The COVID-19 pandemic, apart from causing health related issues, has also brought about a spike in several socio-economic problems. One of the most vulnerable groups are women and girls, who are at high risk of being abused due to bitter socio-economic conditions arising out of the lockdown.
The district of Kadapa is a highly affected area in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. Girls and women are being subjected to different forms of violence such as domestic violence, sexual exploitation, child trafficking, and child marriage.
In order to bring awareness to these rising issues, Youth Advocates from Terre des Hommes’ Girls Advocacy Alliance (GAA) project are aiming to prevent and address Gender Based Violence issues in Kadapa district by initiating action through awareness and sensitisation.
GAA aims to ensure the protection of girls and women from different forms of abuse and exploitation. Under the project, Youth Advocates are mobilised and trained on advocacy action. Spreading awareness on Gender Based Violence through Youth Advocates ensures participation and empowerment of many children. They are agents of change who will ensure the protection of vulnerable girls and women.
One Youth Advocate named Rupa from Kadapa initiated the practice on sensitisation of Gender Based Violence as she felt that it was needed during the lockdown. Rupa is trained in advocacy against Gender-Based Violence, along with child marriage and trafficking.
she mobilised other Youth Advocates to work on this issue. The awareness and sensitization on Gender Based Violence targets government departments, families, and communities.
Youth Advocates are the voice of children and are a best representation of child related issues. Their advocacy on issues for girls and young women resonate with many people. The Government line departments responsible for child protection need to be sensitised on Gender Based Violence so that policies can be formed, laws can be implemented, and society can be monitored to ensure protection of women and girls. Families and communities need awareness so that they can spot such violence in the neighbourhood or get out of their abusive behaviour.
Training was given virtually to Youth Advocates on advocacy during COVID-19. Information was provided to Youth Advocates to follow COVID-19 protocols and were also updated on the situation with regard to vulnerabilities of communities in context of socio-economic distress of families and impact on children, mainly girls and young women.
Youth Advocates underwent training in drawing which they used to prepare posters spreading awareness on Gender Based Violence. These posters were shared on social media and on WhatsApp groups.
Youth Advocates also drew Rangoli designs (floor art) on public streets and public roads. The art consisted of awareness surrounding COVID-19 and protection issues of children.
Some of significant actions carried out by the Youth Advocates includes the sensitisation of the District Police Department for advocacy towards prevention of Gender Based Violence in communities; interaction with local governments such as PanchayatiRaj Institutionsto create awareness among communities for identifying, reporting, and addressing the violences against children; and coordination with the Health Department and Municipality to provide ration and services to Government schemes to relieve them of their terrible living conditions.
“A road to success is always under construction. Rupa and her team are continuing with their efforts as they want to continue their success. These young leaders are the real torch bearers who will help us win against the darkness of our social problems” said a GAA network Civil Society Organization representative.
Application of knowledge learnt and making best use of locally available resources is the fundamental step for youth advocates in their advocacy efforts and initiatives in preventing Gender Based Violence. With their achievements, their confidence in making a change in their community will continue to flourish. Training of Youth Advocates and for the future generation bears fruit.