The Goalkeepers 2019 cohort in Belgrade, Serbia (Deepa 4th from left, 2nd row)

As announced earlier, founder Deepa Pawar is one of 26 Goalkeepers worldwide who are working with data to achieve SDGs in their countries. As part of this, she recently represented India as one of the delegates from our country to the International Civil Society Week (ICSW) in Belgrade, Serbia. This is one of the biggest and one of its kind assembly of civil society activists across the world. The week was an opportunity to discuss various strategies to strengthen democracy and check authoritarian ruling forces by a strong, aware, active, sensitive, inclusive civil society. The Goalkeepers program – powered by CIVICUS Alliance, Obama Foundation and Gates Foundation among others – also provided various trainings to the 2019 cohort on using data for global advocacy.

Deepa and Anubhuti’s project in this program is to collect and use data about youth mental health in colleges to advocate for institutional support for better youth mental well-being and justice.

Trainers from ONE – an international campaigning and advocacy organisation – stressed about how the Goalkeepers platform gives us access to world leaders. At Anubhuti, we have been struggling with how mental health is hardly represented in the SDGs. SDG 3 indicators only speak about decreasing suicide mortality, which does not allow us to work with the entire range that is mental health. Deepa therefore brought this up; she asked if we can possibly advocate with the United Nations to include indicators in SDG 3 for mental health needs beyond reducing suicides – such as inclusive access to mental health care. She also introduced the idea that the goalkeepers can thus globally advocate for their needs using this international platform. The entire cohort was inspired and as a beginning 3 groups are formed – to collectively advocate for 1. sexual and mental rights, 2. technology for social change, 3. economic rights. The trainers and organisers agreed strongly with Deepa and are looking at complementary indicators and other options of including a wider understanding of mental health beyond suicides in the SDGs.

Deepa with Anubhuti shall be taking up this advocacy campaign at India level. The Goalkeepers platform and associated partners such as ONE shall truly prove to be a much needed support system in this campaign.

We are also extremely excited with the scope of our project for youth mental health in colleges. We aim to use our action research in this area to advocate for including mental health as a part of the NSS curriculum in all colleges of Mumbai. We hope to use this as a starting point to make colleges and other responsible institutions sensitive, active and responsive to needs of their students regarding their mental health.

As Deepa says, “Without mental health, there cannot be other aspects of health. Without mental development, there cannot be educational, social, cultural, economic and political development. Without mental justice there cannot be social justice.”

The Goalkeepers program is helping us scale and connect our vision to a global level. Our responsibility to achieve justice and equity in our communities – with our youth leaders – increases.