Tuesday, January 03, 2006

New Years and Youth Fairs

So the New Year's Party at Neela's (chairman of the Calcutta Hash group and general outing coordinator) went well. The typical group of ex-pats and cool Indian people were there with some some additions of those who were on holiday visiting family. It's very interesting to see all of the Indian people with very different accents. There were a some from California, one from Switzerland, and another from London/Cambridge. Though they were all "Indian" they were also perfect stereo-types of their adoptive countries. Quite Interesting. the party was pretty chill, as there were too many strangers for anything really rowdy to happen. We brought in the year Latin Dancing and it was a good time all-around.

For those who have wondered what are all the Youth Fairs I've gone to, and what's it all about. Here's my summary of the three I visited.

Observations from field visits

Friday 23rd December
Youth Fair YRSH Project
Ashuti 4:00pm-7:00pm

See if a schedule of events is available for each fair.

Arrived and ate a small lunch.
I saw mostly females running the show. I don’t know if this is because the Youth Motivators (what are youth motivators, what is the difference between youth leaders, group leaders, PEs,) that I saw were mainly female.

I arrived during the break and most of the people there were children. After the break, during which the girls got the video camera together, the events started.

There were two booths one on nutrition using the flag and displaying the winners of the drawing contest. The other was on health and had posters of health and hygiene as well as HIV (Know AIDS, No AIDS). The health booth was personed by youth or group members. Three doctors came: one a young man, one older (slightly sketchy) man and an older female. More people came over to the booth after the woman showed up. She was obviously respected. She would also be directing the RMP training Saturday morning (What is the RMP training on?). I was told by the FW that people are still very reluctant to go for RSH problems but they will go for general health questions.

The crowd was probably 50% Children 27% Male, 23% Female. There were activities divided in to male and female.

Slow Bike race- Young Men
Pass the balls-Ladies
Water ball carry- Boys

As the evening wore on more people showed up. Young men and women visited the stalls and stood and talked. There were a few dramas mostly comical/political. One monologue was performed by one young lady who was on the directing committee that may have been on woman’s rights. RH issues were not addressed in these, but there more in the evening and the next day put on by the main committee of ladies (it seemed) that would.

Overall it was a place to meet, greet, speak and enjoy. Issues were present but not forced. The number of young ladies running activities was heartening. This was more of a presentation of ideas. A grass roots beginning with talk. There were also other ladies, both married and un-married, who were present and participating. Though the males were present, they did not feel dominating. In fact most of the people in the main area under the tent were women. Men seemed to crowd at the edges.

Definitely youth run, though with heavy dependence on the Youth Motivators/Activators. I need to understand their role before I look at the youth Participation aspect of this event. I’m unsure of how much RH information was actually conveyed. Nutrition (a “safe” issue) was, but RH issues seemed pushed to the back.

Monday 26th Dec
Youth Fair YRSH Project
Rasapunja, 3:30pm- 8:30pm

I was first struck by how many more men there were here than the other one. There were still some smaller children flying kites, but when I first arrived it was predominately male, about 70%-30%. The area was huge, as this is the largest grouping yet. It was the center courtyard of the schools. The DIC was at the far end behind the stage, convenient for kids coming from school.

The booths were one of the stuffed toys flowers and dresses the girls had made. The health booth was much more targeted to RSH. There were many pamphlets on contraception, STIs, delaying of first child, and HIV. These were bundled and given out. Though the ones strictly on HIV and STIs were not usually handed out in these bundles, they were present and available to be taken. (Who sets up these booths? How are the subjects chosen? How are the pamphlets obtained/requested) There were also a game on how HIV is spread and not spread using strings and a tack board, and an interactive card on STIs. There were also short books and magazines on health. I observed mostly young men reading and taking advantage of this booth. (Follow up in FGD with females and RH questions beyond menstruation) Young men were manning the booth as well. The young ladies spent most of their time at the handicrafts booth next door.

Some games and competitions continued through the afternoon. The participants varied. The song competition had participants in pairs, 12 couples all-together. There were two mixed couple groups, two male only groups, and the others were females. There was a song knowledge competition to see who could sing the most songs in a minute, the last letter of the previous song had to be the first letter of the next. This was followed by a round in which the pairs had to sing an entire song. After this game preparations were made for the award giving. Food sellers arrived and many more people arrived. Most of the new arrivals were young woman often with young children, by this point the ratio was about 50-50.

