Meet-friendship- manzil way to 'we-feeling'

Participants from varied socio-cultural backgrounds come together to break age-old stereotypes

By Saurav Bora in Guwahati
  • Published 21.03.16
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Participants in the programme in Guwahati on Sunday. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati, March 20: A Guwahati-based organisation has taken up a novel yet challenging initiative to engage the younger generation in understanding each other's differences and breaking the stereotypes they hold for each other, be it community, gender, caste or religion.

The initiative, Samjho Toh Express, taken up by We Are Young (WAY) Foundation on February 7, completed its first phase today. As many as 50 participants, between the age group of 15 and 25 years, who were engaged in the first phase, shared their experiences of the past one-and-a-half months. Several posters on how the interactions brought about a change in their outlook were put up at a location on the Uzan Bazar riverfront.

" Samjho Toh Express draws a parallel with Samjhauta Express (the bi-weekly train that connects India and Pakistan). Here we talk about understanding each other's identities and differences, express opinion and clear misconceptions," Indrajit Sinha, director of WAY Foundation and a life-skill trainer, told The Telegraph here this afternoon.

The campaign comprises three parts - junction, friendship track and manzil (destination). "During junction, we created different pairs; for example, pairing a 15-year-old boy with a 25-year-old woman or two youths belonging to different religions, and give them the space during which they speak about the stereotypes they had about each other," Sinha said.

"Friendship track is the time when the pair go ahead and deepen their understanding about each other and break the stereotypes. During the concluding part, manzil, the participants recollect their journey, the time spent with each other through charts, pictures and notes," he said.

The impact of the campaign was apparent with young Masoom Hussain now no longer the shy boy he was. "I was shy and did not have the confidence to talk to people older than me. But during the course of my interactions with an older partner, I have changed. I feel better," Masoom, a Class IX student of Bhaskar Vidyapith Higher Secondary School, said.

Sukanya Sinha, who works with an NGO, said: "I had certain misconceptions about a particular community. But this campaign, during which I interacted with a boy from that community, has helped me look beyond of what was taught since childhood."

The Sunday afternoon saw visitors trickle in to the first phase closure event. "I am amazed to hear the stories of change and the impact that a programme like this can make. I strongly believe that such campaigns should also start between political parties," said Himangshu Kalita, a visitor.

The second phase of the campaign will start in May. "We are looking at covering more localities, particularly those inhabited by the downtrodden and marginalized sections, under this programme," Sinha said.

Way Foundation, a youth-led organisation, was formed in 2013.

So far, it has carried out several programmes, including one against child labour in association with Assam State Commission For Protection Of Child Rights.