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Haiyya is ready to say goodbye to this year! I write this note bidding farewell to 2021 — accepting and embracing the undeniable impact (positive, negative and neutral) this year has had on all our lives. 2021 came with its set of challenges, opportunities, trends, questions and doubts of a greater magnitude, at an individual, collective and systemic level.

The choices that my team and I made this year are memorable and momentous for us. I am sharing some of the significant choices with you, with the hope and intention to share, engage and learn — when times are ripe, when times are tough!

2020 ended on a wishful note after going through the first difficult year of the pandemic. We started 2021 after taking a 10-day end of year break. As we were slowly gaining our pace, the second wave of COVID hit us and forced us to realign our priorities in extreme chaotic situations, with team members and their families testing positive. On one side citizen volunteer efforts were gearing up, and it is our mandate and moral responsibility to respond as a social justice org, when citizens are doing so, but we had to prioritize the team’s health and take a pause. We decided to shut down our operations for 10 days for the team to recover, and came back feeling energy, agency and power to take action. We then launched a COVID rapid response campaign in 5 states from May to July 2021 that was successfully able to over 2200 people to resolve their needs around food, ration, shelter, mental & sexual health consultations.

If you’re an organizer, you’d know. A big part of organizing is to understand and map the resources you have and the resources you need to achieve your goals. Building my own muscle to be able to do this and developing team and organizational capacity to do the same — has been one of my most important learning as a leader. I am an organizer and it used to get quite frustrating for me to be pulling off management and internal operational roles as the leader of the organization. But things changed when I started looking at some of my core work like fundraising, people and team management, relationship building, partnerships, board and governance, legal and finance, hiring the right talent, as organizing opportunities and projects.

All my work deals with multiple people, skills, relationships, money, interests — so looking at all of them as resources and commitments from a generative perspective — when combined can help me bring more people to share Haiyya’s mission and hence lead more effectively and build a people-powered org. This allowed us to bring partnerships, relationships, funding, team talent, mentors and internal policies that were groundbreaking and amplified our values, goals and impact.

Leadership and roles restructuring is crucial part of any growing organization. Earlier this year our senior leadership structure, roles and people changed which was a moment of change and disruption. But change and disruption is not all bad if we can learn to be open and let it teach us. With all the pre-planning, it is also important to provide enough structure as well as space for new leadership to discover and find their feet.

It’s crucial to make time and space for recalibration discussion because if we are not intentional and proactive, changes will come in reactive and unhealthy forms. Another thing that’s important for new leadership is to be challenged and asked tough questions. Learning and growth require a supportive as well as challenging environment. The new leadership team started taking its own shape and form, as they built relationships, solved problems, took decisions and made plans, thus decentralising leadership.

As an organisation we may not be able to provide for every need of our team, regardless we as people-centred organizations need to invest in care in our work. This year, we were invested in making policies that centred employees and their needs at the centre, and we created a care-driven wage policy, PoSH, and Menstrual leave policy. To support the team moving to a remote working set-up, we also rolled out a Digital Allowance Policy.

Knowing that people-work can be exhausting, for us it was important to figure out how to embed fun/joy in the work, but also keeping an eye out on the team’s burnout threshold, and making space for pause, rest & recalibration.

We can campaign all we like, but if our campaigns are not building power, it’s not organizing. Keeping this at the centre of our value system, we relooked at the campaigns we were running.

We almost doubled in team size this year, now forming a team of 15 employees. This was our 6th year of operations and we committed ourselves to making our team more diverse and intersectional. And diversity and inclusion start with representation, so hiring leaders from oppressed and marginalized groups become our goal. A good intention is not enough for anything. It needs to be followed through with commitment, strategy, doing the groundwork and course-correcting till you do your best.

After getting a majority of applications from Savarna, upper-class candidates, the question we asked ourselves was — are we doing enough to reach out to candidates from diverse communities and hire them? We made a choice to reopen applications and revamp our whole hiring and outreach process from small to big steps, eventually shortlisting candidates from trans, Dalit, Bahujan and queer community.

We took hiring as seriously as we want Haiyya to be taken in the world, and we were happy that this year we ended up hiring 90% of our team members from marginalized communities.

Training and building the capacity of new leaders is key to organizing. Keeping COVID-19 and its impact at the centre of our work even this year, we continued building more local and regional organizers and leaders as our focus for this year.

Author: Aprajita Pandey, Founder & CEO, Haiyya

About Haiyya:

Haiyya is a youth-led feminist is a youth-led, feminist, movement-building organization that works at the intersection of youth leadership, social justice and people power organizing. We are based in New Delhi, India.



Haiyya is a youth-led feminist movement building organization based out India. We equip social changemakers, organizations and citizen groups to learn, innovate and adapt to the needs of the changemaking landscape.

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Haiyya is a youth-led feminist movement building organization that works at the intersection of youth leadership, social justice and people power organizing