26 years old
Creating Resources for Empowerment in Action (CREA)
"The greatest strength young people have is that with the appropriate stimulus, they are capable of making significant social and political progress"
Neha Sood is a feminist activist based in Delhi, India, where she has been working at CREA since April 2004. Neha works on CREA's different programs that act as a catalyst for learning, such as exchange programs, training workshops, thematic meetings and creating public education material, focusing on issues of sexuality, reproductive and sexual rights, violence against women and women's rights. She is also a member of the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (YCSRR) since May 2006 and is working on promoting advocacy for safe abortion.
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Jennifer Kidwell, IWHC: What is your first memory of a situation where you were personally aware of or affected by gender inequality?
Neha Sood: My first such memory is of a neighbor scolding and hitting his daughter upon finding out that she was in a relationship with a man. I remember wondering why what she had done was considered wrong and why she was being punished for it.
JK: How did the experience of growing up in Delhi differ for girls and boys? Did activities or perceptions of the future differ for girls and boys?
NS: There are many ways in which gender inequalities are experienced by girls and young women. Girls routinely face sexual harassment in public spaces, apart from their homes and neighborhoods (although boys also face abuse in their immediate environments). Girls' mobility is restricted, ostensibly to protect them from such abuse, thus limiting their access to many opportunities. more>>
JK: Growing up, did you ever learn or talk about sex and reproductive health and rights?
NS: My parents sat my brother and me down for a chat on "the birds and the bees"-anatomy, sex, and reproduction-when we were young children and also gave us books to read on adolescence, sex, romantic relationships and contraception. more>>
JK: How did you get involved in the struggle for women's and young people's rights?
NS: Until a few years ago, I was not politically active or even aware, and I was eventually bothered by my lack of knowledge and perspective. After I finished a degree in Commerce at age 20, I realized I wanted to get involved in improving the quality of people's lives. So, I enrolled in a Master's program in Social Work and while pursuing the degree, decided to work in community development and human rights.
JK: What drew you to work with CREA specifically?
NS: When I went to meet with them, I was very excited by the shared core beliefs and convictions that emerged in our conversations. We discussed how various power structures exist in societies, are linked to each other, and need to be challenged. For instance, women face multiple levels of discrimination due to gender, age, economic status, occupation, race, caste, ethnicity, disability, nationality, citizenship status and much more. more>>
JK: How do you feel that CREA has changed young people's lives?
NS: CREA believes that human rights apply to young people, just like everyone else, and that young people have the power within themselves to demand and realize their human rights. Our workshops encourage young people to challenge all types of discrimination, and make society more just for all. They promote a sense of entitlement, a questioning spirit, and a desire to seek and access information and resources that improve quality of life. more>>
JK: What do you see as major challenges facing young people in India today? What about greatest opportunities?
NS: The most significant challenge facing young people in India is that they are largely not taken seriously or viewed as capable of making decisions about their lives. Historical marginalization on the bases of gender, caste, religion, class, sexuality and disability impedes many young people from realizing their full potential. more>>
JK: What are you personally proudest of?
NS: I am proud of my parents and my partner, who support my activism and commitment and constantly push their own boundaries and understanding.
JK: How do you imagine your future?
NS: I imagine that I will continue to engage and build understanding on issues of gender, sexuality and the intersections with other rights issues, with different groups of people and in different ways. I also envision that I will keep learning about these issues and others throughout my life.
JK: Can you describe your vision of an ideal or better world?
NS: I envision and work towards a future where all people respect all other people equally and value their individual worth; where no prejudices or biases exist on the bases of age, religion, gender, sexuality, caste, race or class; and where every institution and organization has human rights at the core of its working principles.
JK: How did you first become acquainted with the International Women's Health Coalition (IWHC)?
NS: IWHC funds CREA for its work advancing women's human rights, so that's how I was introduced to the organization. IWHC has also worked in the past with another organization that I am part of, the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (YC). more>>