Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Power of Youth

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youth have been described in many different ways; sometimes as a particular age group, as a stage of life or as an attitude. Swami Vivekananda the great Philosopher and ambassador of Indian view of life to the world had this to say to youth

Supreme value of youth period is incalculable and indescribable. Youth life is the most precious life. Youth is the best time. The way in which you utilize this period will decide the nature of coming years that lie ahead of you. Your happiness, your success, your honor and your good name all depend upon the way in which you live now, in this present period...

The importance of youth in developing their habitats & environment, in bringing changes to their production systems, of introducing new technology, in questioning existing power structures and changing age old inhibitory social beliefs and attitudes has been articulated several times over. Young people are the key to sustaining long-term social and economic development, and are an integral part of rural communities. Thus, youth play an important role in shaping a successful future for societies the world over.

Youth are at the forefront of global, social, economic and political developments. In addition to their intellectual contribution and their ability to mobilize support, young people bring unique perspectives that need to be taken into account. The progress of our societies is based, among other elements, on each societys capacity to involve young women and men in building and designing the future.

youth voice should be increased through meaningful representation, participation in community and political decision making bodies. Communities should acknowledge the energy and ideas of the emerging generation of leaders. This would help in bridging the generation gap and in passing the torch.

Youth and their environment

The status of development in which individuals and therefore societies are found can be considered to be a result of interaction of two forces. One of the forces is personal initiative (this can be considered to include sub-constructs such as capacity, hard work etc.) and it is internal to individuals. The other force is external to individuals and it presents itself in the form of opportunities of the Environment. Both of these forces do not exist in isolation but in a society they take shape through mutual iterative feedback loops that go on defining their character. Thus youth are not merely products of their environment but also shape it.

In societies independent actors search for opportunities in the environment, seek collaboration of other actors in the environment, marshal relevant environmental resources and implement transformational processes.

The opportunities that rural youth can avail are shaped by their environmental factors.

Health, education, water and energy are the most fundamental requirements for any society. These are the basic services which people need in order to be able to move beyond survival stage of existence alone and engage in any value added production activities. It is impossible to think of any long-term self sustaining development without these basic infrastructure requirements being met.

At the most basic level, the needs of the youth are not different from any other people. Maslows (154) theory of hierarchical needs tells us about five stages through which the needs of people grow. These stages are physiological needs; security needs, belonging needs, self-esteem and self-actualization needs. While a broad hierarchical relationship between these stages does exist, the exact transitions operate on a society to society and even on a person to person basis. Even a certain degree of simultaneity is also expected. Corresponding to these stages youth, depending upon their social-political-economic milieu, develop secondary needs, which include gainful employment, community participation & share in decision-making, etc. It can be expected that the role that youth play in society would crystallize around these needs.

The UN General Assembly has defined youth role in society as consisting of following four components

Economic participation, relating to work and development;

Political participation, relating to decision making processes and distribution of power;

Social participation, relating to community development and peer group; and

Cultural participation, relating to arts, music, cultural values and expressions.

At other instances the role of rural youth has also been described as change agents and bridge between technology and society. It is expected that rural youth with relatively greater exposure to modern production technologies, institutional forms, linkages within the rural society and outside world and greater propensity for experimentation with new systems can very effectively play these roles and bring dividends for the whole society.

We have instances where youth and students have played as process drivers by ushering their social and political systems towards change. Traditionally youth all over in society continue to provide additional income to their families, diversify the range of family income generation sources by introducing new technology in their societies. But the economic condition in many countries of the world is not conducive for youth playing all the above mentioned roles effectively. The role that they play today is in fact a reflection of the policies and environmental trends of the past.

youth like any rational economic agent are guided by self interest. The first and foremost concern that they have relates to issues surrounding their employment. Therefore, while there is no harm in assuming that most of them do have a concern for parental households and community; it would be more realistic to recognize that they would pursue activities that are personally most rewarding. Employment is the most pressing problem that is also limiting the role that youth can play in other spheres of life. It would be imprudent and unrealistic to expect that they would be able to play any meaningful role in political, community and social & cultural spheres all of which require a certain degree of personal financial security. A person who doesnt know where his next meal is going to come from could not be much concerned with poetry.

Most of environmental conditions that determine availability of economic opportunities and ability of l youth to identify and pursue those opportunities

basic infrastructure for water & sanitation, and health;

basic educational opportunities;

access to capital & specific training to enable them diversify into RNFE activities in the light of globalization; and

access to information about changes in technology and markets

A big challenge that youth face in terms of securing stakeholder collaboration is attracting the interest of governments towards their unemployment problem. One of the things, which they could do for this, is to impress upon governments to look at their issue not as a youth issue but as a problem that retards the development process of the whole country. There is a need to mainstream the rural youth unemployment issue in the overall development strategy.

With governments reducing the role that they would play in providing basic services, the role of community based organizations and therefore that of youth increases. However, at most of the places these organizations do not even exist and where they do their capacities are modest. youth could participate more and more in their community organizations to make them versatile bodies capable of handling community issues.

Therefore some of the challenges and possible measures that governments could take in response to these challenges are as follows

youth in the development of youth approach are a part of the problem, however if governments change their strategy to youth for development they become a part of the solution;

to make youth policy more effective and instill ownership in them it could be built through participatory methodologies;

to ensure that the brunt of the short-term adjustment costs is not naturally borne by the most vulnerable, short term emergency employment programs could be initiated; and

to ensure that state minimalism doesnt impede development of basic infrastructure and access to basic service, decentralization with mechanisms to involve community based organizations and private sector could be evolved.

Main-streaming youth employment issue

youth need employment. Unemployed youth appear more of a burden to their families and societies as trouble makers. Sometimes there are several programs that originate from this view of the rural youth and are based on the concern that they should be kept busy. youth present a strategic choice for achieving rural development. Increased income through employment and consequent demand stimulation in the rural markets would by itself foster us towards achieving the goal of development.

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