By Anshul Tewari:
Youth Ki Awaaz just turned 8, and as I stare at the blank screen trying to think what I can pen down for the 8 year anniversary, I feel distracted. Distracted by all that’s happening around me. I see a team of 15 young people, all rearing to go out and change the world. People who truly believe that it’s important for us to speak up on things that matter. I see their passion, their togetherness and I remember the early days when I started YKA just as a personal blog to write about my own opinions and experiences. I was 17 at the time and didn’t even think I’d ever have a team to work with.
Last year has been particularly challenging, and game-changing. Challenging because it is young Indians who are the target. State action against students has become a reality – something we never thought would happen in our lifetime. But such is power – it can make you do great things, but can also lead you on the path where you force your ideas down someone else’s throats. And I see that happening all around me. It saddens me to think that a student like Rohith Vemula had to take his own life for us to wake up and take note of the caste-based discrimination happening left-right and centre in the country. And that even though the struggle for justice continues, we have a long battle ahead of us. One that will probably have to be fought by an entire generation.
Over the last 8 years, YKA has seen its highs and lows. I remember the time when we were so starved of funds that our bank was charging us low-balance fine every month, and I had no clue how we’d make it the next few weeks. I remember being harassed and bullied when I was in college and not being able to speak up about it even though I was running YKA on the side. It was tormenting and I faced severe depression. For a few moments, I’d think to myself that it would have been a much better option had I decided not to pursue my education or my passion. People would have accommodated me in a lot better. But things change.
After 7 years of bootstrapping and scaling YKA bit by bit with a small team of editors and campaigners, YKA raised its first round of investment just last year to scale up faster. It was game-changing because we’re not doing anything that other regular publications do. We do not hire reporters and writers to report on issues the way we want them to. You are our writers and reporters. Our ears and eyes. And we lay trust on you, the community that powers this platform. It is everyday people like you who create impact using Youth Ki Awaaz. When Nikita Azad’s letter challenging the head of the Sabarimala Temple started the Happy to Bleed movement, when a debate on the stigma around abortion led to a global conversation, it proved that the community is indeed what powers the platform and that the community is what has the power to change things around them.
As I close this note, I’d like to thank each and every person who read, shared or contributed to Youth Ki Awaaz in any way possible. We’re deeply indebted to those who, in the very initial years, volunteered as editors and writers and ensured that the dream and idea of YKA is realised. And to the amazing team that powers the platform – on the backend, to make sure it runs; and each one of you! Thank you!