The initiative is to provide 50 youth between ages 13 to 19 years, living in a resource-deprived semi-rural community in Thane District, with soft and hard life skills needed to compliment their formal education, with the help of which they can break out of the cycle of 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 6 months. Some positive rapport has also been built, collecting support for the initiative from community members, local leaders and local government. This is the right time to upscale the initiative to 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 led a public campaign for spreading awareness of constitutional rights in November in their community, in which they made public presentations reaching out to more than 300 people. A group of 25 community women has been formed who are supportive of this initiative. The local elected representative and other powerful leaders are supportive, and they have shown this support by participating 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. 3. In 3 months after that provide focused workshops on soft and hard life skills to participating youth. 4. In 3 months after that equip youth to advocate with local leaders & govt. to provide community resources necessary for youth development (playground, library, community center, etc.).