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How The Youth Of India Can Be Nurtured To Become Leaders Of Tomorrow

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The history of India dates back to more than 2,500 years before the emergence of the Indus Valley civilization. A land of opportunities during the ancient world;  even after more than 72 years of Independence, we are the youngest, biggest and the strongest democracy in the world.

We are a nation of more than 600 million youngsters with more than 600 million aspirations. India, in that sense, is not just a land of opportunities but also a land of dreams. Today, I won’t talk about myself but I will be talking about the youth as a whole. It has been established that India has the largest youth population in the world, so we can safely say, that India is the youngest country with the oldest civilization. The power of youth is one of the most influential, powerful and useful weapons we have today and they are, without a doubt, energized. Before I start, I would like to add that this chapter might not answer your questions about the future of India, but it will certainly give you food for thought.

Dr.Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, our former President, laid great emphasis on youth empowerment. So, as a member of the youth community, I feel the most basic and the most fundamental principle of youth empowerment is ‘dreaming’. Be it a student who is sitting under a lamp post or a student going to school, everyone has the right to dream and pursue whatever he or she wants to, without undue stress about potential hassles and to take their own decisions, subject to their choice on whether or not to pay to heed to parental advice. To dream is the birthright of every young man and woman, but I am not talking about the dream we see while we are asleep, but the one that doesn’t let you sleep.

It is high time now to take decisions for the betterment of our youth, and encourage them to follow their own path, who knows, left to their own devices they may make miracles. I personally know many living wonders like Akash Manoj, a thirteen-year-old boy from Bangalore, who has developed a technology to detect a silent heart attack. There are many more such talented young people in our cities and villages. We have the resources required but that is not enough. Let’s use a principle of economics to illustrate this point.  In the production possibility curve, when the resources are underutilized, the economy is unable to perform at its peak and the same goes with us if this country is considered as an economy and its youth as an important resource.

Here, I am not criticizing anyone, but we do lack societal support. Many of us leave our passion behind to pursue what our parents dreamed of, during their days, but what I believe is that a passionate dancer is happier and more successful than a stressed engineer.

In a society like India, where currently there are over millions of youth, the real change makers are the youngsters. Whether we enter politics or take up corporate jobs, the passion for the development of our nation won’t fade away. Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam always believed that the youth are more unbiased than others when it comes to change, but the need of the hour is upon the country to give us the required attention. Another special feature of the young generation is their uniqueness.

Today, when we are facing many challenges in terms of economy, politics, environment or whatever it may be, the youth population might prove to be a savior. Their scope of thinking is vast enough to tackle many challenges for the nation. In school, whenever two friends sit together and talk about politics or a challenge that India might be facing, they come up with many ideas that may be illogical, sometimes, but most of the time, they are unique and reflect a higher level of wisdom, even at an early stage of life.

I am fully satisfied that today, I can see many youngsters interested in nation building, and moreover, they are also interested in politics and writing, and they are open to new ideas which show their hunger for gaining knowledge and wisdom. So, the youth of today are eager to learn, perform and respond. To perform is to implement whatever you have learned, and that means practicality. So, there are many skills we have, but we need you to support us at ground level, rather than merely talking about youth empowerment.

Many of us have high aspirations in life and dreams to fulfill, which is necessary for us as youngsters. But we face many problems in achieving those dreams.

1.Education :

One of the most basic requirements is education;  I believe education is one thing, but talent too, plays an important role. Many of the youngsters are still deprived of proper education and knowledge. Education should be imparted to improve their talents and the basic aim of education should be overall development and spreading knowledge, developing curiosity amongst the young minds and it must not be bookish In our society, education is examination and marks-centric, and not skill and knowledge-centric.

2.Unemployment

Unemployment is much higher than the literacy rate, hence, it is impossible to employ each and every youth of this nation. I believe youth should become job creators, rather than job seekers. I am very hopeful about entrepreneurship in India, the young population is ambitious and energized and they are ready to take up the challenge. In the recent past, we have seen some new entrepreneurs coming up with unique ideas.

3.Pressure

The third problem is something that most of us face. Whether it is societal, peer or family pressure, it plays an important role in decreasing the efficiency of a youngster. It is like a burden we have to carry all the time. Most of the youth are forced at an early age, in the tenth grade to be more specific, to study Science and Commerce. I have seen this tendency in some parents, that boys are made to become engineers and girls are made to become doctors. For some parents, commerce and humanities are less important and those who are studying that are useless, uneducated and considered failures. I was a student of Humanities and the first one from my family to study History and Political Science. I believe a student must know his/her abilities and talents and likewise, they must take a decision and not get their parents involved. I have seen students suffering after taking Science, and students enjoying after taking any of the other streams, hence, whether you are happy and successful is basically based on your choice.

4.Drugs

It can be considered a side-effect of pressure. Coping with growing aspirations of family, friends, and society often lead an innocent child into a habit of taking drugs. But the question is how do we fight these challenges? Because we all are aware of them and just acknowledging them is not enough. We have to take some steps toward overcoming them. There must be an upgrade in the education system of India. Once, India was the epicenter of knowledge foreign travelers would come to Nalanda, seeking knowledge. There should be a shift from books to practical applications. I see a small change happening and the government is doing its bit. Today, we lack practical knowledge and the ability to use our theoretical knowledge in the practical sense. There are many famous academicians who are working to improve this. We must try to understand that marks are just a part of academics and the major focus must be on acquiring knowledge and talent. This would lead to an increase in students’ interest and they would start exploring new career avenues. Creative businesses must be encouraged and the spirit of entrepreneurship must be developed.

As I  made a reference to aspirations earlier, most of our aspirations are forced to get buried under regret because of societal and family pressure. The rat race that includes comparison and evaluation is dangerous for good quality of education and for the personality of youngsters. We cannot compare two individuals because we all are unique.

An individual, A, might be good at painting while B might be good at mathematics. What is important here is that youth empowerment demands personality development for which we have to reduce this pressure and must allow our children to take their own decisions with their parents’ guidance. This reduction of pressure might lead to a decrease in the consumption of drugs.

India possesses a lot of potential which might change the future of this world as the youth would one day lead; and having the largest population of youth, India’s contribution to this new world would surely increase by a great percentage if this section of the population of India is nurtured the right way.

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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.

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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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