Anubhuti started the “Youth Meet” last year in 2018 around the occasion of India’s Independence Day on 15th August. This day is of special significance – not only historically as the day India gained freedom from colonial rule but also the day we took responsibility and leadership as an independent State, adopted a democratic system of government, and started the process of nation building based on values of social justice and equity. Anubhuti’s Youth Meet is a platform for youth leaders to deliberate in depth on the socio-political reality of these ideas in today’s context, place themselves as social change agents in these discussions, and empower and strengthen themselves as individual and collective youth leaders. Such discussions are the backbone of a strong democracy, and it is very important to build platforms for the same – especially for youth.
This was the second year of this unique platform, held on Sunday 18th August, attended by almost 65 youth leaders from over 8 communities of 3 districts in Maharashtra, India. The theme for this year was ‘Self-discovery as youth leaders of social change’. Mental and emotional well-being of youth activists therefore was a major underlying concept and we thank CIVICUS and the GYAA platform for supporting this event. Deepa Pawar, Anubhuti’s founder and a GYAA advocate working for Youth Mental Halth in India towards achieving #SDG3, led the process.
The day started with energy-filled songs about social issues and a call to action for change written by grassroot youth activists – some songs written by the participating youth themselves. This was followed by the participants being divided into groups where they were asked to get to know each other as social leaders.
The first question of self discovery youth had to ponder upon was: “What have we discovered about ourselves that are our strengths? We spend much time discovering and working on our weaknesses, but many a time forget about our strengths.” Youth’s answers ranged from the profound:
“I see challenges as doors to opportunities”,
“I find challenging roles give me positive energy”,
“I am able to see most platforms as opportunities to network and to work”,
to the simple but just as important: “I have the ability to explain things well”,
“I have confidence despite bad situations”,
“I have wisdom” and so on.
It could be seen that youth had started looking into themselves. Some said that it was difficult – to look within. They then were asked to take these strengths ahead and think of dreams for themselves. The idea of a ‘dream’ was discussed at some length, with Deepa giving various examples for dreams that are “big enough to scare us but not to break us”. Youth were again asked to think as social leaders and not just as individuals. The responses were amazing with some as young as 16 sharing that they dream of starting a home for children seeing the acute problems children of her vulnerable community face. Others shared their dreams of being a political leader with integrity, of heading an organization, a campaign, and so on. The energy in the room was contagious but also sombre with responsibility.
There were more exercises where the youth were asked to see how well they are able to manage their energy. There were discussions and sharing about their emotional, intellectual, social and physical health, and the need to give time to their mental well-being to be able to achieve their dreams. Important aspects and priorities of their lives were dwelt upon and youth were asked to plan for these aspects, to give appropriate importance to developing each.
With the first half thus concentrating on youth’s inner well-being, the second half turned to socio-political well-being. Youth were asked to name few anti-social events that have currently taken place in India and they named events such as mob lynching of religious and caste minorities, sexual violence and subsequent cover-up by political leaders, amendment to dilute the Right to Information Act, controversial decision to abrogate article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, ban on beef – a food item eaten and traded in by religious and caste minorities, etc. They discussed whether and how these events have an impact on different aspects such as – on collective mental health, on youth, on the way history is written, on education & work places, on marginalized and vulnerable communities. The points shared by youth most commonly pointed to how these events have very negative effect on each of these crucial aspects – which then affect many others.
The most inspiring moment of the day was when each group came up with their ‘social commitment’:
- We are committed to raising our voice against events threatening our democracy, even if by members of the government.
- We are committed that vulnerable communities are empowered with mental health justice and rights
- We are committed to upholding equity.
- We are committed to strengthening democracy through imbibing constitutional values and rights
- We are committed to bring forth the truth to youth about things that are usually kept hidden from us
- We are committed to our human rights and to the dignity of our democracy.
These are truly youth leaders who have high dreams for themselves and even more lofty visions for their society and country. They are responsible and committed towards both – which many a times overlap as as our founder Deepa keeps repeating – “The personal is political”.