It’s convenient to say that young people matter. It’s a lot more difficult to make them matter.
When I started Youth Ki Awaaz, sitting in my room with a dial-up connection 10 years ago, I had only one, simple thought in my mind. Kuch karna hai (I want to do something). Young people aren’t new to being told that their voices matter and that they’re the future of our world. But they’re also not new to the reality that when they actually speak up, they’re asked to shut up.
At 17, the world looked different. It seemed possible that things can change, and that a platform for young people to be the forerunners can be created – and that’s what started the YKA journey. With the first-ever members of the YKA community, Umashankar Sahu – a user from Orissa who started writing, and Parul Sabherwal, my classmate who volunteered to edit the articles to today – when more than 100,000 people have used YKA to speak up, a lot has changed.
And while 10 years is a lot, there’s a lot more that needs to be done. In simple words, 10 years on, the dominant traditional media system – the main source of information for a majority of our country is levitating more towards those in positions of power and has stopped serving ordinary citizens. In other words, power and money have come to dictate how citizen voices are portrayed and relayed to millions of people. We’re flooded with stories left, right and centre, but it’s become increasingly difficult to find authentic narratives that have the power to bring systemic change around us.
What running Youth Ki Awaaz has taught us is that powerful, diverse stories and narratives can change the world – but only if you create a space for them. For far too long and even now, the media has fluttered around top-down structures and addressed young people only as an afterthought. So when teenagers get out on the streets to protest, they’re stunned and find ways to silence them.
Yes, of course, there are enough pioneering journalists and editors out there trying to do good work – but the system is broken.
The easy answer to why I spent 10 years building Youth Ki Awaaz is because, in times of adversity, the YKA community gave me and the entire YKA team the strength to believe that doing this was extremely important. The not so easy answer is because the culture of silence needs to be broken a lot more – and young people are bound to lead this change.
The YKA community, every day, makes us believe that nothing is impossible! Every single voice has brought us closer to our mission of making sure that everyone has an equal shot at speaking up and making their voice count. And it is this community that has made YKA one of the boldest, fearless, progressive voices on the Indian internet. And that’s why we’re excited and on for the next 10!
The last 10 years have built an important foundation for YKA, and for the next phase of our journey, we want to work with you. Let’s take back control of our narrative and how we get to tell it. Let’s not let grammar come in the way of communication, and let’s demand a better, more open media by speaking up when it matters the most. Today.