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10 Nov 2020

Engaging Youth In Constructive Work

A Covid-19 induced lockdown earlier this year resulted in a reverse migration, with many young workers returning back home, increasing the percentage of younger people in the villages.

The Village Institutions in these peri-urban blocks were struggling to pass down important knowledge and information pertaining to the village, such as maintaining common resources and building community solidarity.

Kishanpura is a small village in Rajsamand district located approximately 69 kilometers away from Udaipur. The village has 85 families that are mostly engaged with marble cutting work, carpentry and masonry. Jobs in these industries ensure most of the young and employable move out to nearby cities for work with a very small section of the village practising agriculture for a living. COVID-19 created an unexpected opportunity for village institutions to create a dialogue with the youth on village issues and engage them. Many of the youth had returned empty handed, having not been paid by their employers as lockdown hit. This meant they were completely dependent on NREGA for money and were keen to find additional work to supplement their low income.

Seva Mandir had already been working with the village community for years, developing community pastureland. One of the projects focused on developing a boundary wall for the village pastureland which interested many of the recently returned migrants. This proved to be a welcome sign for both the Village Institution and the community. However, when the youth started working on the pastureland they soon realised they lacked the correct technical knowledge to build the boundary wall, information that was usually passed on to those who stayed in the village.

Seva Mandir grouped together the elders, members of the village institutions and younger members so that necessary guidance could be shared on best work practices. During the month-long engagement on building the pastureland wall the youth came to understand the history, vision and efforts made by the Village Institution in the past which motivated them to become more involved. Many young women were also part of driving plantations on the pastureland site, encouraging more people to take care of it.
Udai Lal, VI president said, "It was an amazing experience. We were struggling to make the youth part of our initiatives but this has helped in bridging the gap". Both parties have learnt that working together to manage and protect community assets builds stronger understanding and relationships between villagers, old and young..

In another village in Kumbhalgarh, approximately 90 kilometres from Udaipur, Village institution leaders are working very closely with the returned youth, motivating them to build community assets like a pastureland wall, community meeting spaces and encourage them to take an active role in governance issues. Madan lal, VI leader says " The youth have given a new energy to our institution. We are able to talk to them on village issues and work closely on building community assets."

Seva Mandir continues to work with communities to develop deeper relationships within the diverse village groups, encouraging them to develop leadership so that they can protect and preserve common natural resources.

Young people have been very happy participating in these initiatives. Contributing has helped them ease their anxiety of not returning back to cities and aided the development of a deeper understanding on village issues. Rakesh, one of the young men who worked on the boundary wall in Kishanpura said, "We were feeling really bad about coming back to the village in the peak season of work. However this gave us a chance to know our village better and contribute to the environment as well."



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