Discovering inner strengths enables positive change

November 14, 2018
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New found awareness of unrealized inner strengths

The following blog was written by Hari Shanker.

I’ve always wanted to work with people to help them make positive changes in their lives. I joined WorldBeing in 2013, and over the years have witnessed firsthand the changes it has made in the lives of children and teachers.

I’d like to share one story in particular about the effect our program has had on girls.

In 2014, we were conducting a randomized controlled trial in Patna district of Bihar, India. There was a 14-year-old girl named Sunita in middle school. In one of the sessions named ‘problem-solving’ Sunita shared with her peer support group that she was under extreme pressure from her parents to get married.

She wanted to continue her studies and did not want to get married before the age of 18, which is the legal age in India. Sunita said she was unable to focus on her studies and she had been feeling very worried and tense the last few months due to continuous pressure from her family.

In the group problem-solving portion of the session, other girls suggested that they all go to her home to talk to her parents. Sunita also realized that she would need to use a combination of bravery, character strength she had learned in Youth First, and assertive communication skills to convey her point of view and achieve the positive outcome she was advocating for.

The next day, all the girls from that group went to Sunita’s house and spoke to her mother and father about how Sunita’s health, education, and future would be affected by early marriage. Imagine the power and courage of a group of 14-year-old girls doing this in a poor, tradition-minded village!

The tradition-minded, Patna district of Bihar, India presents significant challenges for youth
“Sunita used a combination of bravery, character strength, and learned, assertive communication skills to reach the positive outcome she was advocating for.”
Hari Shanker

Self-advocacy delivers positive change

Over the next few weeks, Sunita repeated her points calmly, assertively and effectively with her parents. In the end, her parents changed their mind and they decided to continue her studies and avoid any plan of marriage till the age of 18.

Stories like Sunita’s have huge significance in a state like Bihar, where the rate of early marriage remains critically high compared to other states in India. And there is not just one story. We have documented many cases where girls have been able to stop early marriage using the concepts and skills they have learned in Youth First.

Lasting effects of learned resilience

Over the years, schoolteachers and students have shared many others ways that Youth First has empowered them to deal with day-to-day problems. They have told us about how it has helped them to regulate anger and deal with stress, to find benefit even in the worst situations, solve interpersonal issues using restorative practice skills, set short-term and long-term goals, establish friendly student-teacher relationships and positively impact their overall school environment.

I wish the WorldBeing team hearty congratulations on completing 10 years of a successful and exciting journey!

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