Tomorrow’s Citizens

Young people from the rural areas of southern Rajasthan leave their villages, either for better paid work than they can find at home, or because they aspire to live an urban lifestyle. They may also be seeking educational and vocational opportunities which are not available nearer to home. Many do return, visiting for festivals or to help their families with harvesting.

In the villages, young people do not have spaces in which they can interact, voice their opinions or develop their interests. They often feel left out of the development agenda and feel a huge sense of disconnect from their community. The community institutions (see Sustainable Development), which are inextricably linked to Seva Mandir’s development programmes, find it increasingly difficult to engage young people.

 

Conditions for girls are worse than for boys, with lower levels of education, and marriage before the age of 18 common. Girls’ well-being is compromised by unsafe sexual practices and lack of awareness of sexual and reproductive health and rights. Practices such as witch accusations may be declining thanks to Seva Mandir’s efforts, but human trafficking takes place in certain areas.

Seva Mandir began a dedicated intervention with young people in 2005, originally under the umbrella of education, and in 2017 a youth cell was set up to broaden the focus of our work with those aged 14-25. Our work with young people aims to equip them with the skills and training they need to make a living and to help them find employment. It seeks to prepare them to negotiate urban lives when they go to study or work, and also provides within the villages a platform for the young to voice their opinions and play an active role in the development of their home communities. The hope is that many of them will resist the temptation to migrate or that they will continue to contribute even if they have left home. Seva Mandir’s focus on youth now spreads throughout its range of activities to help prepare the next generation of rural communities.

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