According to the United Nations, more than 1.8 billion youth make up the largest young generation that this world has ever seen and it is impossible to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 without their active participation. The theme of this year’s International Youth Day was ‘Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating A World for All Ages’ which also means that we cannot hope to end poverty and hunger, bridge gender equality, address climate change, and make quality education and good health accessible to all without synergy between the youth and multi-generational stakeholders. So how can the young and the experienced come together to ensure that no one is left behind? Here are a few suggestions:
The power of volunteering
One way to spearhead change and participate in community building is via volunteering. Young environment activist, Afroz Shah has galvanised nature lovers across all age groups in Mumbai to clean beaches and learn about marine life as well as the circular economy. Be it working with NGOs to educate underserved children, rescuing animals, taking part in afforestation activities, initiating carpooling or donation and recycling drives in the neighborhood or organizing meals for street children, every proactive step makes the world a better place.
Mentoring future leaders
To mentor future young leaders, the UN has partnered with Indo Global Social Service Society to work through YIELD (Youth Initiative for Empowering Leadership and Development). Together they work towards empowering marginalised youth from different slums in Delhi. The goal is to encourage citizenship and leadership among the youth so that they can help in the achievement of SDGs in Delhi. More such initiatives across India could mentor many more goal-driven young leaders.
Spreading awareness through campaigns
UNICEF believes that young people can initiate action in their communities and hold leaders to account only when they know enough about the issues that concern their well-being. UNICEF has three flagship initiatives to achieve this. The first is the ‘World’s Largest Lesson’ which reaches millions of children, primarily through schools and offers them a set of free and translated lessons, animations and activities related to SDGs. The second is ‘Comics Uniting Nations’ where comic book artists and storytellers bring the SDGs to life to inspire the youth. The third is ‘Youth Activate Talks’ where young change-makers take the stage to show how they are supporting the SDG goals. We need more such ideas in India to engage the young.
Making education and livelihood accessible
How can we expect the youth to lead the march towards SDG goals when so many of them don’t have access to education and livelihood opportunities? The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), in partnership with Meta, stated in 2021’s Inclusive Internet Index that most students belonging to lower or middle-class families suffered the most when education went online during the pandemic. Employment inequity is also an area of concern. To benefit from our demographic dividend, we must first invest in it by educating and skilling our youth.
Making every vote count
In the 75th year of Indian independence, it would do us good to remember what a privilege it is to vote. I remember an Indian Express article that described how in 1952, the tribals of Odisha came to the voting booths with their bows and arrows, while the Nagas trekked the hills for days because they knew the right to vote was hard won. India today has 45 million voters under the age of 25 (According to the Young India Foundation) but it is important that they know the power of their vote. Voting is an important tool to influence policymakers and if the youth vote for candidates who uphold values of sustainability, inclusion and progress, they would have played an important part in making sustainable development goals a little bit more attainable.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of LetMeBreathe