Aimed to be an incubator for the future generation of leaders, CEOs, campaigners and activists, the YLAC Counter Speech Fellowship with Instagram engages exceptional teen leaders to voice their opinion on themes important to young netizens around the world. Launched in 2017, the fellowship is currently running in two cities – Delhi and Mumbai.
At YLAC, we believe that active citizenship begins with advocacy on issues that matter to us, as individuals, and the Counter Speech Fellowship is a platform for teenagers to talk about issues that affect them. The fellowship is built around three pillars – awareness, support and advocacy. Fellows are mentored and encouraged to build powerful content on the identified themes and the most inspiring content is promoted across the country on Instagram.
The fellowship is designed as a fully funded, weekend only engagement wherein fellows meet every alternate weekend for a period of 3-4 hours in their city. The schedule is easy to accommodate alongside regular school work and examinations.
Applications to the 2017 edition have now closed. You can sign up below or follow our facebook page for updates on the future editions.
To know more, see: 2017 Schedule | Selection Process | Eligibility, Structure & Time Commitment
The 2017 edition
The 2017 edition of the fellowship was launched in November 2017 and is currently running in the cities of Delhi and Mumbai. After sieving through over 300 applications, 50 spirited and perceptive fellows were selected to participate in this new and unique initiative.
Selected Themes & Fellowship Handles
The 2017 fellowship focuses on six themes: Bullying, Body Positivity, Mental Wellbeing, Embracing Diversity, Creating Safe Spaces Online and Countering Violent Extremism. The idea is to use the internet and social media as a force for good by creating unique communities around issues that matter to teenagers, and provide a platform for voicing concerns and advocating for changes. By giving teens a voice and building their capacity to mobilize people, we hope to create a world that is more inclusive and tolerant.
Over the course of the 2017 fellowship, the Counter Speech Fellows have run powerful feeds on Instagram on their selected themes. These feeds have put out creative and thought provoking content with the aim of creating awareness, leading action and extending support. To read more about the work being done by the fellows, please click on the links below:
“I am too fat”, “I am too skinny”, “I am too short”.... Teenagers often tend to beat themselves up if they don’t have the ideal body type, forgetting that every body type is different and there is no one ‘perfect’ ideal. The negative comments and experiences do more harm than good, and leave teenagers with a battered self-esteem.
It was to counter this thought and belief that some of our fellows got together to start Instagram feeds on body positivity: @antibodyarchetype and @perfectlyuglydreams. Through short campaigns, photographs, gifs and real life stories, our fellows have created spaces where teens can come and share their stories and at the same time educate themselves in the ways to fight challenges.
The adolescent years are a period when teens see a number of changes around and within themselves. It is a time when they are developing a new sense of self, a different and independent perspective towards life and also taking their first steps towards adulthood. This is also the period when the stress of academics is at its peak. Coupled together, these challenges often end up taking a toll on their mental health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, in a society where issues of mental health are considered a taboo, teens rarely find the support needed to fight and overcome these challenges.
@chehrein and @all_by_mind_self were handles created by Counter Speech Fellows where they shared inspiring and uplifting anecdotes on self-care as well as stories and poetry by teens who have fought battles with their minds. They also created powerful campaigns such as #BetterThanBefore to nudge teens to think of wholesome wellbeing!
Bullying is mean spirited and pointless, but unfortunately a rampant and a regular part of lives for most teenagers. Bullies are found in schools and beyond, making the life of their victims difficult. The experience of being bullied has long lasting psychological effects which can manifest in a myriad different ways such as anxiety, depression, self-harm and isolation. As an issue, bullying has been in the media spotlight for some time now and it is encouraging to see schools and policymakers take an active stance against this menace.
@standtall_ is the feed created by Counter Speech Fellows to focus on the issue of bullying. Through powerful imagery, photographs and strong captions, our fellows have created a community where kindness is promoted and differences are celebrated.
While mobiles phones and affordable internet connections have made the world a more connected place, they have also brought in several complications and issues. Cyber bullying and online hate is one such problem. To combat online stalking, trolling and bullying and in an attempt to make the internet a safer space, our fellows started feeds @roomofremedy and @expresstogether, and ran campaigns - #SafeSpacemas and #kinderinternet - to get teens and social media enthusiasts to use the internet for the right purposes.
The ability to understand different communities and discern and respect multiple perspectives is an extremely important value to cultivate. However, looking around, we observe a growing intolerance towards those who do not wish to conform and choose to think and act differently.
Respecting and embracing diversity is a virtue which can lead us towards a better and more productive world. It is exactly this idea that our fellows wish to stress on through their work. @breakingthebarriers and @huesofdivergence are two feeds which talk about diversity in classrooms and beyond.
Social media is a neutral communications platform, but it is hard to control who uses it and for what purpose. Extremism has grown rapidly in the past couple of years and social media is being increasingly used for spreading hate and violence; teenagers are an especially vulnerable group.
Therefore, Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) is a theme that our fellows have chosen to work on. @peacebypiece and @gunsoutfor_ are the two handles that talk about the various facets of violent extremism: what it really is and how it affects the lives of millions around the world. Through videos on CVE, stories of survivors of violent extremism, cartoon strips and strong visual elements, our fellows are trying to make the world a more tolerant space.
Pillars of the Fellowship
During the three-month long fellowship, the Counter Speech Fellows have been running powerful campaigns to generate momentum for change, while focusing on the three core pillars of the fellowship:
Awareness: Building awareness is the first step in any campaign. It starts with educating oneself, conversing with others and removing taboos. To this end, fellows have been leveraging the Instagram platform to create content around their themes. To increase the reach of their content, the fellowship feeds are also being promoted on Instagram to reach thousands of other teenagers across the country.
Support: The fellowship themes are issues that have, in some form or the other, affected most teenagers. Any call for mobilization must therefore begin with empathy and an extension of support to those who have been adversely affected. As part of their work, the Counter Speech Fellows have been lending support to peers and other teenagers who have reached out to them in times of distress.
Advocacy: The fellowship is a powerful platform to reach out to parents, school administrations and policymakers to advocate for better support systems for teenagers. As part of their work, fellows are putting together recommendations for school authorities on how to deal to with issues like bullying, mental health, etc. They will also be taking over Instagram handles of influencers to talk about these issues. A round-table will be convened towards the end of the fellowship to formally share the learnings with school leaders and decision makers.
You can follow the content created by the Counter Speech Fellows by searching for the hashtag #counterspeechylac on Instagram.