“When India speaks of becoming self-reliant, it doesn’t advocate a self-centred system. In India’s self-reliance; there is a concern for the whole world’s happiness, cooperation and peace,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi, @Atmanirbharbharat.mygov.in
The above lines were part of a clarion call to our nation about making India self-reliant. Since then, stories of efforts to make India tobacco-free, innovative waste management initiatives, path-breaking work for empowering our women, and more are emerging under the initiative.
Here, I want to talk about another aspect of our nation’s journey to self-reliance that becomes critical as we factor in that India has more than 50% of its population under the age of 25. The PM’s vision can only become a reality if we follow a concerted strategy for making these young people self-reliant.
Self-reliance is reliance on one's own efforts and abilities. Defined this way and applied to youth, self-reliance implies a sense of self-sufficiency and self-confidence in navigating life’s multiple challenges, including personal, financial, and emotional, to make independent choices and decisions.
Cultivating self-reliance in youth
Making youth self-reliant can be metaphorically equated to constructing a scaffold. Just as a scaffold provides a supportive framework for workers to reach new heights at a construction site, the process of igniting self-reliance in young individuals involves creating a sturdy framework of skills, experiences, and support structures that allow them to adapt to challenges and reach their full potential.
The foundation of any scaffold is crucial for its stability and strength. Similarly, the first step in building self-reliance in youth is a robust foundational education that equips youth with critical skills of communication, problem-solving, and teamwork. It instills an entrepreneurial mindset that encourages risk-taking, and resilience in the face of failure and most importantly, a passion for new learning to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world.
With this foundation in place, the scaffold's pillars provide stability and support as it rises. In programs related to building self-reliant youth, these four pillars are essential:
Pillar 1 - Skill development programs that align with current job market trends. As an example, AI is reshaping the current job market by automating routine tasks and creating new roles emphasising data-related positions. This shift in job market demands underscores the importance of youth skills in AI-related fields, data analysis, and ethics to equip them to thrive in an AI-driven job market.
Pillar 2 - Real-world exposure through internships and apprenticeships. This can be achieved by establishing partnerships with businesses and institutions to offer structured programs that are aligned with youths’ skill sets and interests. A key aspect is ensuring accessibility and inclusivity, including opportunities for underserved youth, which can be addressed by providing stipends and financial assistance to cover transportation, tools, and technologies.
Pillar 3 - Networking events and workshops to build professional relationships. By planning engaging, accessible events that incorporate practical skill-building workshops and interactive sessions, we can facilitate valuable professional connections, knowledge sharing, job opportunities, and peer-to-peer partnerships for our youth. Such events can be offered in a mix of in-person and virtual formats to overcome the challenges of making them inclusive.
Pillar 4 - Access to information about educational resources and relevant programs. This can be achieved through an accessible online platform featuring a comprehensive database of scholarships, vocational training, online courses, and workshops. Collaborations with educational institutions, community organizations, and mentors can be done to disseminate this information widely, both online and in physical locations.
These pillars of interventions require crossbars to bind them together. Mentorship and guidance, as well as the use of technology, provide those connectors. A mentoring system staffed by experienced mentors who can offer valuable insights and guidance while creating a supportive environment for open communication and trust can make the most difference in ultimately empowering youth to navigate their paths with confidence.
Technology can be leveraged for remote mentoring opportunities, ensuring accessibility and inclusivity. The utilisation of social media, mobile apps, and email campaigns can engage youth and ensure information is regionally tailored and available in multiple languages.
Once the pillars and crossbars are in place, a platform in the form of community engagements through volunteer work provides the stability and secure surface that works to instil a sense of responsibility and empathy in the youth.
In partnerships with educational institutions, youth can be sensitised about the value of community service and empathy. By recognising and incentivising their efforts, encouraging youth-led initiatives, and sharing success stories, schools can create a culture of responsibility and empathy that benefits both youth and their communities. These community engagements align with the PM’s quote placed at the top of the article – that the self-reliance model we want to promote is not one that is self-centred; but rather one that has concern for the world and its well-being.
In conclusion, just as a scaffold provides the necessary structure for construction workers to reach new heights, the process of building self-reliance in youth involves creating a solid framework of education, life skills, resilience, mentorship, practical experience, and a supportive environment. This scaffold empowers youth to navigate life's challenges, make informed decisions, and reach their full potential.
As the scaffold rises, so does their confidence, independence, and capacity to construct their own future. A scaffold requires continual inspection and maintenance to ensure its stability and safety.
Similarly, self-reliance is not a fixed state but a continuous journey of improvement and adaptability. With youth, schools, policymakers, civil -society and businesses coming together, we can make the Atmanirbhar dream a reality – for our youth, for our country, and for the world.
Myra Raj Kheterpal,17, is the founder of a social initiative called gullaq, which is aimed at empowering youth for the future by bridging the gap between modern gigs and the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs). Views expressed by the author are their own.
Suggested Reading: World Youth Skill Day: How Skilling Programs Fill Rural Unemployment Gap