Social Architects of Tomorrow in Himachal
SATH works towards kindling the fire inside every young heart to build a new society. SATH aims to increase community mobilization through youth collectives. Young participants engage with issues of human rights and entitlements of marginalized communities, monitor government programs and ensure accountability. The aim is to expand their horizon and increase their interaction. The major focus of SATH program is to form strong and vibrant youth collectives, build their leadership and increase their involvement in democratic processes. In the last few years, their engagement on community development issues as well as their increased participation in local governance has led to an enhanced consciousness around issues affecting community wellbeing. The increased awareness around the rights issues has also helped to seek greater accountability as the youth leaders have filed a number of RTI applications and have also conducted social audits. The youth is also engaged in various creative activities through youth melas (fairs) , village libraries, girls’ tournaments, training in self defense etc.
Youth leaders have successfully worked on altering the gender inequality and inequity in their families; moreover, they are working continuously towards spreading an equality based framework in the larger society. A few examples of this sensitivity have been seen in youth group formations where the ratio of girls to boys has been equal; boys have supported & trained girls during cricket tournaments, and there has been rising participation in campaigns, movements, and workshops.
In order to enhance rights based and entitlement related perspective and practice among youth, they need to prepare to challenge traditional cultural and social ethos that does not see young people, especially young girls as rightful citizens of the family and wider society. This would include demanding right to choice of education, mobility, freedom from violence, refusal to take and give dowry etc.
Within this context, fellowship Awards are announced for out of school young girls called Sahelis (friends of women), to prepare them to work as women’s rights activists and challenge the subordination of women. Simultaneously, they are encouraged to pursue their formal education. In the last 5 years, JG has successfully conducted three yearly institutes on ‘Gender, Democracy and Citizenship’. Nearly 100 Young men and women activists were trained to work with adolescents, youth and women at grassroots. Based on the experience of running these institutes, three women’s organizations developed a Youth training Manual, specifically focusing on gender and democracy as cross cutting themes. Many of the participants committed to hold similar events in their program areas.
Gender, youth and livelihood- an emerging commitment
One of the very important aspects of young peoples’ lives that have not been addressed adequately enough in the last project endeavor is the issue of livelihood and increased economic empowerment of young people. Most rural youth are either employed as wage or self-employed) or ‘not in the labor force’. It is widely alleged that rural youth are increasingly disinterested in Small holder farming, which is viewed as ‘hard labor’. Disguised unemployment in agriculture and the large quantum of unemployment are causes of concern. Unemployment among the educated youth is serious, considering that the state is highly literate. An overwhelming majority of the poor are not apparently unemployed but engaged for major part of their time in activity that does not pay adequate wages.
As a group, young men and women are often marginalized in the family as well as in society, which results in limited access to resources including kinship networks, education, land and technology; and little or no interaction with formal institutions. These challenges are not unique to youth. However, evidence indicates that youth are affected in a disproportionate manner. Young women are particularly affected. Their cultural and social position and lack of skills, knowledge and institutional support often makes them vulnerable. The sexual division of labor discourages girls from seeking non stereotype employment options.
Based on the realities of this region a livelihood activities if taken up seriously can support young women and men to seek and enlarge their potential as economic and social agent of change. For JG it was seen as important to focus on livelihood improvement of the most disadvantaged and unemployed youth.
With two knowledge centers in two blocks of Kangra district, there is a spurt of interest in recreational activities and demand for creative learning. About 400 young boys and girls have acquired basic computer skills helping them to seek better employment. In the last 4 years, nearly 35 young girls and boys have gained employment in the hospitality sector, in the IT related small establishments, in commercial organizations as junior accountant as well as in security companies. In addition nearly 40 young girls and boys are actively working with Jagori as change agents.. In the last year, JG has trained 10 youth in computer accounting and 8 youth members have completed livelihood course in hospitality. These courses have increased their employability.