Yasmin Bi, a 17-year old vibrant girl from a socially disadvantaged and orthodox background living in an urban poor habitat of the glittering Dimond City of Surat in Gujarat, has all the reasons to be excited. She will shortly be heading for Germany to participate in the Junior 8 (J8) Summit from 1st to 8th June. With confidence beaming on her face, she says “I will present before the G8 leaders the work being done by us in India to educate youth about prevention of AIDS and appeal to them to take necessary steps to protect young people from this dreaded disease”.
Yasmin Bi has been chosen to represent India in the J8 Summit, as a child delegate. She is one of the 14,000 Peer Educators trained by UNICEF in partnership with local NGOs to educate young people about safe sex behaviour and prevention of AIDS.
Yasmin Bi dropped out of the school last year from class nine because of economic reasons. But this did not deter her from acquiring new knowledge. “I never stepped out of my house after leaving school. One day, the Anganwadi (Child Care Centre) worker of our area came and asked me if I was interested in being a Peer Educator for which a two-day training was being organized by UNICEF. I asked my parents, who readily gave me permission. This is how I became a Peer Educator. I enjoy meeting my peers to educate them about AIDS prevention”, says Yasmin Bi.
The journey has not been a smooth one for her though. AIDS is a sensitive subject to discuss in the society she comes from and lives in. After her parents allowed her to be enrolled, the people in the neighborhood tried their best to dissuade her and her parents from letting her do this type of voluntary work. She kept her fingers crossed and her parents kept up their commitment of letting her work as a peer educator.
During the training Yasmin learnt that a person suffering from sexually transmitted diseases (STD), is more vulnerable to HIV infection. So, Yasmin explains, “On the first day, when I went out in my neighbourbood, I asked one of the ladies if she suffered from any STD. Prompt came the rebuff that it was none of my business. I realized my mistake and then explained to her the objective of my visit which calmed her down. As a result of the training, I have learnt a lot on how to communicate and now first of all I establish a rapport with the family, take them into confidence and then come to the main subject. This way, I have been successful in taking at least 80 to 90 women for check up at the nearby Hospital. I enjoy doing my work and people now look at me with lot of faith”.
In addition to working as a Peer Eductor, Yasmin Bi also finds time to teach young children from her neighbourhood. Pratham, an NGO, has hired her as a part-time teacher to teach children, who do not go to the school.
When asked about her dream, she says, “My dream is to fulfill the dream of others. I would like to do something so that people will always remember me and would say that there was a girl who showed us the way to lead a good life and because of whom we are safe today. I would like to thank UNICEF for giving me the opportunity to participate in the J8 Summit being held in Germany. I am looking forward to this exciting experience of meeting leaders and children from other parts of the world and interact with them”.