Meet Shiv Semalty, a youth advocate who has been working towards challenging traditional norms and bringing change in the lives of youth living in Uttarkashi!
Thirteen years ago, Shiv, a young man from Uttarakhand, left his home state to work at a call centre for an air hostess academy in Delhi. The state is well known for youth migration – Shiv himself says that over 32 lakh young people have migrated over the last few years due to poor infrastructure and lack of jobs. But something didn’t feel right with Shiv – a deeper calling that unsettled him, even in his comfortable job. Packing his bags, he decided to return to his home state and join the social sector.
Today, this erstwhile call centre employee proudly talks about his 13-year career in the field of development. He spends his time working with young people towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and educating families on fighting patriarchy.
Shiv started his field work with non-profits in districts like Garhwal and Chamoli on issues like child rights, education and disaster management. After the massive floods in 2013 in the state, he worked with disaster health camps. In 2014, he secured a job with UN Volunteers and started working with Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS) to empower youth in Uttarkashi.
He was the first full-time District Youth Coordinator in many years, and ensured that all the six blocks in his area got exposure and trainings. “If you ask me what my biggest achievement over the last 2 years is, I can say that it is that I can mobilise a large number of young people in the area in under an hour!” he says. He has also succeeded in bringing a record number of 300 youth clubs online! Because of his efforts, an area that once had the label of having “defunct clubs”, is thriving with opportunities today!
Shiv’s key initiative was to introduce digital technology for youth in the area by setting up a computer training centre which were accessible for the youth. Initially, the centre was frequented only by men, as there was no such facility for women. But after a lot of women expressed their interest, Shiv ensured that a female teacher was recruited. Soon enough, women students started enrolling in the computer centre.. Furthermore, to promote women participation, Shiv also initiated stitching classes in the centre which supported women to build their skills. Today, as part of NYKS’s initiatives, over 200 young women are either a part of these initiatives, making them be more self-sufficient and save money.
Shiv says that this participation is not limited to just stitching or computers. In various youth activities such as cultural and sports programmes, female participation has increased by over 80%! The impact is not only on women but on their families too. Parents now realise that the change that comes from outside exposure cannot come by making girls sit at home. There is a massive shift in the thinking that a girl who has completed her 12th grade only has marriage written in her future. “Parents are not only saving for marriage today, but for girls’ school fees also,” Shiv says proudly. Families where daughters had been at home after 8th grade, today know the worth of paying for school fees and are getting their daughters back to education.
The impact has been so massive that a family living in the remotest of areas, cut off from the most basic resources and rights, specially travelled to Shiv’s district. Their request? They wanted their daughter to be employed as a part of NYKS as well.
“I know I can’t solve every problem, or give a solution to everyone – but at least I can guide them about where to look,” says Shiv. “My dream is to ensure that the change I am helping create, stays long after I am gone.”