A collective step forward

The children of M D Camp in Kampli, who were relocated for a project, clearly remember the discussions their parents had with college students from neighbouring villages two years back.  “They organised rallies in which teachers and students had participated. It was a revelation to see how children of our age enjoyed studying while we toiled in the farms,” says 12-year-old Mallesh. That was when they realised dropping out of school would deprive them of a better future.

A street play around child marriage not only entertained the dwellers of Nagenahalli and Keretanda but also created awareness about the consequences of this regressive practice. “It was so effective that two families in the village decided to call off the marriages,” recalls a panchayat member.  

After watching a film on the impact of plastic on the environment, students of the higher primary school in Bailavaddageri decided to stop using plastic and spread the message to the community through various activities. A team of youngsters supported them throughout with information and resources. This team also organised a summer camp in the village to engage children in extracurricular activities during vacation and develop their talents. 

What binds these pro-people activities is the inventiveness and vigour of youngsters who have formed teams to address various issues that impact the quality of life in their villages. Be it access to basic amenities, education or empowerment programmes, local youth groups work together to bring about a change in the lives of people. These change-makers are members of Yuvadhwani, a federation of youth groups from 12 villages and three slums in Hospet taluk of Ballari district. While the federation has over 500 youngsters as members, more than 6,000 people are facilitating this endeavour.

Social transformation

Most of these youths are college students who dedicate their time and energy to open the door for sustainable development in these villages. They use various modes — from rallies to games, film screening, discourse, theatre, festivals, counselling and training to create awareness and motivate people to engage in constructive activities to alleviate the problems.  

Such a platform to tackle the issues faced by the rural people, mainly youngsters and children from the vulnerable communities, was conceptualised by Sakhi Trust, an organisation working with youths in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region. 

“The objective is to empower underprivileged youngsters through a participatory approach and enable them to contribute back to the community. They identify the burning issues that affect the people adversely and explore ways to address them,” says Bhagya, founder of Sakhi. She stresses that apart from being under-represented and underdeveloped historically, rampant mining activities in Ballari district in the previous decades took a toll on common people, particularly vulnerable communities.

These groups try to identify the difficulties faced by various sections such as school dropouts, victims of sexual harassment and domestic violence, and children of socially and economically deprived communities who face discrimination. Later, the groups try to plug the gaps and facilitate their transition to a better future. The youth leaders are also working towards an ecological revival of the
mining-hit areas.

Most of the team leaders or facilitators are local youngsters who are trained under Sakhi’s programmes such as gender-sensitation training, leadership training, theatre workshops, writing workshops, language training, vocational classes, counselling, etc. “Such workshops equip us with necessary skills to work with the communities,” say youth mentors Meghana, Radhika and Sohail. 

Some of the effective programmes initiated by these youth leaders include ‘Safe spaces for children and youth’, ‘Sexual harassment complaint committees in colleges’, ‘What next—career guidance’, and ‘Hold on — education first, marriage next’. Apart from empowerment programmes, the teams organise street plays and rallies to create awareness among people about their rights and about various government programmes. 

Take the example of Durgarani. Her mother worked as a mining labour and at times was forced to beg to subsist the family. Sakhi facilitated Durga’s education by enrolling her in residential schools and now she is studying chartered accountancy. While doing her graduation, she formed youth groups in her village and motivated them to continue education and take up skill training.

Kamakshi from Nagenahalli is another such empowered girl who has organised women and helped them get employment through The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005. “Education enables us to make better decisions for ourselves. So I focus on informing people about their right to education and the right to lead a life of dignity,” she says.

Sustainable development

Being close to Hampi, sustainable tourism that celebrates local culture is another aspect that some youths have taken forward. “I got to know so much about the tourist attractions in and around Hampi and how we can showcase them differently through the programme. We interact with tourists to understand their expectations and promote tourism with a focus on sustainability,” says Venkatesh who has been exploring the options of responsible tourism in the region. He is also leading an advocacy group demanding the formation of a youth commission in the state to address the issues faced by the youths.

Naveen Kumar, along with his team, has been working with farmers to promote organic farming, soil and water management and other related activities. He is also planning to venture into agri-tourism. “These interventions instill self-confidence and positive attitude in us, broaden our outlook, and enable us to think big,” he says. Noticing the changed lives of Yuvadhwani members, more youngsters are joining the federation to gain access to better opportunities.

Some other activities supported by Sakhi include Jenugoodu, a federation of cooperatives; Kanaja Krushi Clinic, which encourages and trains farmers to engage in sustainable farming; and Rangasakhi, which promotes local art forms. While Yuvadhwani, Rangasakhi and Jenugoodu have been fostering a positive change in the lives of people for the past five years, Kanaja was formed last year. 

“They are all independent entities, Sakhi facilitates them as a mentor,” says Bhagya.

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A collective step forward

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