By Cynthia McCaffrey & Ashwin Yardi
In its 76th year, India is a global leader on the key opportunities of our times – climate action, Sarvodaya or reaching the farthest first, innovation, and a sustainable recovery from the pandemic towards the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030.The dynamism of this new India is the largest generation of young people in history – over 600 million children and youth leading from the front and forging our path to building back better.
Globally, this last decade has seen the extraordinary caliber of young people, who have inspired boldness and powerful movements for change in countries around the world. At the same time, young people are also in the frontlines of our future challenges. They have been impacted by learning losses, the struggle to align their skill set with the rapidly changing future of work, and challenges in turning their energy into socio-economic impact.
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India has made remarkable strides in unlocking their potential, with flagship movements for change and growth when it comes to youth skills, employment, well-being, and democratic opportunity. We have an opportunity at this historic time of a demographic transition, when half of India is less than 28 years of age, to commit across sectors to create more seats at the table and recommit to the empowerment of young people.
Youth at the forefront of change…
Throughout this unprecedented global pandemic, we witnessed young people across India at the forefront in helping affected people. They used technology to mobilize efforts in numerous ways—maximizing the spread of vital information on the availability of hospital beds and oxygen cylinders, connecting those who could help to those in need, stepping out to provide food and other supplies to the quarantined at home or at risk, and much more.
There are many examples of young people taking charge, inspiring entire communities, and making real change on the ground. Take the case of Class 12 student Nalini from Bihar, who, along with her peers, influenced local governance policies and helped end child marriage in her community. Raju, a youth from Maharashtra, supported children separated from their families during seasonal migration. Not only did he bring the community together in this effort but also influenced the state policy and motivated the private sector to support it.
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Despite such examples, in India and globally, young people are not always part of the information channels and decision-making spaces relevant to their future. Instead of being seen as partners, they are often seen only as beneficiaries in need of protection, services, and resources. As a result, many young people struggle in a fast-changing world where aspirations do not necessarily meet conventional expectations. The 2022 India Skills Report has also highlighted the opportunity to strengthen young people’s access to relevant skills.
Enabling our youth … for the future
The only way to reach results at scale for this generation is through convergence. Education, skill building, and employment must work together as a continuum. Moreover, collective initiatives must be informed by evidence and designed with the active participation of those they are intended for, especially girls, marginalised youth and disabled youth who face multiple barriers to accessing quality education and employment opportunities.
Young people will benefit from support in three key areas: skilling (new-age skills in synergy with industry requirements), economic opportunities (hyper local activities with a boost of entrepreneurship), and youth participation and innovation (involvement in community development)—with technology as a critical driver.
What can make a difference is an alignment of initiatives to create an environment of support through skill-building and digital access. Passport to Earning (P2E), a youth-centric e-learning solution, aims to empower youth with relevant skills and abilities to thrive in the 21st century and connect them to opportunities in apprenticeship, entrepreneurship, employment, and social impact.
Capgemini’s Digital Inclusion program provides training to youth and marginalized groups through Digital Academies. More than 170,000+ people have been trained under this program. To bring rural women into the mainstream through digital skills, Capgemini’s Sakshi Drishtikon project provides women rigorous training to prepare graduates for traineeships within Capgemini. Such initiatives align with the government’s “Digital India” and “Skill India” programmes.
Likewise, YuWaah, Generation Unlimited in India, is led by the vision to enable and connect the country’s youth to socio-economic opportunities. This multi-stakeholder initiative by UNICEF, constituting the public and private sector, United Nations agencies, civil society organisations, foundations, and young people, is helping prepare India’s youth for future challenges and opportunities.
Results at the scale of India’s dynamic generation of young people require more of us joining hands to help build a bigger and stronger structure. It is time for India’s youth to turn their dreams into reality; therefore, it is also time for all stakeholders to come forward and provide greater support for this initiative. When young people rise, India grows.
Authors: Cynthia McCaffrey, UNICEF Representative in India; and Ashwin Yardi, CEO – India, Capgemini, and Co-chair of YuWaah Board.
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