We are so excited to announce our September Take the Pledge Beneficiary, the Naz Foundation! Our very own Content Marketing intern Hannah Sorila was able to visit this incredible organization in New Delhi, India back in 2015 and was elated to create a partnership with Naz and the GoAbroad Foundation. Over the years, Naz has continued to fight the hard fight towards increasing the rights of marginalized communities within India, as well as providing support and resources to these individuals to help elevate them into change makers and confident and protected individuals in Indian Society. The Take the Pledge this month will be supporting the education of the children who live at the Naz Care Home!
We had the great pleasure of talking with Falak Choksi, Naz’s Communications Coordinator, about the organization, the work they are doing, some of the major changes that have been happening in India, and what changes still need to be mad. Read on to be inspired by Falak and this incredible organization!
Why were you inspired to join the team at the Naz Foundation India? How long have you worked with Naz?
I joined Naz as a media fellow under the William J. Clinton Fellowship in 2015-2016. I learned about Naz’s work with the LGBTQ community in college while I was working with an NGO on a campaign to encourage young people to vote. We were preparing a Youth Manifesto that was to be launched before the Indian General Elections in 2014.
As part of the campaign, we interacted with many students from various colleges in Ahmedabad and so many of them supported Naz and their fight for the rights of the LGBTQ community. Naz had created a nationwide movement! As a gender studies student and someone who strongly believes in equal rights for everyone, I was very inspired by Naz. Though I never thought I would get the opportunity to work for them!
Can you tell us about the work you do as the Communications Coordinator?
Naz was known for the work in the field of sexual health and sexuality, however, people did not know about Naz’s work with young people. I realized the scale of their sport for development program for adolescents only after I joined the organization. My project as a fellow was to establish a communications department at Naz and help Naz rebuild its image as one of the pioneers in the field of sport for development in India. As a Communications Coordinator, I manage internal and external communication, build and implement communications strategy, and coordinate fundraising activities. I also serve as a member of the leadership team at Naz.
What are the current projects that Naz supports?
Naz established a Care Home for HIV positive children in 2001 when there were no homes for these children to get shelter in North India. The Care Home provides for the medical, nutritional, educational, psychological, and recreational needs of the children and provides around the clock care.
Naz’s MSM and LGBT program provides the members of the LGBTQ with counseling and support services free of cost.
Naz launched Young People’s Initiative (YPI), previously known as Goal Program, in 2006 to work with young individuals from socially and economically marginalized communities to make them realize their potential as young changemakers. YPI is a sport for development program for adolescents and youth that uses the medium of sport to deliver crucial life skills education on the issues of menstrual health, sexual and reproductive health and rights, communication, financial literacy, GBV, etc.
Naz conducts training workshops on issues related to sexuality and sexual health with the objective to build the capacity of individuals and organizations to raise their awareness and to bring a positive change in their attitudes.
Naz’s child protection and safeguarding programme Abhayam works towards creating safe spaces for children, strengthening Naz’s child protection policy, and train Naz’s partner organizations in child protection and safeguarding.
Naz’s 17-year long battle to decriminalize homosexuality has finally come to an end. However, it is just the first step towards building a just and equitable society for the members for the LGBTQ community. This legal recognition of the LGBTQ community in India is definitely a stepping stone. As rightly said by the founder and Executive Director of Naz, we will continue to fight for the equal rights for anyone whose rights have been violated.
How can support from the GoAbroad Foundation help advance these projects?
GoAbroad Foundation support will help the education of the children of the Naz Care Home that shelters 21 HIV positive children between the ages of 10 to 19 years. The focus of Naz’s intervention has been to develop the children holistically in order to enable them to socio- economically re-integrate them in the society. As some of the children graduate from 10th and 12th grade, Naz’s mentoring officer works with them purposefully to guide them in further studies and help build their vocational skills so that they are workplace ready and can seek employment and transition into independent living.
What makes you proud of being part of Naz?
Naz’s core philosophy has always been to give a voice to people who are unheard, fight for people for their rights, and provide support to whoever needs it. When we talk about empowering people, especially young girls and women, we usually take things which are very normal for us for granted.
For example, I did not realize what a huge victory it was for one of our programme participants to travel from her house to the programme site all by herself. I did not realize how powerful feeling it must be for them to negotiate to wear jeans and t-shirt and not the Indian traditional Salwar-Kameez.
These little fights eventually helps these girls win the bigger battles in their lives. Just recently, one of our programme alumni, who is now working with Naz, was awarded a fellowship to attend a leadership programme for young achievers at Michael Johnson Performance Centre in the US. She was the first one in her family to ever go out of India, and alone at that! I live these powerful stories everyday at Naz and I feel really fortunate to be a part of this organization.
Recently, India’s Anti-Gay laws have been overturned. How will you continue to support the LGBT community in India during this time?
Naz was successful in bringing a policy level change that recognized the LGBTQ community legally and no longer criminalizes them for their sexual preferences. This was the first step towards protecting their rights.
Naz still needs to constantly work in the community to sensitize them on the issues of sexuality and sexual health to prevent cases of discrimination based on homophobia, sexual preferences, sexual health, etc. Naz will continue to provide the care and support interventions with the community and refer to those in need of legal help to Lawyer’s Collective for legal services.
For Naz, it is also a question of working towards fighting for the rights of young people from socially and economically excluded communities, to get them an education, to build their capacities to take informed decisions, and to protect themselves.
What other changes do you hope to see in India that affect the communities that you serve through your work?
For both of Naz’s major programmes that work with adolescents and youth from socially and economically marginalized communities, we want to build their capacity as leaders who will first be the leaders in their own lives, then their family’s, later the community, and then the society at large.
Naz wants to provide opportunities and build agencies that help young people grow personally and lead them towards the path of economic empowerment. This critical mass of young changemakers will contribute towards building a just and equitable society that India desperately needs right now.
What are your hopes for the future of the Naz Foundation?
Having achieved deep and wide impact, created behavior change and inclusive institutions, Naz has been witness to and a key player in slowing the HIV/AIDS epidemic in India. Naz will continue to respond to, and counter the root causes and issues emerging from its engagement with HIV.
Naz will build vibrant eco-systems that will energize and enable individuals from marginalized communities to realize their potential as a change makers. Naz will expand partnerships, networks, and linkages to catalyze a critical mass of such change makers and influence and engage with governments, businesses, and other stakeholders to take this movement to scale.