Youth of an under-resourced, semi-rural community in Maharashtra will grow their socio-political leadership and with support of other community members, bring about socio-economic development of their community that is inclusive of all especially the most vulnerable groups, and made sustainable by people's participation.
The initiative is to provide 100 youth between ages 13 to 25 years, living in a resource-deprived semi-rural community in Thane District, with the leadership including soft and hard life skills needed to compliment their formal education, with the help of which they can break out of the cycle of socio-economic poverty and deprivation that they are stuck in. Capacities built in this age is crucial to youth reaching their potential in the future; however, deprived (socio-economically poor) youth only have access to 'poor' facilities - be them of education, healthcare or skill-building. The initiative is for them to build their capacities and to provide them with learning opportunities so that they can turn around their own lives, identify problems of socio-economic poverty in their families & communities, and solve these problems from the bottoms-up. A youth center with 35 youth has already been running in this community since one year. Positive rapport with local elected and non-elected leaders and vilage residents has also been built, while constructive relations are being built with other relevant stakeholders such as police, hospital, Municipal Corporation, etc. who are responsible for this area. This is the right time to upscale the initiative to reach more youth, and provide more frequent and goal-based inputs than currently running.
Education and Skill building
Stabilised; looking to scale
We have identified this problem based on over 12 years of work experience in youth development sector and after studying secondary literature. For eg. according to NFHS-3, 31% of young women and 14% of young men in India are illiterate. Among them, 60% of women belonging to lowest income households are illiterate, compared to only 3% from highest income households. The problem thus is that deprived youth continue to face denial of basic rights, instead of getting the opportunities to break out of deprivation. We tested the relevance of these larger data in local areas by holding meetings with community members, leaders, ICDS workers and youth before we started our work. While FGDs with them proved an overall lack of access to basic rights, resources & opportunities among youth, there was also evidence that different youth based on their gender and caste had differential access to resources and development opportunities. Our theory of change is that if youth, who are at their most productive age, are given the right opportunities to realise their potential as leaders, they can affect equitable change for themselves, their peers, their families, their communities and the society. While giving them charity can solve their problems for a short term, building their overall capabilities would ensure lasting change for themselves and those connected to them. Our work involves firstly building skills, knowledge, and strategies of deprived youth so they can break out of their social deprivations; secondly to mentor them for taking responsibility and work for change in their immediate surroundings; and thirdly to advocate with stakeholders and government systems for policy change which will sustain the changes brought about by these youth. Our solution therefore focuses on bringing about holistic, systemic change which can benefit a large number of youth, instead of focusing on individual development of limited youth.
A youth center with 35 youth has been established in this community. 60% of these youth are girls/young women, which is a success in this community with strict restrictions on girls' mobility. Girls and boys engage in disussions and carry out activities together at this center, another success for gender equity in this semi-rural area, where the first session had boys and girls refusing to even look at or talk to each other. They have led public campaigns for awareness and advocacy on relevant issues such as girls' safety and mobility, in November 2016, then in August 2017, in their community, in which they made public presentations reaching out to more than 600 people. As a result of these efforst, local Anubhuti-coordinated committees of 15 women and men have been formed who shall function as support groups to this initiative in this village, which is extremely necessary to make the process sustainable and people-participatory. The local elected representative and other powerful leaders are supportive, and they have shown this support by participating and collaborating in our events.
1. In next 3 months, propose to increase reach of youth center to 50 youth. 2. In 3 months after that, increase regularity of sessions to twice a week, which includes trainings, educational coaching, library, internet access, etc.. 3. In 3 months after that add focused workshops on soft and hard life skills, mentoring, counseling, and practical knowledge of social change to participating youth. Simultaneously, by organic process, increase number of beneficiary youth to 100. 4. In 3 months after that, start to equip youth to advocate with local leaders & govt. to provide community resources necessary for youth development (playground, library, community center, etc.). Simultaneously, provide training and include the support groups created in the village in design and implementation of the process to ensure their owndership and involvement in development of own youth and community. 5. After one year, facilitate and mentor these trained youth and support groups to take up issues of concern in their village and solve them in collaboration with relevant governmental and non-governmental stakeholders. Facilitate their leadership to reach out to more youth and entire community through their initiatives for change.