Until a year ago, every time Sarika Tripathi, 20, walked to her house in Santacruz after 7pm, she was greeted with catcalls and whistles.
After ignoring them for years, Tripathi decided to find out what led the boys in her locality to eve teasing. A youth fellowship from the Partners in Urban Knowledge in Action and Research (PUKAR) gave Tripathi the opportunity to do so.
The fellowship allows youngsters (18-30 years), to form groups and take up local research projects. “Through the research, we discovered that most eve teasers in the locality were unemployed and thought it was appropriate to tease girls,” said Tripathi. The group then sensitised eve teasers through documentaries and group discussions.
“We also organised street plays highlighting the impact of eve teasing on women and encouraged women in the area to speak out against the problem,” added Tripathi.
The efforts of Tripathi and her group paid off and the bylanes of Santacruz are safer now. Tripathi's research is one of the 30 fellowships offered by PUKAR every year. From studying the city’s red light areas to understanding piracy, youngsters are opting for projects that affect their immediate environment.
“The crux of the entire initiative is learning about group dynamics. It aims at creating a mass of youngsters, which believes in inclusive growth,” said Anita Patil Deshmukh, executive-director, PUKAR.
Navnath Labade, 30, from Pen, in Raigad district, did his research on the condition of women brick kiln workers in Pen.
“During our research, we found that these women were barely paid Rs250 to Rs300 a week and lived in unhygienic conditions. Most of them are migrants and their children do not go to school. There were a lot of hurdles when we started off, as these women were reluctant to speak, but it was worth the effort,” said Labade.
In 2009, PUKAR also started an advanced youth fellowship that is awarded to only five groups and requires much more in-depth work.
Sweta Surve, 25, took up a study on women corporators in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) as her basic level research and in the advanced fellowship, studied Shiv Sena women corporators.
Surve and her two group members interviewed six of the 32 women corporators in the Sena and found that only two corporators did not have a political lineage.
“We observed that women who had no political connections were more aware of the needs of the people and better at managing their work,” said Surve.
“Also, these women had to overcome hurdles such as objection from family and lack of cooperation from male party workers. We are now in the process of writing a training manual for women with no background in politics,” she added.