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Youth Resource Centres

Youth Resource Centres (YRCs) provide physical spaces for young people to come together and interact. One of their key roles is to help boys and girls from different backgrounds (castes, religions or other social groups) to interact, thus improving social cohesion, trust and relationships. Each centre is run by two youth volunteers (one male and one female) who organise activities such as training and workshops, theatre, exposure visits, libraries, sport, discussions. The young YRC members typically come from four or five villages within a radius of six to eight kilometres. Currently, there are ten centres in the area in which Seva Mandir works.

The youth programme organises a range of activities focusing on gender, health, education and livelihoods. Until now, activities have largely been centre-based, but we are exploring different models to increase the

outreach of the centres and make YRCs more dynamic and attractive to their target audience, young people of 14 to 25.


Sexual and reproductive health and rights

Seva Mandir has worked with young people on issues related to gender and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) through its health programme. Lack of awareness of safe sexual practices, HIV and STDs has been a persistent problem in the community. A recent Seva Mandir study found that over 70% of young people are completely unaware of reproductive and sexual health issues, leading to pregnancy and unsafe abortions. The situation is made worse because sexual relationships begin at an early age, and girls in the area marry young (44% before the age of 18).

It is vitally important that training and sensitisation on SRHR and gender-discriminatory practices involve both boys and girls. At YRC residential and non-residential camps, boys and girls are separately taught about SRHR. Girls learn about menstrual hygiene, and both boys and girls learn about safe sexual practices, early marriage, human trafficking, and HIV AIDS, and attend sessions to make them aware of and sensitive to gender issues.


Capacity building

Capacity building is one of the pillars upon which the youth programme is built. YRCs have organised a number of camps, awareness campaigns and activities such as theatre and street plays to create awareness of issues such as migration, gender discrimination and the importance of secondary and college education.

Capacity building has also taken place through a number of fellowships and exposure visits organised by the YRCs. The fellowships, with various external organisations, have allowed young people to develop critical thinking, research skills and technical skills such as photography and videography. Exposure visits, organised in collaboration with other organisations, have given them opportunities to step outside their village, district and state, sometimes for the first time, and interact with people from diverse backgrounds, and hone their interpersonal skills.


Vocational skills training

Because we know that young people in our work area have limited opportunities to develop their interests and skills and gain access to jobs, we have focused on providing vocational skills. Earlier, courses were organised according to the interests of the young people and market demand. Now, the YRCs’ strategy is to become a bridge between organisations that provide vocational training and the young people who are interested and in need of such help.  We help young people to apply for courses offered by various institutions, in Udaipur and elsewhere, which provide training under a government scheme. We mentor them and help them to make the most of the facilities available to them. We track them during their training and once they have finished their work placements. We are committed to increasing the number of young people taking part in these courses and trying to place them in work, or helping them become self-employed.

Over the years, we have helped young people attend courses in computer literacy, mobile phone repairs, tailoring, stitching, hospitality, driving, and more.

Seva Mandir’s social enterprises and Self-Help Groups (see Empowering Women) also employ young people directly, for example as SHG accountants.

It is clear that our concerted efforts to help young people acquire skills that will give them a better chance of finding work are also building confidence and providing hope for youngsters.


Impact

Each YRC is visited on average by 50-70 young people daily, and caters to an average of more than 3,000 young people per year, 45% of whom are girls. Over 1,750 have so far received skills training on various topics to enhance their livelihood opportunities, including receiving internship opportunities with various businesses across Rajasthan. More than 600 a year receive sexual and reproductive health awareness training.

Successful YRC campaigns, such as ‘Learn Without Fear’, have helped tackle problems of corporal punishment in schools and have brought about change, not just amongst young people, but parents and teachers as well. Following discussions, YRC members have also tackled issues of migration in their villages, and have, in some cases, stopped children migrating to a neighbouring state for work. In some communities, they have taken part in infrastructural work in the villages, and helped people receive their entitlement to benefits under various government schemes.

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