilitating entitlements and registrations for access to welfare, conducting research and advocacy, participating in and leading campaigns and networks to take forward the fight for dignified and adequate conditions of work and the realisation of worker rights through their empowerment.
Urban governance models are explored, including supporting a model Area Sabha as an institutional space for direct participation of all voters in an electoral ward, along with a campaign for a Community Participation Law.
From 2004–2007, YUVA initiates organic farming interventions with marginal farmers across 50 drought-prone villages of Gujarat.
YUVA Urban Initiatives works to rescue children in distress as an implementation partner of Childline India Foundation. The team attends to over 500+ emergency calls annually.
YUVA’s constant emphasis on engaging citizens in the decision-making process leads to the setup of Basic Service Facilitation Centres, a Migration Resource Centre (which includes a wage recovery and labour helpline) and Child Resource Centres situated within communities, creating a space for people to participate, debate and decide on issues of urban governance and planning.
Current years (2014–2020)
YUVA’s long-standing work with informal settlements and informal workers leads us to intervene in the revision of Mumbai’s Third Development Plan 2014–2034, which eventually evolves into Hamara Shehar Mumbai, a people’s campaign on urban planning and governance. YUVA continues to engage on campaigns on the right to water and sanitation in Mumbai.
YUVA strengthens its work on the habitat and livelihood framework, empowering the marginalised, encouraging people’s collectives and facilitating access to basic services. The work expands to cities in the states of Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Jharkhand.
Facilitation of children and youth groups continue, and child-led and youth-led campaigns across the city and beyond gain strength. Childline work expands to Dadar Terminus and Navi Mumbai.
YUVA’s work in rural areas includes natural resource management and the improvement of the human environment with more sustainable agricultural practices, improvement of livelihood opportunities, community empowerment and the setup of rural basic infrastructure in schools (ashramshalas).
YUVA has been engaging on narrative building efforts, to present the multi-layered experiences across spaces in people’s own voices. Through this exercise, YUVA hopes to counter dominant narratives and help people to develop a better understanding of and greater support for one another.
With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic from March 2020, YUVA responds to people’s needs for food and basic requirements, supporting relief and long-term recovery and rehabilitation initiatives, with the help of partners. YUVA’s early assessment of the evolving situation, in mid-March itself, helps the organisation reach out proactively to most marginalised persons across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region and beyond. As uncertainties associated with the pandemic continue to increase, YUVA supports people’s emerging needs on access to entitlements, basic services, and their rights.