India is considered to be a county with the highest number of youth in the world! *As of 2022, India had more than 50% of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35. This means that India has the largest number of millennials and gen Z on the planet today.
With this vast demographic
dividend, it has become more important than ever to prioritise the holistic
development of our youth by fostering a ‘good citizen’s mindset’ via effective
community building initiatives. In doing
so, we can ensure that we as a nation, can grow to our full potential – with
young people, leading the charge!
With a vision to transform rural
and underprivileged communities, Ambuja Foundation works with key beneficiary
groups in communities to develop sustainable models for community development.
And this vision would not be complete without addressing the concerns and
challenges faced by young people - especially in the rural and underprivileged
sections of the society.
Having worked with youth across 12
states and 54 districts in areas like skilling, health and sanitation, Ambuja Cement Foundation has found youth to be a
powerful and motivated agent of change on the ground in rural communities –
with guidance and support along the way.
1. Leveraging the ‘Peer Education Model’ for Health
Adolescents pick up habits and behaviors from their peers more than family or anyone else. Recognizing this behavioral aspect, Ambuja Foundation developed the APEKSHA program (Adolescent Peers for Enhancement of Knowledge, Skills and Health Association) - a peer education model that leverages peer pressure as a positive reinforcement tool in schools.
Our peer education models in the areas
of healthcare and sanitation have empowered children and adolescents to drive local
change, whilst also moulding them to become resilient, confident, and
independent citizens with strong community values and responsibilities. These
have also helped adolescents effectively address age-related concerns and
sensitive issues such as sexual and mental health, along with substance abuse.
From developing open
defecation-free villages in Himachal Pradesh with the support of young children
(Swachata Doots) to improving healthcare via personal hygiene and sanitation
initiatives that change the behavioral habits of villages, our young people are
being empowered to yield commendable results.
2. Harnessing SEDI Youth in Times of Crisis: Covisainiks
With over 35 Skill &
Entrepreneurship Development Institutes across 12 states, that have trained
over 1 lakh rural youth till date, Ambuja Foundation has a ‘ready audience’ of
young people to help instill a good community mindset – particularly in times
COVID-19 pandemic was one of the greatest
crisis that swept across the country and the world in 2020 – which saw health
systems grappling to address the need, particularly in our rural and remote
areas. To create a cadre of volunteers to pitch in and help, Ambuja Foundation
launched the ‘Ambuja Covisainik’ volunteer initiative, to mobilise and train
ordinary citizens to play a key role in supporting the government and our
communities in their hour of need. And
our rural youth from SEDI stepped up in a big way…
Those trainees who were undergoing
training under the Nursing & Bed-Side Assistant Course came forward to
assist local health centres with medical
support, and assisted at isolation centres and vaccination centres by recording
vitals and supporting in oxygen therapy. The other trainees were involved in
vaccination registration, assisting in oxygen support, disposing biomedical
waste or being present at the local health centres for logistical support.
So dedicated were these young volunteers,
that sometimes these youth spent the nights at the centres just to be there
during emergency. Programs like this create incredible life experiences for
participants – developing crucial life skills and exposing young people to the
power of ‘volunteering’ and pitching in during times of need.
3. Creating ‘Community Youth Clubs’ to Drive Local Change
ACF encourages the development of Youth
Clubs in communities which provide a pivotal forum for young people to convene,
discuss local issues and act as ‘messengers’ to drive change within the wider community.
The youth clubs provide the first
platform in the community for adolescents and youth to participate in community
life and exercise the power of their voice, behavior and attitude. With
frequent meetings on different topics like Health, Sanitation, Drug Addiction
and Education, Youth act like messengers to create awareness in the communities
on different issues.
The ACF team also mentors these
youth on their future – exploring development of talents and skills and encouraging
youth to continue their professional or vocational education.
Being fit and healthy is also an
important focus part of these youth clubs as during this age youth are
vulnerable to negativities of life, mental health problems and obesity. Thus, a
healthy lifestyle is promoted and various sports tournaments in kabbadi,
cricket, volleyball, basketball are encouraged to continue engaging with youth
and nurturing them as key community stakeholders.
The Story of Beant Kaur, Bathinda Punjab
Beant Kaur is the perfect example
of how building good citizens amongst rural youth can lead to lasting change. At the Age of 11, due to her aspiring nature
and confidence, she was selected as an Adolescent Peer Educator and became ‘hooked’
on driving community change.
She managed to form 6 adolescent peer educator groups with 10-12 teens in each group - helping guide and train the groups on various adolescent health issues.
During COVID-19 she acted as a Single Point of Contact for her community creating awareness on the virus and vaccinations, by running online sessions and disseminating information.
· She has been an advocate in Drug De-Addiction and gives lectures in her community or organizes street plays on the issues and the devastating impact.
· She also has been instrumental in changing the behavior of many women and girls who today openly discuss matters on menstrual hygiene and seek help.
Today at the age of 18 she has become a Volunteer for Ambuja Foundation, developed leadership skills and is working with 20 SHGs to participate and save, and was the primary driver of mask-making income generation project among women in her area.
With Ambuja Foundation’s mission
rooted in the ‘Energise – Involve - Enable’ approach, our initiatives empower
individuals to become independent and responsible citizens – youth are one of
our greatest assets.
Given the right guidance, training
and support, young people can become the change we so desperately need for the
future – and investing in that is crucial for the India of tomorrow!