Sakhi had been working consistently with young people since its inception as we feel this is an important segment of population whose mind sets and attitudes determine the culture of a society. There are many facets of life which they cannot learn from adults. Essential life skills need to be imparted to the adolescents which they do not acquire from crowded classrooms. Sakhi started to work with young girls in 2000 as part of a national survey, when Mamta– a health institute for Mother and child, based in Delhi undertook a study of adolescents. This gave us a chance to understand the various dimensions of the issue. So in 2001, we started to work with teen clubs in coastal and rural areas of Trivandrum and we became aware of the need for resource materials on body awareness, child sexual abuse. The need to develop educational materials for life skill education too was keenly felt.
Working with the marginalized sections of the society, especially women and children from the late 90’s, equipped Sakhi to frame the programme Adolescent Life Skill Education Programme (ALSEP) as one of the strategies to tackle the issues faced by young adults in the society. Sakhi prepared a training manual for life skill education of adolescents in Malayalam called ‘Viriyunna Mukulangal’ (Blossoming buds). DC books, a publishing house in Kerala, first published it in 2004.It is into its 3rd edition now.
The strategy we adopted was to work with local governments and build their capacity. We had discussions with the Kerala Grama Panchayat Association regarding the selection of panchayats and sought their intervention to mainstream life skill education for adolescents as a focus in the panchayats planning. Our idea was that panchayats could earmark funds in future to include such programmes in local level planning. So we attempted to build the capacities of the local level government functionaries such as ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist), Anganwadi workers, ICDS supervisors (Integrated Child Development Scheme), staff of Local NGOs and peer educators. They were the skilled facilitators to ensure the continuity of the programme in future after the withdrawal of Sakhi from the particular Panchayat.
The programme envisages using different strategies and techniques to develop the overall personality of the young, to enable them to face the challenges of life, to cope with the fast changing social, familial and personal atmosphere and fulfil their roles in life with values and convictions. The programme aims to develop the capabilities of self-awareness, empathy, critical thinking, creative thinking, decision making, problem solving, effective communication, interpersonal relationship skills and stress management.
Adolescent Life Skill Education Programme (ALSEP) is implemented as a one year certificate course which will ensure a regular interaction of 10 monthly sessions with the young, based on pre-planned modules ensuring the above mentioned capabilities
Initially, during 2010-2013, we had started implementing it in 25 panchayats of Thiruvananthapuram district and gradually extended this to almost all the districts of Kerala; covering 71 panchayats from 12 districts. During this period we have been able to enhance life skills of 8322 young people. We started the programme exclusively for adolescent girls, but half the way we realized the need to include boys. The regular follow up meetings of parents also demanded us to include boys in the programme. Among the total 8322 adolescent children, 5892 were girls and 2430 boys. We equipped 393 local facilitators to carry out the programme in their respective panchayats