For The Youth To Rise Against Inequality, We Must Work With Them

For The Youth To Rise Against Inequality, We Must Work With Them

Towards achieving the dream of making an equal society country need to focus more on upskilling youth population. Our country is the youngest country across the globe with more than 62% of its population between 15 to 59 years and more than 54% population is below 25 years. The youth i.e. people in the age group of 18-29 years constitute 22% of country’s population.

The government is doing its bit to close the gap in terms of skilled youth population with employability capability by initiatives like Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY); the PMKVY was the government’s flagship programme to provide skilled training to youth. It is imperative to bring focus of government, private sector, educational institutions, developmental agencies and other relevant stakeholders to focus more on development of country’s youth population if we want to become a superpower with equal opportunity for all.

But a mere focus on skill development will not work rather there should be a multi-pronged approach to develop knowledge and skills in such a way that they become responsible citizens. Despite a large youth population crime against women and girls, discrimination, and inequality is rising drastically. A large section of the country is still facing difficulty in accessing discrimination free public services like health and education both in rural and urban area.

For a better India, upskilling the youth along with creating awareness and empathy for the society, for all its genders, and for all castes and religions is critical.

To develop the capacity of youth around gender, inequality and active citizen, Oxfam India engages youth through civil society organizations across country. In Uttar Pradesh, we engage with youth alliance, Red Brigade youth group, Yes youth collective, Awadh People’s youth forum and Dastak Manch through different cultural and recreational activities. We develop capacity of youth around gender and sexuality and develop youth champions to promote gender equality whom we call ‘Bano Nayi Soch or BNS champions’. These champions in Lucknow, Azamgarh and Muzaffarnagar are raising awareness around gender equality in the society. Oxfam India through “16 Days of Activism” campaign against gender based violence on women and girls raises wider awareness across state through youth volunteers.

One of our targeted approach is to engage youth through recreational activities. For instance, the Dastak Youth Festival held in collaboration with Dastak Manch were we engage with youth from around 40 universities and colleges on inequality. Youth were engaged through different cultural activities such as poster competition, mehandi competition, rangoli, group theme decoration, poetry recitation, photo exhibition, debate, solo and group dance, and role on the issues of inequality.

What this has done is helped the youth—both girls and boys—engage through these processes and develop their understanding on development issues and start acting as change agents in the society.

One such change agent is 16 year old Ikra Naz—a student of Cosmopolitan Inter College, Lucknow and associated with Oxfam India and Red Brigade for the last four years in different campaigns and awareness activities on gender and inequality. She has two brother and two sisters. Her father is a shop owner. During Covid, when classes had gone digital a phone was bought only for the sons.

During one of the youth festivals when she narrated this incident of gender inequality the family didn’t take it very kindly. The family forced her not to participate in such workshops. But Ikra stuck to her guns; she opposed gender based discrimination and started questioning why such inequality persists in the society? The family eventually provided a mobile phone for her study as well and accepted that both boys and girls are equal.

Family members were of the view initially that with access to mobile phones,  girls will get distracted and hence the decision was taken to not give phones to girls. Ikra changed that. She uses the mobile phone for her studies and she is our girl champion spreading the message of gender-based equality in the society. Like Ikra, Oxfam India engages with more than 2000 youth every year around inequality through youth based network.

Like Ikra, Priyanka Bharti too is one of our change agents. Priyanka belongs to the Dalit community and after a workshop by Oxfam India and Red Brigade Trust got involved in issues of inequality. She works with adolescent girls on the issue of violence against women and girls; she is working particularly on the issue of acid attack and rights of acid attack survivors. Being a Dalit girl, she has faced caste and gender-based discrimination in the society. But now she is evolving into a leader encouraging girls to fight against gender and caste-based discrimination. She says, “People, especially boys, used to pass caste and gender-based comments on me in the village but now no one dares to say anything about my gender or caste in front of me”.

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Bano Nayi Soch Champion

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