By Poonam Labde:
Being a young woman social activist, I feel strongly about youth engaging in social change. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s words of “Educate, Organize, Agitate” are the guiding forces of how today’s youth must progress. His vision of connecting education to social change is extremely important, and even though a large part of our youth continue to find that accessing higher education is a struggle, this is a struggle that we must overcome. We must help each other, especially the vulnerable sections of society to achieve higher education because that is the only way that they shall themselves lead to change.
There might be many today who keep busy with their day-to-day lives, but it is a positive sign that there are certainly also many who have moved beyond their personal lives and are engaging in work for social change. While this is quite prevalent in urban areas, it is more so in rural areas where youth in small villages and settlements are taking a lot of initiative to achieve their and others’ rights and for social justice.
An example of youth as young as 13 to 19 years old showing us the way, is in a village called Kolegaon, which is about 6 km away from Dombivali East in Thane District, Maharashtra. Young people, through the organisation Anubhuti, are working to strengthen the values of our Indian Constitution. Kolegaon is said to be part of the 27 villages where the administration’s reach is minimal. To rectify this, a few young people are making efforts from within the village for social change and development. As part of this, one of the projects they have taken up is that of education, which is one of the fundamental rights given by our Constitution.
These youth leaders connect their work for the right to education to other aspects such as the right to participation, right to equity, right to leadership and the right to safety. They have carried out this project successfully by meeting other youth, women and men of their village and by explaining to them the importance of education, that there is no age bar to it and that it is our right which we must attain. Some of the people they spoke to had failed an exam because of which they had dropped out; some had been forced to leave studies because they had been displaced; some did not have much information about further studies due to which they did not give it priority. These were some of the reasons that were identified as the youth leaders braved the hot summer sun and with people’s participation, held many small meetings at different spots in the village and went from door-to-door with the strong intention of ensuring rights of their own people who had been rendered vulnerable.
Financial difficulties, due to which many young people had to shoulder responsibilities at a very young age, was one of the main reasons for which most had sacrificed their dreams. But by using relevant information and by winning over their trust, our youth leaders explained to them that they would have to turn their negative circumstances into positive forces of motivation. With this positive and renewed energy, close to 30 people were ready to resume their education.
These aspirants plan to advance in mainstream courses such as in engineering, medicine, commerce, arts as well as social work. The youth leaders of Kolegaon have followed constitutional values and principles in ensuring that these dreams are fulfilled. However, both the newly re-enrolled students, as well as the youth leaders themselves, are struggling against financial constraints, which are pulling them back despite all their determination and grit.
For example, an engineering aspirant is unable to take admission to the stream of their choice because of sky-high fees in most engineering colleges. Another youth who identifies as trans, because of which they recently lost their job and is now struggling to make ends meet, doesn’t know how they shall pay fees or afford to travel to college from the village. Four siblings – two girls and two boys – have been missing crucial years of studies because they are unable to afford fees, travel costs and books.
In this scenario, even the youth leaders and the organisation Anubhuti do not have answers.
Around 25 youth have been identified – belonging to SC, ST, NT/DNT, trans and economically vulnerable communities – who need small scholarships of about ₹7000 each. Only for the lack of this small amount of ₹7000, many of the aspirants might finally not go back to education or might drop out again – which will be a major setback for the youth leaders, the re-enrolled aspirants and their entire communities and village.
If you wish to support these youth in their higher education, to ensure their development and that of their village, please contribute to their scholarships being raised by Anubhuti Trust. The total amount to be raised is approximately ₹1.75 lakhs.
The rough break-up is:
₹1000 – books for one student
₹2000 – nutrition and travel costs for one student
₹4000 – average fee for one student
₹7000 – total average sponsorship of a student
Account name – Anubhuti Charitable Trust
Bank – Union Bank of India, Vile Parle (East)
Account number – 319701010036887
IFSC – UBIN0531979
Translated from original Marathi. The author was part of a youth initiative to re-enrol drop-out youth, women and men in Kolegaon, Dombivali (East) in Thane District, Maharashtra. A similar initiative has also been led by young women in Bamanwada – an urban community in Vile Parle East in Mumbai. All contributors are welcome to visit the project sites and meet the youth leaders, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on +91 9820778330 for the same.