Project Shakti - Life Skills Education for Out of School Adolescents
Shakti is a Hindi word, the literary meaning of which in English is Power. The objective of this project is to empower the dropouts and the under-achiever adolescents psychologically to make them well equipped in Life Skills. It is to motivate and reorient them towards a meaningful vocation, develop their personality and provide them guidance and support in vocational careers according to their aptitude and abilities. The methodology of training is participatory and primarily activity-based. It was started in collaboration with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD). Our UVCT Chapters in Mumbai and Vishakhapatnam have also launched Shakti programs in their centers.
Started in October 1995, the project is a flag-ship program of the Trust that provides personality development and life skills (thinking, social and negotiating skills) to school dropouts and under achievers, enabling them to become socially responsible and economically productive citizens. During the last 16 years, the Trust succeeded in assisting more than 14,000 school dropouts till May 2011, of which about 70 percent have succeeded in finding meaningful avenues, including reviving their educational pursuits. It came as a welcome note to the UVCT to get accreditation from the National Open School for its courses in Beauty Culture, Stitching & Embroidery, Typing and Word processing.
The program has proved such a great success that the UN Inter Agencies Working Group have accepted it as a basis for their program on "Life Skills for Health Promotion of out-of-school adolescents" (July 2003), and two batches were also supported by the Group on Population and Development (UN IAWG-P&D), under the auspices of the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund). The programme, which was initially of 30 days duration, was increased to 45 days by giving additional inputs about adolescent sexuality, reproductive child health and other population related issues. The World Health Organization (WHO) provided technical support to improve upon the then existing curriculum and train the resource-persons, with emphasis on life skills education.
By the end of May 2011, a total of 100 batches (an average of 40 participants in one Batch) in Delhi alone were trained. The Govt. of India has also adopted one of the plan scheme The program is on-going the UN IAWG-P&D, and has since put out the programme for international circulation, under the title Life Skills for Health Promotion of Out-of- School Adolescents and graciously acknowledged the Shakti Programme of the UVCT as the basis for the same. The program has also become a Plan Scheme of the Min. of Youth and Sports, and an international platform for mainstreaming school drop-outs and under-achievers.
The Various Skills & Values imparted during the training are:
It is one of the foremost aspects of life skills. What the disadvantaged and disabled need is a self image. The first question a participant is made to ask is: Who am I? The facilitator helps the participants, by using the Socratic Method to debate the issue of an individual’s space in a family, a social group, a community and a country. The young people are made aware of their rights and duties; and their responsibilities to themselves and the society. They are made to realize the need to preserve their physical and mental health.
The other part of self-awareness is the life skill of empathy. Awareness of the self should be counter-balanced by the awareness of others, their different thinking, feelings, desires and wishes. This requires some imagination and fellow-feeling. It is a part of the process of socialization and self-control. The Indian culture empathizes with human beings, animals and nature around us. A careful cultivation of this skill prevents aggressive stance for self-protection as well as self and group identity among the adolescents.
3) Effective Communication
It is like an art. It has been observed that among the wards from the less-advantaged families, communication is far from effective. Through practical experience, it can be found that a person from a middle and higher class background know both what is to be said as well as how to adjust according to the mood of the listener and the situation. The person who comes from slums or lower class background often speaks a dialect at home, which is distinct from the standard formal language used in offices, schools and other institutes. Effective communication, thus, leads to building successful interpersonal relationships.
4) Critical and Creative thinking
These are the two next pair of skills. Training to inculcate thinking abilities, as such, is very rare in both formal and non-formal classrooms. As media sends out a constant stream of messages, it is important to begin with critical listening and asking right questions. Telling young people to ask for cause-effect relationship and rational thinking is very essential, if they need to withstand pressures. Creative thinking requires patience and persistence that looks for new answers to old questions. It also needs the use of intuition as well as logical thinking.
5) Gender Sensitivity
Gender sensitivity of a person depends upon his/her empathy, ability of critical thinking, analyzing power on his/her view of how he/she is experiencing the social system. In India gender inequality is still persisting as a curse to the society. Barring a few communities, male dominance is prevalent in every strata of the society. There is a difference between the legal and social concepts of gender equality. Contrary to the Indian Constitution’s declaration on equal rights in education, sports, health facility, payment for work etc. to either gender, there’s a differential and partial treatment for males and females since childhood, especially in lower and middle economic class.
6) Interpersonal Relationship
The foundation of a good Inter-Personal Relationship is based on empathy and the habit of good listening. The learning and practicing of coping with stress ad emotions also contribute in making better relations with others.
7) Decision Making
This skill is based on the understanding of who decides and how much choice there is. The participants learn how to take decisions in a day-to-day life. In areas such as education, choosing a career, daily activities and even in eating habits, one has to choose a right thing. Therefore, everyone should be conscious about the merits and demerits of all the facts he/she is facing. Decision making and Problem solving skills are inter-related. Proper decision making leads to the solution of any problem.