Pooja Kapahi, Restless Development’s Communications Coordinator in New Delhi, India, is working with communities often left behind, training them to hold leaders to account on issues that affect their lives. Here she shares how.
As a young girl in India, I experienced the failure of the Millennium Development Goals to solve the persistent challenges that we face.
Crucially, young people were barely involved in the decisions that formed the Goals and making them a reality. I only heard about them in 2010, ten years after their inception. when I was interning with a local organisation in Delhi.
Not involving young people in decision making is a threat to sustainable development.
In 2015, however, there came a new opportunity for young people to take a lead in tackling some of the world’s biggest problem. World leaders committed to the Global Goals to end extreme poverty, tackle inequality and reduce the impact of climate change by 2030.
This time I made a commitment that I would raise awareness of the Global Goals and reach as many young people as possible in cities and rural districts of India. Through the Youth Power Campaign, I attained skills and motivation to mobilise young people and increase their knowledge of the Global Goals and their relevance to their own lives. I knew that if many young people get increased knowledge of the global goals and talk about them, leaders may be pressured to take action to turn them into reality.
The project taking place in Delhi called “Youth Adda: Sustainable Development Goals & Us” is a space where young people learn about the Global Goals and discuss tangible ways to make the Global Goals a reality by 2030.
I know that it is our collective responsibility to make our leaders accountable for the promises they have made, and the first step is to popularise the goals to as many young people as possible. In the first year, we have conducted four Youth Adda (which means Youth discussion in Hindi) workshops, reaching more than 400 young people directly and more than 2,000 young people through social media channels.
Reaching ‘The Offline’
To motivate trained young people to take action in their communities we introduced the #RestlessSDGHero campaign. Every young person that we trained is now an Global Goals ambassadors with a challenge to cascade the training to their young people in communities,schools and colleges.
Thanks to the training, awareness for the Global Goals engaged frequently excluded groups of young people, especially those without access to internet.
Although India is now the second largest internet user globally, with 462,124,989 internet users daily, an unsettling gender gap exists when it comes to accessing the internet. Men account for 71 per cent of Internet users, while women account for just 29 per cent. The gap is even more stark in rural India. To leave no one behind, I led the design of postcards including information on the Global Goals and the Global Goals Hero campaign, with a specific focus on young people who cannot access the internet.
With help from our local and ICS volunteers, we held sessions and shared the postcards in the government schools in rural districts including Munger, Bhagalpur (Bihar), Kanchipuram, Vellore, Thiruvalluvar (Tamil Nadu), Deoghar and Pakur (Jharkhand). Our efforts have increased knowledge of the goals of more than 13,000 young people and more than 120 schools in India.
I am proud to be part of the Youth Power campaign and a Global Goals Hero – it’s ingrained in my daily work. When more young people know about the goals and their relevance, they are likely to move a step further and take action to see them being fulfilled. Through the campaign we have connected to other young people from across the word to push our leaders to turn the Global Goals into reality.
We cannot run away from our responsibilities, and to make the Global Goals a reality by 2030 we need to take collective action. The more young people get engaged and raise their concerns, the less chance their voices can be muted. I will continue to mark my footprint for a better future for myself, my peers and the generations to come.
Find out more about the Youth Power campaign.