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Celebrating Youth Leadership

10 September 2015 Share: facebook share twitter share

On 10 September, PACS together with partners Pravah and ComMutiny – the Youth Collective (CYC) marked the end of our Changelooms With.in programme by holding Youth Sav – a vibrant and exciting event at the Constitution Club of India in New Delhi. The event was a celebration of the achievements of our 100 Changeloomers who, over the last year, have been supported to lead their own social change initiatives to promote social inclusion.

Celebrating and encouraging youth leaders

“This event is a chance to celebrate that youth can and are changing the world,” said Ashraf Patel – Director of Pravah/CYC – in her rousing opening speech to the hundreds of young people who were present at Youth Sav.

She recalled how, when Pravah first started out in 1993, it was the endorsement from their first funder that she still remembers: “When you experience love, affection, support and faith in your work and ideas then you can move forward.” She hoped that the support from Changelooms With.in had provided this encouragement for the Changeloomers.

Ashraf also took the opportunity to thank the Changelooms regional hubs – Diksha Foundation, Prantakatha, YES Foundation, Synergy Sansthan, Youth Alliance and Pravah – who have provided mentoring and support to the young leaders on their journeys.

Scaling-up the Changelooms programme

Umpilika – Director of the Changelooms programme – then addressed the audience, speaking about how the Changeloomers were “a true inspiration demonstrating youth in action.”

Changelooms is an annual programme run by Pravah and CYC, normally involving up to 25 youth leaders per year.

“This year’s funding from PACS has taken the programme to new heights, allowing us to “scoul” – scale-up with soul,” she explained. Umpilika also noted the valued input from PACS that has specifically led the programme to focus on the issue of social exclusion this year.

 A creative and colourful exhibition of the Changeloomers' different projects surrounded the auditorium, showcasing their impact in addressing social exclusion.

Celebrating the Changeloomers

Throughout the course of the event, the Changeloomers from each state were called up onto the stage to share a glimpse with the audience of their Changelooms journey.

Jacinta from Jharkhand spoke about how Changelooms With.in has given her the opportunity to ensure that the stories and voices of tribal girls are heard – her project has worked to help the girls use poetry and creative writing to raise awareness about the issues of exclusion they face. “Stories [about tribal people] in the media are biased. I wanted to ensure that stories are told by real people.”

The Changeloomers from West Bengal (pictured above) used mime, dance and poetry to show how, like the roots of a Banyan tree, the Changelooms With.in programme has enabled them to come together as one, strengthening each other and spreading hope in West Bengal.

Mehrunnisa, whose Changelooms project in Uttar Pradesh is working to provide education and skills training to slum communities, reflected on her personal journey: “I used to talk a lot and never listened to others. Now, first, I give a patient ear to others before starting to put my point forward.”

Changeloomer Anurag from Delhi (whose project has involved using music as a medium to spread a message of peace, equality and social inclusion) led the whole auditorium in a “Human Orchestra”, creating an inclusive melody from different voices.

Mehrunnisa and the other Changeloomers from Uttar Pradesh take to the stage to share their journeys with the audience.

Working together

Anand Kumar – Director of PACS - congratulated all the Changeloomers. “We believe in a world without discrimination, that promotes human dignity and social justice and that’s what we are all working towards with each other. We have been privileged to partner with you.”

He also spoke about how inspiring it has been to see the creativity and imagination that the Changeloomers have exhibited through their projects – a multiplicity of ideas to address discrimination.

“I hope your journey has just begun,” he ended. “I look forward to seeing how our investment in you grows and multiplies into strong social movements that build a just society.”

The importance of youth in India

A book outlining the stories of all the Changeloomers called “Changelooms With.in: Empowering Youth to Weave Stories of Inclusion” was released by a panel, followed by an address by Rajiv Gupta – Principle Secretary for the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

Shri Gupta spoke about how important it is for the Government of India to work with and listen to young people – “India has a median age of 29 years and 57.5% of the population is aged between 15-29. Youth is very important to India.”

He also spoke directly to the Changeloomers, admiring them for their aspirations to transform society. “You don’t want to be passive members of society. You want to bring about a change. I compliment you for all your hard work and the desire you have to serve society, mobilising our country to become a great nation.”

The panel releases a book outlining the stories of all 100 Changeloomers.

Involving young voices

Ellen Wratten - Head of the UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID) in India (funders of the PACS programme) – also added her voice to encourage the Changeloomers: “I know that what you’ve done is hard – it’s always hard to challenge discrimination. But it’s better to do it as a group and I hope this experience will last you all your lives. Make this your first step in your life’s mission.”

She also spoke about how Changelooms With.in is just one of DFID’s projects, enabling the voices of young people to be heard around the world.

She spoke about the Youth Summit that DFID are hosting on 12 September 2015 in London to gain input from young people about the new Global Goals to end poverty. She then invited all the young people at the event to get involved with the discussion via social media – “Visit the Facebook page and give us your views or use the hashtag #YouthSummit on Twitter. The world can’t change without young people and we can’t do it without India.”

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