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#LetMeBe : Adolescents in Bhubaneswar map out unsafe spaces in their slums

There are currently 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the world, which is in fact the largest youth population ever recorded. But unfortunately 1 in 10 of the world’s children live in conflict zones and almost 24 million of them are out of school. Political instability, labour market challenges and limited space for political and civic participation have led to increasing isolation of youth in societies.

12 August, which is observed as International youth day was first observed in 1999 by UN General Assembly. Since then this has become an annual celebration of the role of young women and men as essential partners in change, and an opportunity to raise awareness of challenges and problems facing the world’s youth. The theme for the year 2018 is ‘“Safe Spaces for Youth”. Youth need safe spaces where they can come together, engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision making processes and freely express themselves. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, specifically Goal 11, emphasizes the need for the provision of space towards inclusive and sustainable urbanization.

As part of its socially smart project which is a collaborative initiative of Bhubaneswar smart city limited, Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation and United Nations Population Fund- Odisha, programs were organised at colleges and slums to create awareness on the issue of need of safe spaces for youth at all levels including civic, public, digital and physical spaces.

In a first, adolescents meet the Corporator and handout memo on unsafe places in their area!

At the slum level street plays were staged by young boys and girls on the need for having safe spaces for youth. Also community mappings were done in few slums and an attempt was made to identify unsafe spaces and the suggestions of how the slum can be made safer for girls/women. The process was coordinated by Humara Bachpan Trust, which is infact the implementing partner for the project at slum level. These suggestions were submitted as a memorandum to the Corporator of the area. Some of the points that were a part of the memoranda include –

  1. Installation of streetlight near the community toilet in Birsamunda 1 basti
  2. Immediately removing a broken bus which is lying near Birsamuda 2 basti and is used as a site by boys of near by basti for liquor consumption
  3. Repairing the community toilet near Kanjahuda basti and provision of streetlight near it
  4. Not allowing outside people inside anganwadi and other community centres of the slum area
  5. Creating spaces for youth and children of the slum for recreation and leisure
  6. Completely stopping open sale of liquor and drugs in and around slums

The representatives from Bhubaneswar smart city limited applauded the youths of shantinagar who have collaboratively worked to make an open space available near their slum clean and safe for children and youth of the area. This has not only helped to create scope for leisure for them but also has given them a confidence that no task is difficult enough to stop them for growing in life.

A Peer leader reads out the recommendations submitted to the Corporator for making slums safer for girls/women

Students from various Universities join the #LetMeBe Movement

At the educational institute level, students of SOA University organised discussions around the theme ‘Safe spaces for youth’. Students of Astha school of management had prepared a skit on the theme of safe spaces for youth’ which they had planned to stage in 5-6 villages located around the management institute, however due to incessant rain the program has been postponed. The event will now be organised in the coming week. KIIT NSS bureau organised a program in the KIMS Auditorium where the students presented their views on the need for safe spaces for youth. A student representative spoke on various dimensions of safety especially from the point of view of youths.

In this interactive session participants shared their views on what a safe space would mean to them, some of the views that came during the discussion included –

  • For me safe space would mean where I can freely share my feelings on various issues, including social, political without fear of being harassed or ridiculed
  • Digital safe space is important for youth as most of the work is done digitally, for me digital safety would mean that in no situation my data would be mishandled or used otherwise without my consent
  • For a space to be physically safe, it needs to be guarded, that I don’t have to think twice before sending my young ward to play and spend some leisure time
  • Safe space is the space that allows me to blossom to the full
  • Safety, as I understand is both emotional and physical
  • My safe space is the space where it does not intrude others personal space

Also a nukkad natak (play) was staged by the students on the issue of safe space and what safety means to them. The play very strongly brought out the need for safe and free space for youth where they can grow as individual and without fear or prejudice contribute to the overall development of the society. Mr. Bibhudendu Tripathy, AGA, Odisha High court, who was the key note speaker of the program talked about the need for safe spaces for all especially youth. He said that with increasing commercialisation there is a dearth of physical spaces for children and youth. Also our society is increasingly becoming criminalised and thus there is a greater need for taking the issue seriously. During open house discussion, students shared their concern on the safety issues at various levels including while using social media. They felt that there is a greater need to talk and create awareness amongst children and youth on the issue and also whom they can approach for help if they face any privacy invasion or safety concerns.