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This Portal Has Incredible Insights On 231 Million Young Indians. Seen It Yet?

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By Bobby Jha:

How’s this for the perfect hang out? A place where you get to meet the youth of India, all 231,878,057 of them in the age group of 15-24. No kidding. A new, user-friendly portal – YouthInfoIndia.org – puts together on a single platform for the first time, all the available data on the country’s young population culled from the 2011 census, the National Family Health Survey-3 (NFHS-3), the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), and many other credible sources. What’s more, this website, which is supported by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), is both fun and easy to browse – with a one-click access to the data, put together in a manner that addresses various requirements. Besides, it is extensive in reach and – most delightful of all – is absolutely free!

If you are wondering why such a portal is significant, Frederika Meijer, UNFPA representative for India/Bhutan, has an answer. She believes that youth in this country can be a great asset if they receive adequate developmental inputs. However, in order to ensure this policy-makers and society, in general, must get the big picture. According to Meijer, “To make sure that policy-makers have relevant data, analysis, and young people’s views while they formulate policies, UNFPA and its partners have developed YouthInfo India. The portal is a lively place where you can spend time getting to know more about India’s young people.”

The website is envisaged as comprising two broad sections. The first has to do with data presented on 190 indicators. There is a data bank that allows the user to access information quickly with the help of parameters such as keyword, topic and region. There’s an exciting feature that facilitates visitors to create their own colour-coded infographics, pie charts and maps. All that is required is to feed the requirements into ‘DevInfo India’, a dashboard that displays the socio-economic profiles for states in India with up-to-date data, and generate impressive looking graphics. For instance, if you want to make a graph on changes in the age of marriage in the city of Mumbai between 1971 and 2011, go ahead with your clicks and wait for a nifty downloadable graph to appear. Should you need to map the demographic profile of a particular geographic area, then that too is possible with a few smart moves.

A predominantly young population gives India a definite demographic edge. (Credit: Anjali Singh\WFS)

Seriously fun is the section called ‘Your Voice’. Here you get to share your opinion on what needs to change in order to make India a better place. You never know, your views, which you may secretly consider insignificant and unexceptional, could actually find resonance in the highest echelons of power and help set the development agendas of the future! After all, never has the country been more prepared to listen to its young than today. Youth – those in the age group of 15-24 years – comprise 19.2% of the country’s population and are certainly the flavour of the times. That half its population is below 25 years potentially gives India a demographic edge over countries with ageing populations because it means that it has a large workforce of people with able bodies and innovative minds who could contribute decisively to social and economic development over the next 20 years.

Already, the disproportionate impact of the youth cohort in achieving transformations in the social and political landscape is becoming more apparent with each passing day. In 2011, it was the networking and activism of young volunteers that helped multiply support for social activist Anna Hazare’s India Against Corruption campaign. In 2012, it was their outrage that forced the government to change its criminal justice policies and reform the law on sexual assault. In 2013, once again it was Indian youth who were credited with having brought a debutante political entity like the Aam Aadmi Party to power in Delhi.

So youth is a happening group, no doubt about that. But there are also major challenges they are faced with today, as the data from YouthInfoIndia.org makes abundantly clear. Employment is an area of great concern, especially for urban youngsters. Work participation rate for those in the 20-24 age group in our urban pockets is as low as 37.5%. Significant too is the fact that a high percentage of employed youth from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes communities are working in agriculture.

Early marriage is still very much a grim reality, with women bearing the unfortunate consequences of this age-old ‘tradition’. According to District Level Household and Facility Survey DLHS-3 (2007-08) data, the percentage of girls who married before the legal age 18 was still a high 22.1%, with the percentage of women aged 20-24 who had given birth by 18 standing at 21.7%. This is an eloquent pointer to low contraceptive use in this cohort – at 22.2%. Not surprisingly then, the percentage of women aged 15-19, who reported any level of anaemia in 2005-2006 was 55.8, with the percentage of men in the same age group at a lower, but still disturbing, 30.2%.

Students during a protest demanding better security for women in Kolkata on December 29, 2012, after the death of a gangrape victim from the Indian capital New Delhi. Photo by Debajyoti Chakraborty, Kolkata, India.

Inequalities continue to stare us in the face even six decades after Constitutional guarantees of equality came into force. We know, for instance, that literacy levels dip if you happen to be a Dalit or tribal youth; it is also lower for young people who live in rural India.

But, of course, the most conspicuous inequality of all is that between girls and boys, women and men, and nothing perhaps highlights it more than the fact that the gender sex ratio among adolescents aged 10-19, is 898 girls for every 1000 boys. Occasionally, the comparisons work against the male sex: the percentage of male youth aged 15-24 who are current users of any tobacco product stood at 27.4%, with females faring better at 8.3%.

Numbers tell stories, and the stories that emerge from YouthInfoIndia.org should encourage young people everywhere in India to advocate for change and be the change themselves. At the same time, these numbers should also give policy-makers the perspective they’d need to create policies that effectively address the needs of this demographic, which is the future.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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