Power of Resources in the Hands of Young

Pooja Rao & Vithika Yadav

Over the last decade, there has been a consistently growing acceptance towards the realisation that young people need help, so much so that there is pretty much a consensus across stakeholder groups on the need to support young people. However, it is now time to move away from this rhetoric and move towards actions that actually put agency and resources in the hands of young people to enable catalytic and sustainable change.

 

According to a new report, India’s rank has slipped to 117 out of 193 countries on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The State of India’s Environment Report 2021 reads that India’s ranking slipped two points between 2020 and 2021 because of primarily three challenges, one of which is achieving gender equality (SDG 5) — the other two being ending hunger and achieving food security (SDG 2) and building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation (SDG 9). The report also puts Jharkhand as one of the least prepared state to meet the SDGs by 2030.

Needless to say, these have been critical issues for India for a few decades now, and the pandemic has only made the situation worse and pushed us back by 10 years. The progress made on adolescent and youth-focused issues, especially, is threatened to be potentially reversed if key and immediate steps are not taken. If you look at education alone, young people have faced the brunt of the pandemic with school closures impacting 247 million children in India. This has had significant impact on their learning abilities as well as their physical and mental health.

Three years ago, 10to19 Adolescents Collaborative launched Ab Meri Baari, a nation-wide campaign to create normative change and drive strategic engagement by providing adolescents and youth with a platform to support and amplify their voices. The objective of the campaign, which engaged with hundreds of adolescents on ground across three Indian states, was to bring about an increase in the efficacy and agency of adolescents, especially girls and impact their decision making. The pandemic, however, brought a new set of challenges for this initiative.

The decision to move engagements with young people online has not been an easy one, especially given the wide digital divide in the country and the skewed digital tool ownership in the hands of males. However, the decision has been a crucial one, especially at a time, when many of these youth feel isolated because they no longer have access to their physical school spaces, their community gatherings or even their peers, thus reducing channels of meaningful conversations. The digital engagements have allowed the Ab Meri Baari campaign to connect with more than 200 youth directly across 9 states to hear from them on how are they doing, how are they coping in a pandemic, and what are their pressing challenges and needs.

In partnership with Love Matters India, Ab Meri Baari has also enabled the virtual training of 60 youth in Jharkhand, over a period of 13 weeks, in the skills of mobile journalism and the art of content production. This is an initiative which aims to put resources in the hands of young people to not only develop employable skills but to also enable them to become local champions who can raise awareness about sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) and fight teenage pregnancy — a key stressor in the state of Jharkhand — among other issues.

We’ve now heard from so many of these youth trainees that even as the Covid-19 lockdown played havoc with their school and college education, it brought a new opportunity for them to gain new skills, create impactful original content and feature in their own YouTube videos. And we’ve seen difference in them too. From not knowing what Zoom was, to producing hard-hitting news videos, the students of the Mobikaar citizen journalism program did it all in a matter of four months. They logged on, week after week, to learn about public-interest journalism, news gathering, research, and video production skills through Zoom meetings on their mobile phones. They make more aware of adolescent-centric issues in their local geographies, the role of various stakeholders, and the power of their own voice.

And that is what the Ab Meri Baari campaign strives to achieve — to help the young and community gatekeepers around them understand and value the power of young voices and agency. As a generation of adolescents and youth prepare to transition into adulthood over the next decade, it is the responsibility of the stakeholders in ecosystem to ensure that the young people have resources and platforms to raise their voice, and that they are heard. Only then, will we be able to secure the future of our young population and enable them to empower themselves and those around them. The SDGs for 2030, too, have established that young people are a driving force for development but only if they are provided with the skills and opportunities needed to reach their potential.

Ab Meri Baari is a nation-wide campaign to create normative change and drive strategic engagement by providing adolescents and youth with a platform to support and amplify their voices. The objective of the campaign is to bring about an increase in the efficacy and agency of adolescents, especially girls (between 10 to 19 years of age) and impact their decision making and understanding on education, sexual and reproductive health and early marriage.

Love Matters is Indias leading digital Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) information platform catering to the needs of young people. We provide open, honest, non-judgmental and science-based information on love, sex and relationships using innovate media formats.

Pooja Rao is an Associate Director at Dasra, where she leads program delivery and management, partnerships, communication campaigns, and key operational functions for the 10to19: Dasra Adolescents Collaborative. As part of her work on partnerships and campaigns, Pooja builds strategic engagements with leading youth-serving organizations and supports the ideation and delivery of innovative models that enable meaningful participation of young people in key policy and program platforms.

