Education, Opportunity, Economy: The Golden Trio For India’s Youth

The world is all set to listen to profound thoughts, visions and plans of the leaders of the world at UNGA. India is proud to get the leadership role in furthering the global agenda on climate change and education as the special speech on both these topics will be delivered by the Prime Minister of India. The campaign “Saurya Mitra” for utilisation of solar energy was launched by the ambitious PM some 4 years ago, and now the world has started to accept it in a profound manner that India must lead the world in changing the track of energy production and consumption from fossil fuel to renewable energy like that from sun light.

India, being the only giant in terms of global impact of soft power, is definitely going to attract unique kind of importance with its huge demographic and handsome economic stakes in the stable development of the first world countries. The change of narrative has definitely changed the perception about India across the globe, which has brought strong push in the efforts of ‘International Indians’ or NRIs to work for India from wherever they are. They are proud to be part of an India that is building its strength and influence in the international scheme of things, and on its way to becoming a superpower.

Every country competes for higher stake so that it may control bigger number of economic activities, which ultimately helps facilitate the wealth creation and possession. That means, to perform more activities, the nations compete for bigger amount of fuel, which requires strong research and development, and technology innovation. We are living in an age which is just waiting for an even round to land in the age of deep automation, huge technology push and smart human interventions. The combination of an abundant energy source like solar energy and an automated AI-driven work culture is going to bring huge challenge of people management in a bureaucratically centralised nation like India.

India is a nation where more than three-fourths of its economy works under unorganised sector, which means the same proportion of workforce is not technically trained and it hardly will be able to perform any skilled activity. It is an evident fact that the future of work is with skills of higher order, consequently labor jobs or repetitive jobs will be replaced by machines, which are more efficient to do them in comparison to humans.

In this perspective, if the grand Indian workforce is kept, the situation appears to be chilling. The question is where will such huge numbers of our fellow Indian will stand in the whole economy without any skill? Will we as a nation be exporter of human workforce to underdeveloped nations? Or will we be able to expand that much where major chunk of this workforce gets adjusted in India only? The world is paying attention to India, in particular at its demographic advantage. Hence, if we fail to capture appropriate space in the world economy by controlling the production and supply chain, academia and other important sectors of well being; no one lacks neckbreaker enemies in this world.

In this kind of decisive situation, it’s obvious that the youth empowerment will be the centre of all development policies across the globe, which starts with education and health. In health, we have been putting huge resources; number of agencies are working and are coming up with better results, which overall projects a rapid transformation.

Although we need to underline here that the elephant is sitting towards curing diseases and early childhood mortality rate prevention only. The preventive healthcare for working class entangles infrastructure, law and order, and civic aspects of service sector and it needs disruptive public participation with innovative value additions. But the burning issue for us is, definitely, education.

A recent article published by the Indian Express found that according to All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) India has registered a dramatic fall, almost 50%, in enrolment in M.Tech in the last 5 years and fall of 11% in enrolment of students in B.Tech. The trend continues for other 4-year courses. On the other hand, courses like MBA, LLB, B.Ed, MBBS have attracted students. The admissions in professional courses have dipped by almost 9% at the undergraduate level and almost 32% at the postgraduate level, and numbers are suggesting a renewed interest of Indian students in academics. All this is happening when 993 universities, 39,931 colleges and 10,725 standalone institutions are having a large number of students (3.74 crore) in higher education than ever before.

Now this drastic shift of interest of Indian students maybe put into several perspectives :

1. There is a dearth of quality in educational delivery in technical institutes apart from the front runners like IITs and IISc and other tier-one expensive private institutes. The poor quality fails to ensure return on investment; hence, students are choosing either the tier-one institutes or academics, which, of course, seeks much less investment.

2. The job market is heavily dominated by generalists, while the education system is yet trying to make out specialists and experts.

We, as a nation, have consistently failed to implement our plans of converged development of our society. There are multiple reasons behind it; one of the most prominent ones is that, traditionally, we were not a society which had always pursued expertise, and hence we enjoyed interdependence. The son of a carpenter used to be a carpenter, the same track was of a barber’s son and this security of generational transfer of skills kept our society under illusion even when industrialisation was knocking on the door.

With global pressure, industrialisation broke into Indian economy and major chunk of the society could not digest it while the mainstream class, which had access to resources and were controlling things, made huge profits. Today also, when the global order will push AI in India, there is a class which will make enormous profits while there is a huge chunk that will lose everything.

Our education system plays a huge role in this whole cultural tide. So far we tried to make thought leaders, morally strong, ethically intact and historically aware citizens; but we definitely have not given required value to business, practicality and applicability of knowledge with the hands of the learner itself. This has prevented us from achieving excellence in practical field of economy and hence from developing enough respect for executive skills also.

This comes in the way of developing a respectful training and working ecosystem for technical experts and compels even an IIT B.Tech graduate to go for MBA, and thus becoming a technical generalist! The strategy of prioritising education and healthcare by the government is also a major catalyst to make the entry courses in both these sectors more attractive amongst Indian students.

The trend is also an indication for entrepreneurs and company owners that they must stop measuring technical workforce very minimal in comparison to the generalist/managers. A proper organisational reform drill may be performed to bring some parity about those who actually perform and those who manage the performance.

It also indicates about the disproportionate expansion of manufacturing sector in India. Opportunity must match the workforce supply. Although India is already having a debate that why must it not remain an import-based nation and export the human resources needed across the world. That is also a way how we may control the global operation.
The push for innovative entrepreneurship appears to be a reason why students may choose to discontinue hectic courses and pursue their ideas. If it is happening and has reached a level, India may see bright days in the coming decade.

Initiatives like Skill India, Startup India, and Stand Up India are influencing the youth of our country to discontinue formal education and become entrepreneurs.

All these vital perspectives bring us to a situation that the India which was considered to be the most influential exporter of best of the engineers, doctors, CEOs is undertaking a deep change and our educators are expected to analyse the socio-economic cusp while they design the curriculum of education. When the world is looking at India with enormous hope, education has got the centre stage and the educators of the country need to facilitate the youth to respond to situations in a creative, positive and responsible manner.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: Kyle Taylor/Flickr.
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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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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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