By Puja Bajad
The most brilliant talk I ever sat through was delivered by Rajkumar, a South Indian youth leader during a conclave last year. He spoke in Tamil, and not many followed his language, but his passion was plain infectious. It left the room, full of around 80 people, amazed; we all knew it was education he had spoken about, it’s only after translation that we found out it was a lot more. He had insisted on having a cumulative voice for young people, and the need for an inclusive dialogue that could also reach his community.
An inclusive youth voice! A bit too many buzz words there.
Rajkumar had made it this far not only because of his work, but because he was lucky to be noticed by a popular NGO, which had drafted and posted his application. I am not against online campaigns; my real concern is if we are doing enough to reach out to young people who don’t have access to them.
In a world shrouded in gender discrimination, poverty, early marriages, drug abuse, governance issues, to list a few; every day brings new challenges and innovative solutions at the community level and most of these solutions are youth driven. Which makes me think if our global youth dialogue really includes voices from this section of the young population? I can’t say ‘no’, but I can’t say a firm ‘yes’ either. Yes, we bring in some representation but are we doing enough to include the offline young people on a global platform? Are standalone online campaigns/networks really reaching these young people with all those webinars, Twitter handles, Facebook pages and online marches? Aren’t we leaving out a considerable population of young people from voicing their opinion?
Internet is an incredible tool to reach out, but it only gives access to a select audience globally. Online application forms, long nomination letters, the need for multimedia presentations can actually give skimmed results and leave out the real heroes on the ground for national, regional and global meets, awards, networks and more.
The Internet alone is far from enough and online youth dialogue is only half complete. We must strive for creating a combination of tools when communicating with young people. Create innovative platforms for the youth and truly make it a consultative process. Mobiles, internet and other technological innovations can definitely be used to strengthen real life platforms, but technology by itself is going to paint the wrong picture and possibly be limiting.
Let’s not leave out the likes of Rajkumar! Their voices count as much.
Puja Bajad is a communications professional with special focus on young people, humanitarian aid, migrationand displacement.