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Youth Rights Advocacy

Youth are often considered as having duties, responsibilities, potential, and privileges, but can we also consider them as having rights?

What are Youth Rights?

Youth rights are essentially Human Rights that recognise youth-hood as a unique stage in Human life. The Human Right to life, to freedom, to equality and livelihood need to be contextualised for young people.

Why do Youth need Rights?​

Young people struggle with multiple forms of deprivation and oppression from society. Their age, packed with great potential and vigor, can also make them greatly vulnerable.

  • They are often forced into jobs in which they have little or no say. Young people are often forced to accept jobs at wages that are extremely low, and that provide no room for rest or for exploration and growth of their potential.
  • Young people are often denied important information about their own bodies, in the belief that this information will result in promiscuous behaviour. Unfortunately, this approach only increases irresponsible behaviour and impairs their ability to make informed choices.
  • In India, our social traditions and tight knit familial structures often make it difficult, if not impossible, for young people to have different opinions from their families and communities. The issues of choosing one’s life partner, exploring one’s sexuality, of having one’s own political or ideological perspective are in no small way representative of an individual’s right to freedom. Young people are often denied those rights while being seen as ‘rebellious’ or ‘disrespectful’.
  • Unlike other marginalized groups that can find strength and representation in their associations and unions, youth have little or no access to such groups. Student unions are being disbanded and are facing increasing hostility. It is becoming difficult for young people’s voices to be heard.

With families stressing on young people’s obligations, colleges focusing on academic grades, and the state perceiving youth as beneficiaries of “youth services”, we need to raise the notion of young people being entitled to rights.

Youth can be a powerful force for change with the potential to make transformative, systemic and sustainable changes. Giving direction and purpose to the enthusiasm of youth can help the country in the tremendous task of nation building.

Advocating for Youth Rights

Here at Samvada, we actively advocate for youth rights. While we have worked with youth for over 25 years, our lobbying for youth rights really took shape in this last decade.

Charter of Youth Rights in 2015

Following a Youth Parliament and several consultations with young people, human rights advocates, and youth workers, a Charter of Youth Rights based on Constitutional principles and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created.

Advocacy Alliances

At a national level, we want to encourage conversations around the importance of youth rights, as well as push for a revision of the National Youth Policy.

In order to create pathways for social change and advocate for youth rights, youth groups, youth workers and youth work organisations need to come together to advocate passionately for youth rights. Over the years, we have focused on building first a local, and then a larger national conversation about youth rights.

Collective reflections on youth-hood and sharing of experiences can lead to a sharpening of our approaches. If enough of us come together, our voices will be heard.

Youth Rights Campaigns

In December each year about 100 budding youth leaders from 8 different locations come together to decide on ONE youth right that they will campaign for in the month of January. There is a lot of discussion, fact finding and more debate before a campaign theme is chosen and a campaign is planned. This is an intense phase as it involves research, creating slogans, writing songs, developing skits and messages that can be spread through social media. Once this is done the young leaders launch their campaign through press conferences, events in colleges, street corners, bus stops, hostels, markets…anywhere they can find an interested audience.

The whole process of planning and leading a campaign, holding a mike, speaking in public, inspiring other young people is a milestone in the lives of our young leaders and changes the lives of those whom they address. For the first time in their lives, a young student in a college hears the term “youth rights”, sees a group of young people speak passionately about injustices and youth responsibilities. It is a moment of transformation for the speaker and the audience. Both are empowered and everyone is touched.

Some of the Campaigns of the past few years:

HoldOnCampaign

HOLD ON!
College First Marriage Next (2016)

A campaign against early and forced marriages to educate young people about the need to complete their education before getting married.

WHAT NEXT?
Just Guide Don’t Decide (2017)

A Campaign to establish that Career Guidance is a Youth Right.

MOVE ON!
(2018)

Youth have a right to affordable Higher Education

These three campaigns together involved 296 youth leaders who led 327 different events and reached 6,927 young people.

Youth Rights Campaign & Festival in Karnataka (2019)

Samvada has been working towards requesting for the setting up of a Youth Commission in the state of Karnataka.

The Youth Rights Campaign was an incredible milestone in our journey. Initially a youth led campaign, we realised that the movement required additional support and lobbying, in order to achieve its goals.

The festival marked an integral point in our journey towards youth rights advocacy as it was during this festival that Mr. Rahim Khan, the Hon’ble Minister of Youth Empowerment and Sports, Government of Karnataka formally accepted the Memorandum requesting for a Youth Commission.
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