Open Minds Open Doors
A Life Skills Education Programme

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What is Open Minds, Open Doors?

Open Minds, Open Doors is a training programme on life skills education for grassroots social workers who work with children and adolescents. Adolescence is a complex and fascinating stage in human development, and all around the world, education through ‘life skills’ – an experiential process of living and learning – is being recognized as a tool to build the capacities of young people to meaningfully participate in the determination of their life choices.

Designed to address issues of disempowerment in daily life, Open Minds, Open Doors has been developed by Sanjog to enable adolescents who are especially vulnerable to trafficking, migration under exploitative conditions and other forms of abuse and exploitation, to cope with their daily challenges, adapt to changing environments, protect themselves from violations of their rights, and question systems that encourage such violations. The programme empowers children and adolescents’ collectives to claim their agency and become agents of change for themselves, their peers and other children in their communities. It facilitates meaningful participation of children with NGOs and States in change processes.

What is the relevance of this programme?

Skills that help make choices and decisions, express and emote healthily, relate with ourselves and others, solve problems and manage conflicts and make meanings from our experiences are skills that help everyone live life fully and wholly. Impairment or weakness in any of these skills affects our well being. It leads to self alienation, results in disruptive and dysfunctional interpersonal relationships and also prevents people in difficult situations from fighting through situations of marginalization, vulnerability, abuse and exploitation.

Adolescents from families in poverty in India, Bangladesh or Nepal, whether in rural areas or in urban slums, have collective and common experiences of neglect, abuse, violence and exploitation. While the responsibility of protection of children and adolescents is the responsibility of adults – families, communities and the State, such protection often turns oppressive especially when children are not consulted, listened to, or they do not have space to understand and voice what changes they want and need. An experiential training programme that help children build communication and interpersonal skills, identify problems and try out strategies to solve and resolve problems and conflicts, and learn how to work in groups and collectives – draw support from it as well as work towards collective changes is an empowering process for children and adolescents that gives them the confidence to challenge external factors that marginalize or alienate them from opportunities and entitlements. Education on their constitutional rights as well as the CRC and the political accountability structure helps them take proactive steps on advocacy, with little support from facilitating organisations.

How does the programme work?

Open Minds, Open Doors is designed on the premise that ‘living skills’ – skills that enable adaptive and positive behaviour – not only build resilience in adolescents to cope with disempowering personal environments, but also empower them to challenge discrimination and violations of rights in the larger social environment.

By mobilizing adolescent girls and boys into cohesive groups, the programme enables them to voice their experiences and concerns and learn from them, and teaches them to use the power of the collective to bring about changes in their families and communities to end the inequity, abuse and exploitation that is a part of their daily lives. With its experiential, participatory methodology which encourages learning through reflection and dialogue, critical thinking and problem solving, Open Minds, Open Doors incorporates the true spirit of ‘child participation’.

What does the programme entail?

The one year programme comprises of :

  • Four 6 day workshops with social workers who act as facilitators of children or adolescents’ groups
  • Orientation for management of the organisation implementing the programme on how to monitor the programme
  • Coaching for facilitators, peer review and monitoring feedback
  • The programme uses a monitoring tool called Most Significant Change (MSC) for outcome monitoring, and uses graphic novels as a child friendly tool for dissemination and further learning on change by children
  • Helps grassroots organisations build strategies, methods and tools to build support for the programme in the community, build stakeholder support for the programme and create enabling environment to support advocacy by children and adolescents for changes in their lives, communities and claim entitlements

What benefits from the programme?

Sanjog offers the programme to all practitioners who work with children and adolescents, particularly those who work with children and adolescents from marginalized communities and vulnerable to abuse, trafficking and exploitation. Since it is a community based child protection programme, grassroots organisations and social workers trying to learn how to mobilise children and adolescents and help bring about changes in families and communities and with with children and adolescents to bring about changes in attitudes and practices in community, how to support and facilitate child-led advocacy for changes, should benefit from the programme the most.

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