Investing in Young Social Change Leaders

June 14, 2013 marked a significant day in the lives of 22 young change leaders from across the country as they completed the Change Looms Learning and Leadership journey.

Pravah and CYC’s Change Looms Learning and Leadership Journey is a program that supports young people who have started their own social initiatives. During the course of the year – long journey, we help to strengthen these initiatives through collective and individual learning opportunities, mentoring and financial support. In the last 6 years, we have supported over 125 youth-led organizations and individual change leaders and are currently working with 21 teams. This program has been supported by the Sir Ratan Tata Trust and India Development Society.

The Change Looms mantra!

At the felicitation ceremony which was co-hosted by Pravah, CYC and Vishwa Yuvak Kendra, the young leaders shared their experiences of initiating social change, the motivation that drove them to walk this path, the challenges they faced and the impact of their work.

Amitabh Behar, Executive Director of National Foundation for India, the keynote speaker, set the context for the evening and talked about the critical role that youth play in civil society by providing alternatives to the status quo.

Hejang sharing his experiences

The young leaders spoke about the internal conflicts and debates that drive them to address social conflicts. Hejang, from the north-east shared the frustration and futility that he experienced at the ethnic violence in Manipur and how it spurred him on to start ‘INSIDE NE’, an initiative that seeks to build peace and provides young people an alternative path to the violence.

Ironically, the challenge of being able to explain to parents the choice of setting up their own social initiative instead of opting for a conventional career was often more daunting than the challenges the change leaders faced in the community.

Hearing about the positive impact of their work was a treat for all those who walked the gallery of exhibits of the young change makers. Gitanjali Babbar of Kat-Katha, who works with children of sex-workers in GB Road, shared how initially the children had suffered from low self-esteem and were ashamed of being labeled as children of sex-workers.  However, thanks to Kat-katha’s learning centre, today they are confident enough to not feel the need to hide their identity.

Pravah and Commutiny – the Youth Collective (CYC) also facilitated a dialogue between the young change leaders from 15 different states and representatives of the United Nations and other development agencies, including UNFPA, UNICEF, UNV, NFI, Oxfam India, IGSSS, Unnati Foundation, Action Aid, VishwaYuvak Kendra and The Sir Ratan Tata Trust.

Kat-Katha being felicitated at the event

The young leaders shared their work and its impact with the invitees from the development agencies through a visual display.  The invitees engaged in a dialogue with the young leaders and told them about their youth work and their experiences of supporting youth led organizations.   They also shared insights on how youth led organizations can access resources for their initiatives.

Indu Prakash from IGSSS said that donors needed to understand the true impact of the work on the ground rather than focus on result-based frameworks. Ena Singh of UNFPA advised the young leaders to select a donor who is interested in building their long – term institutional capacities rather than supporting short – term projects.

 ~ Kamini Prakash


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