In December 2017 Restless Development teamed up the the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to catalyze a global youth movement with the power of young people driving accountability for reproductive and sexual health rights and gender equality.
The Youth Accountability Advocates have contributed to the youth-led accountability for the Sustainable Development Goals and FP2020 through data-driven research in various communities across India and Tanzania.
A year on from the beginning of the pilot project, we speak to Youth Advocates in India.
24-year-old Shikha Jaiman is Currently working as a Youth Accountability Advocate with Restless Development in Jaipur, India. Shikha is working on the issues of child marriage as well as working to make adolescent girls and women more aware of menstrual hygiene and sexual reproductive health.
Before her time with restless development, Shikha was working as a grassroots social activist with Nehru Yuva Kendra as a volunteer, engaging with poor rural women and children in order to uplift their status. “I developed skills in research and data collection methods on the issue of adolescent girls and young people. Now I am able to talk openly with masses in public places as well as deliver sessions with young people.”
Shikha has seen a change in the way the community now respond to child marriage and gender discrimination.
“I feel that young people take initiatives to raise their voice and to bring their social issues before government and decision makers.”
Being a Youth Accountability Advocate has opened up a lot of opportunities. “I am able to earn and support a lot of my family. I have also been exposed to meeting various stakeholders such as CBOs and Government officials. I developed a deep understanding of the issues of child marriage which is my accountability focus area. I also learnt various skills in research and data collection with a mobile app.”
Working with young people has inspired Shikha: “I believe that young people have a lot of energy and motivation to do something for society but they need mentoring support and proper guidance.
I believe that young people have very innovative ideas and can contribute toward the development of the nation”.
However, Shikha believes that young people need an enabling environment and proper mentoring support to lead changes in society. “They should be equipped with proper knowledge and skills in their meaningful participation in development. In Rajasthan, where I am working, young people need to be educated and should understand the importance of education. I firmly believe that education plays a significant role in socio-economic development and cultural enrichment of the society and individuals.”
“There are some primary issues related to education like low girls enrolment, lack of female teachers, single school teacher and high dropout rates of students which voice the requirement of education.”