FAT began its work back in 2010 by creating a space called the Tech Centre in South Delhi, it is an open space for adolescent girls and young women from disadvantaged communities to learn new media and technology skills. The centre also supports their collective and individual actions towards leadership. It is divided into 3 levels.
At Level 1 the girls learn basic computer and Internet skills to break the fear of technology while developing their confidence and skills to use technology for their benefit. They understand their rights, learn to connect with others, access information and develop the skills to negotiate with their family for their rights. We run this program at all the five Tech centres managed by us along with local partners at Ajmer in Rajasthan the centre is run by a partner adapting our model. Since 2010 we have trained 281 girls while 347 are currently enrolled and studying at level 1 across our 5 locations.
At Level 2 the girls learn to use tech skills to run a collective action in their own community. So far our girls have used new-media tools - films, radio shows and photo stories, with songs, slogans and community action to influence community members to think about life issues from the girls’ perspective. In 2013 the Level 2 girls from Delhi started a campaign called Apna Haq (Our Right), in which they spoke to their community members how not having access to a safe toilet impacted the girls. In 2015, the girls started a new campaign, Todo Bandishen, to engage in a dialogue with their families, community members and outside on early and forced marriage. Each year, a new batch moves up from level 1 to level 2 and continues the campaign. So far, 79 girls have completed level 2 in Delhi while 75 are currently enrolled in 3 of our centres. The community action and campaigns run by girls in level 2 help us expand our reach to the community and beyond. In 2016, through the Todo Bandishen campaign run by the girls along with our own advocacy efforts, we were able to reach out to approximately 10,000 people across 5 states; Delhi, Bihar, Jharkhand (Giridih), Maharashtra (Pune) and Rajasthan (Ajmer) by organising multiple community events and screenings of the girls films. This was followed by discussions on the film in the neighbourhood of each girl leader. New leaders are gearing up the second round of the campaign.
Level 3 is about taking the leap to become leader with their own communities and within the women’s movement by learning the skills and developing the capacity needed to work professionally for change. Since the beginning of FAT’s YWLP, we have identified and supported emerging girl leaders by giving them a paid internship at FAT, a host of formal and informal learning opportunities and constant mentoring. So far, every leader who interns at FAT has moved on to establish themselves as professionals in their chosen fields. Three of them are FAT’s core team members and six are interns with us. This induction of program participants into our team is increasingly making our organization more receptive to the needs of the community we serve. As the number of girls interested in working further on women’s and girls’ rights has increased, from 2017 Level 3 has evolved to a 18 month program where the girls study full time for 6 months and are then placed in a non-profit for an year. At present 13 girls are a part of this program in Delhi. We aim that each of these young women leaders take the movement forward by joining other organizations or starting an initiative of their own in the future.
At FAT, we have a firm belief on and commitment towards young women's leadership. We believe that girls' voices for their rights is needed to bring sustainable change in the status of women and they have the potential to lead the world. We consciously create space within our organization for the emerging young women leaders from the program and induct as many as we can into our team.
In 2016, FAT has also expanded this program to Jharkhand through setting up of a Tech Center in Giridih in partnership with Abhivyakti Foundation. We will be starting centers in Palamu in Jharkhand and Pune in Maharashtra within 2016. We have also shared our model and provided technical support for its implementation in Vadodara, Gujarat, to Sahiyar Stree Sangathan, a local women's rights organization.