VIKALP: Youth Forum on Social Change, was held from the 13th to 16th of November in New Delhi. The Youth Forum was conceptualized by UNESCO and IWHC partner YP Foundation (click to see shiny new website!) as a practical dialogue space where young activists working on different issues could come together to work through challenges, share resources, and develop inclusive strategies for promoting youth leadership and movements across India in an inclusive and cohesive manner.
Aims of the forum were as follows:
• To explore the active engagement and dialogue of young people on the issues of sexuality and gender; education; disability; and HIV/AIDS, with a focus on Human Rights and building tolerance towards diverse cultures and identities in India.
• To build the capacity of young people by facilitating youth leadership, ownership and activism such that young people are empowered to lead youth led processes of social change that affect their own lives.
• The forum also featured a 1-day National Youth Festival, bringing together young people working on diverse social issues, with the aim of creating a knowledge exchange and promoting movement building for young people.
• Additionally, another key feature of Vikalp was the provision of seed grants to select projects/initiatives that were conceptualized collaboratively as a result of the forum.
During the Forum, we discussed our own thoughts on being part of youth-led work in India. The Forum brought professionals working in a variety of fields into the conversation as well. The Forum process was challenging for all parties involved and as being a youth organisation who were also the organisers, the forum challenged as well as reaffirmed many of our beliefs.
Some key conversations which took place during the Forum were on issues of skill building for young people and the necessity to engage more effectively with existing systems, questions of representation and diversity, youth movements in India, intersectionality between issues of sexuality, disability, HIV & AIDS and Education and where young people play a role, caste, class and how such social structures influence our work, the importance of effective information dissemination and development of human rights based approach in our work.
At the end of the forum, participants presented key recommendations at a symposium celebrating UNESCO-India 64 years of Cooperation, and at the Closing Ceremony, attended by Dr. M.S. Gill, Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, Armoogum Parsuramen, Director and UNESCO Representative and, Venkatesh Srinivasan, Assistant Representative, UNFPA.
As youth forums should be, Vikalp was a tumultuous, energetic and intense forum, with lots of clashes, conflicting opinions, reconciliation and new ideas and partnerships. We hope that such forums and interactions keep taking us to newer and fresher beginnings!
Ishita Sharma is a member of The YP Foundation. Sexual rights and reproductive health are her interest and passion. She started a peer education programme in 2007, which targets young people between the ages of 18-25 yrs and gets them to talk about issues like HIV/AIDS within a rights-based perspective.