Delhi seminar explores role of youth in social transformation

February 19, 2016

NEW DELHI, India — India has the largest youth population in the world, a reality that holds both tremendous promise and potential challenges for the future of the country.

Recently, the Indian Institute of Public Administration and the Office of Public Affairs of the Bahá’ís of India organized a seminar at the India International Centre on the subject of youth, entitled The Role of Youth in Social Transformation. Over 40 people attended the event on 10 February 2016, comprising representatives of civil society, government, media, and faith organizations.

Young people are needed as leaders and decision makers in spaces where the course and direction of society as a whole are determined. Examining this theme, the seminar looked specifically at youth in community building, the impact of media on youth, and the contribution of youth in addressing climate change.

“It’s necessary to include the voices of youth in a meaningful way,” said Farida Vahedi, a Bahá’í working as the head of Youth Empowerment and Capacity Building at the City Montessori School in Lucknow and convenor of the Quality Education Forum of India.

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Ms. Kiran Soni Gupta—Additional Secretary, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India—delivering the inaugural address at the seminar on “Role of Youth in Social Transformation” in New Delhi.

“Integrating young people into formal structures of power is of course advantageous for a variety of reasons, but simply feeding ‘young’ voices into ‘old’ systems, if unaccompanied by more substantive forms of participation, runs the risk of degenerating into mere tokenism.”

Representing the Indian Government, Kiran Soni Gupta, Additional Secretary of the Ministry of the Youth Affairs and Sports, agreed. “The concept of leadership needs to be redefined,” Ms. Gupta said in her talk at the beginning of the day, setting the tone for the consultation that followed. “It is the youth who can bring a fresh wave of ideas and innovation in society.”

This theme was the root of the issues explored during the first panel, which addressed the role of youth in community building.

Following this, the second panel, which examined the impact of media on youth, discussed ways that digital media can be harnessed to be used in a positive manner, as well as being aware of the negative ways in which it is used now.

Finally, the final panel, led by four individuals with a background in the field of sustainability, looked at the contribution that youth can make to the issue of climate change, particularly in India—a growing society with the potential to have a significant impact on the environment. “Youth must devise new solutions to climate change,” said Tishyarakshit Chatterjee, the director of the Indian Institute of Public Administration. “Solutions must emerge from young minds.”

In all of these areas, facilitating steps forward will require learning, capacity building, motivation, and volition, said Mrs. Vahedi. To empower youth to become leaders, new systems of decision making and collaboration must be developed. “Systems characterized by an unbiased search for truth, an attitude of cooperation and reciprocity, and an appreciation for the vital role every individual can play in the betterment of the whole.”

Pooja Tiwai, a Bahá’í youth in Delhi, spoke as one of the panelists addressing the contribution of youth to community building efforts. Speaking of her peers, she explained that they dream of a better world and wish to make a contribution to social progress.

“Yet, how to go about bringing such change is a question they are faced with,” she said. While there are many positive forces in society which can propel them in this direction, there are also many negative forces which pull them back and become a barrier in achieving the high ideals they cherish. Hence the need for constructive programs that can creatively channelize the energies of a large number of youth.

The seminar was the second co-organized by the the Indian Institute of Public Administration and the Office of Public Affairs of the Bahá’ís of India on the subject of youth in society.