Challenges and Opportunities for India’s Youth

by Jason Schwartzman, ChildFund Team Leader for Child & Youth Involvement

ChildFund Youth summit in IndiaThis is not such a great photo, but facing the camera are members of the group of youth we met with in India. They are presenting on the challenges they face and the opportunities they need following an exercise where we placed flip chart pages up on a large expanse of wall, about 8 feet wide and 4 feet high.

Youth map issuesMoving from left to right, we marked the childhood to young adult years, with age 10 at the extreme left and age 25 at the extreme right. We then asked the youth to map out how the challenges and opportunities evolve over that age span. Here’s a partial view of what it looked like.

What we saw were shifts in the issues with age — as we’d expect. Closer to 10 years of age, there’s a great focus on school, but as you move up in age, issues around puberty and relationships begin to appear, followed by the need to be prepared for the world of work.

The particular risks that young people say they face also evolve — dropping out of primary school comes up early on, but then HIV and pregnancy appear, around the same time that young people identify being taken advantage of in exploitative work.

The emotional tenor of the issues evolves as well. At the younger end of the age spectrum, young people talk about feeling the pressure to work and help out in the household, feeling the inequity of one’s gender and feeling vulnerable to the threat of abuse and exploitation. Feelings of uncertainty and unpreparedness emerge. This is what young people are telling us.

While in India, I had the opportunity to travel to a more remote area in the state of Orissa, where ChildFund has been working for a few years. There, I spent a couple of days talking to youth, and in the next blog, I’ll share what I learned.

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