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Empowering Minds, Transforming Communities: Priyanka's Journey in Education Advocacy

Before Priyanka started Youth Facilitator's role with Student Partnership Worldwide India, she describes herself as very shy and said that she found it difficult to connect with people in her community. A year and a half into her engagement in the My Education My Rights Program (by Student Partnership Worldwide India, in partnership with Loreal Foundation), she is not only confident talking to the people in her community, but she is also motivating others to do the same.

Being a youth leader has developed Priyanka’s confidence in herself.

In the early days of volunteering, it was challenging for Priyanka to go out as a youth leader and engage with people in the community. She reports that there was a general perception about social organisations that they only come to take pictures and don’t actually do anything for the community. These experiences had left a bad reputation for social organisations in the local area, and a difficult space for Priyanka to step into.

But through her work, people are beginning to see that Student Partnership Worldwide India is different. Priyanka reports that being a youth leader with Student Partnership Worldwide India gave her the confidence and skills she needed to go out into the community and convince others about the value of the work Student Partnership Worldwide India does. The training and resources she was given helped her to grow in confidence, as well as providing her with the practical resources, such as the evidence of real life stories and reflections from students involved in similar projects, so that she can be confident when speaking with stakeholders in her community. She saw that having this evidence of implementation helps break down the assumptions and doubts that community members had related to social organisations and helped them to be more accepting of her and the work she was doing with Student Partnership Worldwide India.

While Priyanka is currently working hard to get this program up and running to benefit the people in her community, she has also been developing a range of her own skills through her activities. She says that through her involvement with Student Partnership Worldwide India she has grown in her communication, management, and problem-solving skills, as well as how to deal with a range of situations. A recent activity she was engaged with was a social experiment she ran on International Women’s Day which saw Priyanka conducting surveys in the streets, engaging with the public and talking to crowds. She reflects that this opportunity revealed a massive change in herself from previously seeing herself as very shy. She said that the training and experiences she has had through Student Partnership Worldwide India have helped her move beyond her previous limitations and become more confident in herself. And not only was she able to do these things herself, but she was also able to motivate others to get involved and be part of the social experiment as well.

Being a youth leader has developed Priyanka’s practical skills

Although her focus is on bringing out the full potential of students, raising community awareness and support amongst gatekeepers such as parents and teachers is a vital step in reaching the students. Moving past the initial barriers such as the suspicion and cynicism related to social organisations takes time, as parents begin to trust Priyanka and develop confidence in the relationship. Having done a lot of this work already and being able to speak with the stakeholders personally, she has identified that a major desire of the students and their parents is to develop their digital literacy and technical skills.

At Student Partnership Worldwide India’s Youth Resource Centre (‘YRC’), students can come and access computers and other resources to build their capacity as it relates to digital and technical skills, alongside other important life skills. But this capacity building goes both ways. Through her involvement with kickstarting this program, Priyanka has had the opportunity to build her own skills related to using computers, as well as other technical things such as videography. She says she’s become aware of more of her own skills and interests and hopes to continue enhancing her documentation skills and technical knowledge.

Priyanka’s dreams for the My Education, My Right program in her area include seeing even more spaces open in the community, beyond just Student Partnership Worldwide Indias YRC. She wants to reach out to other community leaders to explore the opportunities to build similar structures at the community level, so that students who can’t make it into Student Partnership Worldwide India’s YRC have other options for places to go to have the opportunities to learn and advance their skills.

Being a youth leader has led to change in Priyanka’s own life as well those in her community.

Priyanka said that the biggest change she’s seen in herself is the development of her personality and the way this leads her to be more accepted, trusted, and convincing as she works in her community. She believes that the values of Student Partnership Worldwide India, such as integrity and honesty, have helped her to achieve this. Within her community, she’s noticed the change from the initial negative perceptions people in the community had about social organisations. She reports that when she goes out into the community now, she is welcomed and there is a willingness of community members to both support and contribute to the project. She’s noticed a change in the mindset of the people who are now more open and engaged in seeing a change within their community.

Priyanka says that in the future, whether she is involved with Student Partnership Worldwide India or not, she will continue to carry forward the values she has learnt and that have been inbuilt in her through her experiences as a youth leader.

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It was a great journey with SPW INDIA PROJECT TRUST. Thank you so much for the enormous support and learning opportunities. The true meaning of social work ,I have learnt about is from Restless Development and I am grateful for that.

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