“The youth of today are leaders of tomorrow,” – Nelson Mandela
“By 2021, India will have the maximum number of youths in the world and we should turn this into an advantage. There is no way that India’s policy makers, people in power can ignore us or not take our suggestions anymore,” proclaimed Neha from Plan India’s Youth Advisory Panel while disseminating the Youth Charter at a conference amidst a roomful of government officials.
Neha’s words echoed in the room and resonated with the young and old present in the room.
As Neha went onto to explain the 10-point recommendation ranging from access to education to elimination of gender bias to combat drop put rates of girls to improving gender ratios in the workforce, it was quite clear that the youth had thought about each of the challenges and had feasible solutions for them.
The recommendations on the charter focus on a participatory approach and urge the youth to be the change themselves. Here, I would like to share an interesting observation. During an interactive session at the charter presentation ceremony, a Youth Advisory Panel member shared that in her village, girls are still discriminated against and was seeking solutions from the august company of government officials. While her query was genuine and the officials present could have easily shared a few steps; the solution came from the youth present in the room. And the sentiment that echoed was, “We youngsters can bring in change, we should not wait for external agencies to extend help, but we ourselves need to be champions and role models in our communities!”
This observation stunned many of us sporting grey hues of hair, but it made us realise the potential and commitment that youngsters have. All they need is a little nudge towards the right direction.
But this was just the beginning. The open session following the presentation of the charter opened a plethora of insights and actions.
Youngsters clearly aren’t afraid to take a strong step, they have the inclination to work with policymakers to bring positive changes in the society and they want to begin with themselves. When the moderator (a lawyer for child rights) urged the youth to ask tough questions to people in power, quite unhesitantly, a young girl shared her bitter experience with the Delhi Police, and soon it became a debatable matter with the police personnel present admitting that there is huge room for improvement for the ‘men in khaki’ and how the forces are trying to come up with modules which apprised children and youth alike of their rights under the Juvenile Justice Act and how FIR processes function. The personnel quite gratifyingly asked the youth to create a task force that could work with the police to come up with a leaflet highlighting processes and rights, he also invited the group for an exposure visit to their ‘soft skills’ training institute. If this is not a behavioural change, then what is?
Moving on from khaki to those dealing with curriculum, a strong recommendation was to work with the DCPCR (Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act) to audit NCERT books from a gender lens. It was suggested that the Youth Advisory Panel form a task force to gender-audit each of the NCERT textbooks from Class I to Class X and call out the gender bias. The audit would be taken up by DCPCR and would be presented to NCERT for changes.
With this in motion, very soon, we shall see NCERT portraying both men and women in gender neutral roles and responsibilities. The idea is to call out gender bias at an early age and avoid conditioning of young minds through curriculum. This process is already in motion and by September the task force will submit their audit report to DCPCR.
Discussions on DCW’s (Delhi Commission for Women) role towards generating sensitising and awareness among the youth on laws, rights and counselling were held. The youth were invited for an exposure visit to DCW to further understand their operating systems. Gender discrimination was also pointed out by young girls who shared that many doctors judge them for visiting gynaecologists and how to avoid such judgement, they ‘Google symptoms for medication.’ This unhealthy practice turned out to be hugely popular among young girls and genuinely scared each and everyone in the room. The need for gender awareness and sensitisation at a curriculum level was highly emphasised to ensure that doctors are trained to deal each and every patient with respect and maturity.
The recommendations cited in the charter and the concerns shared were collective voices of 181 youths from the length and breadth of the country. The youth have come of age, it is high time we too.
“Bachhe nahi, hum yuva hai!” – a voice strongly echoes in the room.
For further reading about Plan India’s Plan For Every Child Conference
Written by: Debanjana Choudhuri, Manager- Marketing and Communications, Plan India