by Jason Schwartzman, ChildFund Team Leader for Child & Youth Involvement
I have traveled from New Delhi up to the state of Orissa to talk with youth about the situation of their community and their lives. We sit in small rooms on carpets, shoes off and in bare feet. I learn a lot.
Literacy rates are low here —47 percent of men and only 24 percent of women are literate. Women die during childbirth at extremely high rates, and a major reason is that women marry at an early age (mid-teens), when they are at higher risk of childbirth complications.
Schools don’t function well so the quality of education is poor. Because families don’t value education, they don’t support their children in their studies or make sure they stay in school. Eventually, young men and young women leave the village for larger towns, in search of work. Women are more vulnerable to risks outside their home community. Those risks include sexual violence and marriage that moves them to distant and sometimes hostile communities where their life choices and options often deteriorate. Young men find themselves working but not getting paid. When they realize they are being exploited, they are without the money they need to return home.
The challenges are great, and the options are few. This is what young people tell me.
Tomorrow, my talks with youth continue.