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Youth Skills Day: Reimagining The Future Of Work Post COVID

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ReimagineTogether logoEditor’s Note: This article is a part of #ReimagineTogether, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with UNICEF India, YuWaah and Generation Unlimited, to spark conversations to create a new norm and better world order in the post-pandemic future. How have you and those around you coped with the pandemic? Join the conversation by telling us your COVID story and together, let's reimagine a safer, better and more equal future for all!

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and are not necessarily the views of the partners.

An Unequal Crisis With Unequal Impact

Millions of students in India have been affected by the closure of schools and colleges due to the COVID lockdown. We are all figuring out ways to understand and find our place in this new normal. Students, recent graduates, too, are struggling to make sense of this precarious situation. The economic challenges posed by this pandemic have brought to the surface inequalities in our education system, our policies and our socio-political setup.

Finding a career path has been a great source of anxiety for India’s youth, and this pandemic has only made it worse. With increasing wealth and income inequalities, which seem to even affect the upper fringes of the middle class now, we can only imagine what it would be like to be stuck at the very bottom of this structure.

college students in line for admission
Representational image.

The digital divide has alienated our students forcing them to fall behind on their studies. This will further affect their chances of employability and a better future. So how do we make sure all of them make it?

Reimagining The New Normal Together

Is there a way we can help the students, fresh out of college graduates to find the right opportunities, resources and skills to navigate the post-covid world? To find the answer to this and many more similar concerns Youth Ki Awaaz teamed up with UNICEF India and YuWaah for a panel discussion on World Youth Skills Day.

We spoke with the experts to understand the pandemic’s impact on employment, job loss and skilling and what it means for the future of 356 million young Indians.

The panel was hosted by Youth Ki Awaaz’s Prashant Jha included: Dr Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF India, Sunita Sanghi, Senior Advisor, Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE), Neel Ratan, Managing Partner, North PwC, Supriya Paul, Co-Founder Josh Talks, Neil Banerjee, recent graduate, now working as an Advertising Professional.

The International Labour Organisation has warned that the economic fallout of COVID-19 could leave many young people behind, excluding them from the job market. One in six young people around the world has lost their jobs since the pandemic. For a country like ours with the largest youth population, it becomes imperative to discuss how we can move forward in such a situation. It is important that we reimagine a better and more inclusive future for the country’s youth hailing from diverse backgrounds.

“Upskilling and reskilling will become critical for young people as the world adjusts to the new normal.” – Dr Yasmin Ali Haque

1. Sunita Sanghi talks about steps being taken to focus on employability and self-reliance among young people in India

It’s a new normal and a ‘business as usual’ approach will not work. Many sectors have gone out of the picture. People engaged in the retail or hospitality sector may not find jobs in their respective sectors. They need to be reskilled.

This pandemic has brought in a multiplier effect in the way the job scenario has changed. We need to ensure that different skill value chains are addressed with proper pedagogy, curriculum, and an interface between teachers and students.

The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship has also launched an app called ‘Swades’ to bridge the skill gap. We’ve initiated mapping skills of migrants, and if there’s a skill gap, we’re making arrangements to upskill them. We are working to ensure that education and skill go hand in hand.

To the youth, I would say, please look into all the opportunities available, and follow your dreams. The sky is the limit!

2. Supriya Paul sheds light on how the landscape changed in terms of access to opportunities, skills and resources for young people to pursue their goals and choice of career

Young people are not able to identify their aspirations easily. With respect to skilling, the first step to take is making it aspirational. While we focus on hard skills and technical skills, we must also focus on building confidence among our youth and investing in developing soft skills like English speaking, etc.

How can the economic gap between men and women due to the job market bridge?

The socio-economic gender gap has been there for long, it has only become more visible during the pandemic. Women’s role has primarily shifted to caregivers right now. Their careers have taken a backseat and focus has shifted to household chores.

But, at the same time, COVID-19 has taught us is that people are willing to learn online. Now that we know that digital is the next wave, we need to think about how we can create an ecosystem that’s more specific to women and their jobs.

We should also think of other roles women can fit into while they’re working from home. We need to bring mainstream careers for women and help them skill up. As employers, we must become more sensitive to the needs of women and create more holistic policies for their work.

3. Neel Ratan on how businesses and policymakers can work together to create the right space for young people to realise their potential

The pandemic has revealed the digital divide in India. It’s important to think about how we can bring the digital have-nots to the mainstream.

If we’re able to use this pandemic to create a sustainable hyper-local economic model for opportunities creation, this could be an opportunity for us rather than being a threat.

If the government and private sectors come together to help design this one core platform, which is accessible to everyone, it will really help people attain the required skills and transition smoothly to digital education and workspaces.

This world will be different, especially for the first batch that graduate into this new normal. But, be very, very optimistic, and look at the bright side, and you won’t be left behind!

4. Neil Bannerjee on gaps that exist in our education system that impact employability and being skill-ready

There’s a huge gap in what we are taught and the skills we need at our job. When we leave our educational institutes and enter the job market, this gap remains. Skilling and job creation needs to go hand in hand. We need to address this gap, and the government needs to play a bigger role here.

On Delhi University’s recent mock test fail

The situation in our education system right now is not just COVID-specific. We need to understand this. There’s a lack of social equity that needs addressing first. What happened in DU was an infrastructural failure, we need to reconsider where we need to bring in private partners. This is the only way forward to avoid a similar situation in future.

Should The Unequal Crisis Have Unequal Recovery Too?

Not necessarily. And that’s why we must find ways to rebuild a better world to ensure we don’t come out of the crisis even more unequal than we were before. One thing’s for sure: in the future, if we have to make sure all have access to equal opportunities then it is critical that we have equalising policies in place.

You can watch the full video here:

UNICEF India also announced the launch of Young People’s Action Team to understand their problems and learn how we can improve to fit their needs better. You can apply to be a part of this initiative here.

You can participate in the #ImaginationUnlimited YuWaah Youth Challenge here

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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