The CINI presentation did not hold much attention and most spent the time talking and waiting for the prize giving. Each of the CINI-ARC representatives and community members spoke. Much of it was about CINI-ARC. I was unable to discern if there was any emphasis placed on RSH issues. (See if you can get the gist of what was said) By the third or fourth speaker many seemed to have lost interest. The different CINI and community members gave out the prizes and blessed the recipients as they took blessings from them. Reinforced the idea of an adult focused/led event.
The DIC members, each group, began to perform. First there was a song and drum presentation, then dancing and drama. The dancing consisted of several groups, all male, all female and mixed, depending on the dance performed. At this time most of the crowd seemed to be women, but I may not have been able to fully tell as I was on the edge. But the entire floor seemed to be filled with women mainly, 80-20. I was unable to stay until the dramas were performed due to time and travel restrictions. (Follow up on topic of Dramas performed).

Overall this fair had a greater emphasis on YRS issues. However it also seemed to be coordinated by the adults. The youth may have had input on the selection of games and activities, but not so much in the coordination. (Follow Up with attending the YAC to see if this is true) The youth ran the booths and prepared presentations. There was an equal amount of mixing of young men and women of the groups as seen in the previous fair. Possibly a little less mixing on a grand scheme as there were many more young men and women in attendance. This community seemed to be more aware of YRSH issues, but may need some support in arranging accessibility. There was no talk of RPM trainings, doctor or clinic information. Possibly not a problem or just not addressed. (Follow up questions to Samik and in FGD)

Friday, 30th December
Youth Fair YRSH Project
Joka, 4:30pm- 8:30pm

This is the same area/site I visited for the Mini-FGD. This was a 4-day fair I came on day 3. When I arrived the youth were coordinating a “Break the Pot” game, which is similar to the Americas’ piƱata. The fair ground was smaller than Rashipunja’s but had much more activity. There were many food stalls and even a tent-restaurant. The handicrafts and pictures from the art competition were in a covered walk-around display. There was a CINI-ARC stall that was also shared by the local club, who displayed their trophies. There was a stand on health nutrition and RH issues. Girls mainly stood by the handicrafts and the boys in the nutrition/RH stand. There were comic books and materials similar to those seen at the other two places. The RMP also were consulted at their own booth. There were also: numerous other food stalls, three cart food sellers, two mhendi artists, and 4 sellers of jewelry and toys.

There were many people when I arrived. But as previously mentioned with this area it was very male heavy. The ladies were present and had presence. Still one could feel how much the boys ran the forefront. I saw them consulting with the girls several times so I don’t think they truly made decisions independently. E.G. The “Break the Pot” game is traditionally a girls’ game, but everyone was allowed to play in the name of equal rights. The reality was most of the players were boys.

Along with the games conducted by the youth there was also: a wooden manual Farris Wheel, an air riffle shooting gallery, a merry-go-round, and tracked go-carts. A community member who organized fairs procured these extras. He was compensated in some way for these rides. In addition some fee was required for each activity.

Talking with Samik he spoke very highly of this area. Their main field worker had changed 3-4 times during the project and for some time they did not have one. Ashuti however he said had done nothing. (Follow on Ashuti’s “failures”) He also said that Rasapunja had done well. It seemed he was the most proud of Joka.

There was a significant delay with the start of the cultural show during which I sat at CINI-ARC’s table and spoke in bad broken Bengali to the youth about my notes. They were very eager and outspoken. Here is where I truly saw the influence of the girls. They had closed down the walk through and stood around the CINI-ARC table. The guys came over several times to check what time they should start and how the cultural show would proceed.

The cultural show consisted of several single dancers, dancing mostly to Bollywood songs. Afterward there was a drama team. All of the dancers and most of the drama team consisted chiefly of girls. This is also where I saw the only adult involvement other than the sellers as, the mike operators and MC were men.

Overall. I felt that this was the best harmony of adult and youth collaboration. Though still a little gender biased toward males. This fair seemed to have a larger draw. Much more RS issues were addressed here than in Ashuti though not as much in the forefront as Rasapunja. There seemed to be some balance here as well as a strong initiative from the youth and community.

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