Furkan Khan is the Assistant Communications Coordinator for Restless Development in India. She is responsible for carrying out and executing communication strategies and mobilising communication channels for the young people we work with. On behalf of Restless Development she supported several consultations on the theme of youth and development in India, including the Big Conversation.
As the MDGs come to an end, the world is formulating a new set of goals, called the SDGs, which are aiming at putting an end to some of the great development challenges across the planet with the help of young people. Half the world’s population is under thirty and the size of this youth population is set to peak in the next few years. As the world enters ‘Peak Youth’, young people will become the biggest stakeholders in the new development framework.
Restless Development ventured on to the task of asking some Big Questions about what is the way forward for young people in the world of development and thus started our #BigConversation. The Big Conversation is a global survey conducted both online and offline all across the world, which asked young people about their top priority for the next fifteen years. With the help of our staff, partners, volunteers and the internet, we reached over 5000 people, receiving responses from 64 countries.
The #BigConversation also asked what young people want and can do in order to solve some of the most pressing issues in the world. As India makes the world’s second highest youth population, it was an extremely important country to include in the Big Conversation.
Our major challenge in India was to reach out to a population of 356 million young people spread over an area of more than 3 million sq kms. Luckily for us, internet came in very handy. We reached out to young people through our social media channels and asked for their engagement in the Big Conversation. The responses we received helped us to answer some of the questions on where and how Restless Development’s work should align to and respond to the demands of young people.
The Big Conversation results gave us one big and loud answer from India: the importance of young people having access to education. From rural to urban youth, girls and boys, in-school or out of school, education was in the top three demands for young people across the country.
Some of the major barriers for young people accessing education in India are factors like poverty, social stigma, local customs or social norms. Often young girls are the most affected by these problems. Our programme “Making Girls Leaders” in Rajasthan is working to tackle these issues and increase young girls’ access to education in rural areas. We support them with peer to peer education and sensitise their parents to ensure that young girls are prevented from dropping out of school and the girls who have already dropped out are brought back to school.
The findings of the Big Conversation in India reinforced our understanding of youth issues within the education system, and now we know that looking forward education is one of the biggest issues that we need to focus on.
As our economy and population grow in India, we need to invest a lot in digital literacy and find ways to stay connected digitally. When young people are educated, they have better digital skills and the benefits of staying connected filter down to the whole of the society.
My dream would be a better connected world where every voice counts and where young people, from any corner of the world, are able to participate in conversations about their future and the future of development. I think that our #BigConversation is one such initiative which aims at roping in views and voices from all corners of the world. Working further on education, literacy and digital access can open the window on a world where it is possible to have even bigger conversations!