The SamjhoToh Express journey aimed at cultivating cross border (across religion, caste, class, gender, region etc.) friendships through an experiential journey helped the youth in reflecting on and breaking the stereotypes that they hold for the ‘others’ (someone from different community, gender, caste, religion, ethnic background etc.)

The SamjhoToh journey is supported by Misereor and Oxfam.

Through a collaborative effort of 21 partners across 14 states over the course of the past year, the journey directly engaged with approximately 200 young people from diverse backgrounds over the course of the journey, and a total of over 3000 young people who participated, volunteered and interacted with and joined the SamjhoToh journey directly through 80 common action days. Through strategically placed metro ads as well targeted online outreach, the SamjhoToh Journey reached out to a staggering approximate of 23 lac people over the past year. Additionally, ads were placed on 100 auto-rickshaws across Lucknow which amplified the outreach even further.

Though it may be too early to claim any sustainable structural change in the external environment, the SamjhoToh Express journey has been successful in amplifying youth voices for social inclusion and gender justice since its initiation. At a time when there is a lot of discussion on inclusion/exclusion, the SamjhoToh journey has provided a safe space for young people to understand their own stereotypes, challenge them, build a deeper understanding of the “other”, and openly dialogue about what they think.

There have been many inspiring stories and instances of cross-border friendships which emerged out of the SamjhoToh Express journey. These stories have not only made people think and believe in the viability of platforms like SamjhoToh but have also filled our partners and us with more energy to carry on our work in this regard.

“I have never been able to be best friends with boys since at home the environment is totally patriarchal, and I always thought that boys did not give due respect to a girl’s views, but after having paired up with a boy from another school and cultural background I realised that my view was myopic and now I have found a best friend in a boy”, – Shared by one of the participants from People For Change 

 

“My friend Hari seemed to me 24 years old when I first met him. But, when we started having conversation, I came to know that he is 36 year old and have 2 children, this was really suprising! Hari always insist me to call him bhaiya! However, i address him as ‘Hari’. Because, of his previous experience , he is taking extra precaution that the bond remains like this. There’s some challenge at my end to feel connected with him but, i’m sure together in this journey we’ll be able to break this seterotype of boys and girls can never be friends!” – Nikita( participant at People For Parity) 

 

“My friend in this journey is from a different class background. She is also a college student and I’m a full-time professional. Both of us don’t talk much on phone so, it was difficult to communicate intially. When both of us came for the wall painting activity last week and we had to ask 20 questions to each other as part of an activity; It was then I got to know her better. We found our common ground in terms of our love for dancing and that’s how we are connecting well.” – Ritika (participant at  People For Parity)

 

“Until few days back I used to believe that no two persons belonging to different age groups can be friends. Surrounded and much influenced by societal norms which says that elders should behave in a way that never lets the youngers to take them for granted, I never considered any of my younger or elder cousins to be someone with whom I can be friends with. Bullying youngers for getting my things done was always my preferred way of dealing with them. And all that never left a good impression. Meeting masum few days back has actually changed my beliefs towards all these. Every time we meet, we get into discussions that start with a serious tone and finally ends with a series of laughter. He has actually taught me the baby steps of starting a friendship. For masum, friendship holds no barrier and so is my take from now on!! ” – Sukanya Sinha (participant at WAY foundation)