By Ravi Karkara:
The world has never been younger. It is estimated that currently young men and women, aged between 12 and 24, account for approximately 23 per cent of the world’s total population. There are 1.8 billion young people (10-24 years old) in the world. Approximately 880 million are adolescent girls and young women. Young people today have very different lives from those of previous generations. They lead a predominantly urban existence. They have better access to educational and health services. They are increasingly globalized and exposed to diverse systems of values. One in every third person in urban India is a youth.
The youth, i.e. those falling within the age group of 15-35 years, constitutes nearly 40% of the total population of India. This group which is the most vibrant and dynamic segment of the country’s population constitutes potentially its most valuable human resource. In less than a decade from now, India, with median age of 29 years will be the youngest nation in the world. India’s demographic transformation is creating an opportunity for the demographic burden of the past to be converted to a dividend for the future. For this to happen, the country needs to adopt a three-pronged policy that will address the issues of employment, livelihoods and the skill status of the youth. The situation of rural young women and men in India is not better with broadening gaps of inequalities adversely impacting realization of their social, economic, political, civil and cultural human rights. Young women both in rural and urban areas face violence and discrimination in the hegemonies of masculinities and dominant patriarchal structures.
Young peopleÂ have shouldered the advancement of the Indian economy by contributing extensively to the Gross National Product. Young people in the age group of 15-29 years comprise 27.5% of the population. At present, about 34% of India’s Gross National Income (GNI) is contributed by the youth, aged 15-29 years. However, there exists a huge potential to increase the contribution of this class of the nation’s citizenry by increasing their labour force participation and their productivity.
Participation is a fundamental right. Through active participation, young women and young men are empowered to play a vital role in their own development as well as in that of their communities, helping them to learn vital life-skills, develop knowledge on human rights and gender equality and to promote positive civic action. India, at the same time has a vibrant and well developed youth civil society that has made its presence felt both online and offline. They have relentlessly questioned lack of accountability of inaction on the cyberspace or on streets.
The recent My World 2015 Survey: MY World is a global survey for citizens led by the United Nations and partners. It aims to capture people’s voices, priorities and views; so that global leaders can be informed as they begin the process of defining the new development agenda for the world. Through creative online and offline methods, MY World asks individuals which six of sixteen possible issues they think would make the most difference to their lives. The sixteen issues have been built up from the priorities expressed by poor people in existing research and polling exercises and they cover the existing Millennium Development Goals, plus issues of sustainability, security, governance and transparency.
Globally, over 3.5 million people have participated in the My World Survey, which makes one in every 2000 people. From this, close to 2.7 million are young people below the age of 30 that have voted in this survey. The young people in India have conducted the survey in rural communities, slums, schools and youth clubs. They have not only voted themselves but also brought in the voices of the most marginalized groups. From a total of 600,000 votes from India, young people have contributed 500,000 votes. The most crucial component is the unpacking of the votes where young people put jobs as the foremost priority, followed by better education, health care, water, host responsive government and gender equality respectively. For India, it is not only important to value their voices but also leverage on their actions and partnerships.
On this International Youth Day, we make a call to the government of India to strengthen accountability to and with the youth and strengthen inclusive youth participation from local, sub-national and national levels. It is vital that the present youth policy is implemented with adequate resource and structures and mechanisms that strengthen youth engagements at all levels. A call to strengthen young women’s leadership and engagement at all levels is vital to eliminate gender equality in India in all its shapes and forms. Furthermore, the government of India should ensure that an inclusive youth development and participation agenda is rolled out where special efforts are made to reach out to youth from minority groups, indigenous youth, youth for disabilities, LGBTQI youth and others. The GOI should embrace inclusive use of technology to reach out and engage with young people both using online and offline strategies, thereby bridging the technology gap.
The Indian government should makeÂ efforts to work closely with the UN system and strengthen youth participation in the UN System Wide Action Plan to be implemented at national level including an establishment of a youth advisory board. The Government of India should embrace the UN’s youth delegate’s program and nominate representatives to the GA through an open transparent process. The Indian Government should work with the BRICS mechanism to strengthen youth engagement across BRICS countries and also increase their investment in youth employment, entrepreneurship and skill building. The youth skills have been identified as the core to changing their and their communities’ conditions. Finally, the Indian government should join this global call for establishing the Global Youth Skills Day. Most importantly, a youth mechanism should be created at the Prime Minister’s office to monitor the progress of deliverables on youth with their participation.
About the author:Â Ravi Karkara is the Global Adviser Youth & Strategic Partnerships for UN Millennium Campaign and UN Habitat