Vithika Yadav is an anti-slavery, sexual rights and gender rights activist. Awarded as one of the 120 under 40 New Generation of Family Planning leaders in the world, she is the Co-founder and Head of Love Matters India, which is the first ever digital initiative in India to give complete, honest and unbiased information on love, sex and relationships, in other words sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people in Hindi and English language.

Reference Example for easy understanding

Table 1

The policy gap(s) addressed by the program

The exclusion of young people in the decision-making process for policy issues surrounding adolescents

Community need(s) addressed by the program

Greater awareness and understanding of adolescent issues regarding their education, sexual and reproductive health, and early marriage

Opportunity for innovation addressed by the program

The opportunity to bring and work together with critical stakeholders on a single platform

Table 2

Day-to-day program activities

Stakeholder management, vendor management

Periodic program activities

Monitoring, Reporting, Training of Personnel

One-off program activities

Government advocacy, designing campaigns

Tools/frameworks/systems & processes/ways of working from the program

Systems Change Framework

Table 3

Program practices

Is the practice impactful? If yes, list down why?

Is the practice sustainable? If yes, list down why?   

Is the practice scalable? If yes, list down why?  

Is the practice innovative and/or unique? If yes, list down why?  

Youth-led social audits and presenting youth-centric priorities directly to decision makers

Yes, as it allows young people to directly engage with decision makers and contribute to the decision-making process

Yes, as it equips young people with leadership skills. It is also cost effective due to the long-term gains it offers upon initial investment

Yes, as such training modules can be replicated across multiple initiatives by other practitioners & organizations. In addition, trained young people can also train other young people

Yes, as it follows an approach which centers its design and delivery around young people, in an end-to-end manner

+

+

+

+

+

Table 4

Promising Practice

Youth-led social audits and presenting youth-centric priorities directly to decision makers to: (i) create a platform for youth to exercise their agency (ii) effectively engage decision makers

Source

  • Verbal evidence from community
  • Verbal feedback from on-ground team members
  • Project report & surveys

Details

Community feedback of adolescents feeling confident, understood, and acknowledge

On-ground team feedback on creation of government champions for the project’s objectives

Project report and surveys observe greater youth involvement and efficacy in engaging directly with decision maker

Table 5

RECOMMENDATIONS

Promising Practice

Youth-led social audits and presenting youth-centric priorities directly to decision makers to: (i) create a platform for youth to exercise their agency (ii) effectively engage decision makers

The demographic it addresses

Adolescents from the age of 10 to 19 years

The gap/ need/ opportunity it addresses

The exclusion of adolescents and young people in the decision-making process for policy issues regarding adolescents and young people

Govt stakeholders

Holding consultations with critical stakeholders and young people from the inception of a program

Funders

Taking inputs from all stakeholders and young people before initiating a new project to ensure a deeper visibility and understanding of their demographic and its needs

Other Practitioners

Engaging young people in decision-making processes to adopt a more collaborative approach between stakeholders and young people

Community Stakeholders

Undertaking youth-led social audits and engagement with decision makers to engage directly with young people, understand their needs & concerns and influence change at the community level

5

Objective Review

Outcome

Promising Practices and recommendations ratified by at least one member/ partner organization/ community/ MEL partners outside of ‘the team’

5

Objective Review

Objective

To validate the final promising practice and recommendation(s) by at least one person/ partner organization/ community/ MEL partners outside of the team.

4

Document

Outcome

2-3 promising practices documenting:

 

  • What gap/need is addressed
  • How it is addressed and the change that is created
  • The potential for replicating along with recommendations for implementing

4

Document

Objective

To document the promising practices in a detailed manner

3

Develop into a recommendation

Outcome

Well-articulated recommendation(s) addressing:

 

  • Demographic to cater to
  • Gaps/needs/opportunities addressed by the practice
  • The change brought in by implementing such a practice

3

DEVELOP INTO A RECOMMENDATION

Objective

To construct a recommendation in a brief, specific and clear-cut format which would assist other initiatives in implementing the same

2

CALIBRATE & SUBSTANTIATE

Outcome

Obtaining qualitative and/or quantitative data to assess the promise of the shortlisted practices according to the five guiding factors

Arriving at first list of promising practices

2

CALIBRATE & SUBSTANTIATE

Objective

To substantiate the shortlisted practices by collating gathered data in the form of:

 

  • Feedback from the community
  • Verbal accounts of the ground team
  • Documentation reports
  • Other valuable data

1

List & Shortlist

Outcome

Identifying:

  • Policy gaps
  • Community needs
  • Opportunities for innovation and other aspects that the program is addressing.

    Creating a list of program practices that are working on-ground in bridging gaps/needs/opportunities.

1

List & Shortlist

Objective

To identify gaps/needs/opportunities and to shortlist program practices that are impactful, sustainable, scalable, innovative and/or unique.