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Role of youth in achieving the MDGS

By Ibu Sanjeeb Garg

Beating the Rhetoric

The 20th and the 21st centuries are marked by progress and rapid growth. Yet these centuries have also been ones of untold misery. They have seen two major wars where millions lost their lives. The conditions of women has degenerated. The environment has been hampered to a large extent and new health concerns have emerged.

Keeping in view this changing scenario in September 2000 world leaders came together to adopt the United Nations Millennium Declaration. The Millennium Development declaration was a visionary document, which sought partnership between rich and poor nations to make globalisation a force for good. Its signatories agreed to explicit goals on a specific timeline of 2015. The timeline has passed but the goals and the way forward act as a good pointer for the world. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set ambitious targets for reducing hunger, poverty, infant and maternal mortality, for reversing the spread of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and giving children basic education among other goals. The MDG-based targets improved the lives of millions of people. However, we are still far from achieving what we set out to do. It is in this context that the role of youth is very important to achieve the MDG’s. We need to analyse every goal and assess the role of youth towards fulfilment of this goal.

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger:-

Young people living in poverty lack access to opportunities for economic growth. Poverty threatens social stability to the point of war. Youth in war zones and post conflict zones are more likely to be poor and without access to school, decent employment or public services.

The youth must collaborate with governments in creating mechanisms that can ameliorate poverty through targeted intervention. This will ensure that youth perspectives are heard and are relevant to local concerns. It will also promote widespread participation in their implementation. This will help identify the key needs in terms of long range and “greatest poverty-payoff” is likely to be quickly identified.

In the rural areas unemployment is a major source of poverty. The rural youth can replicate the Self Help Group (SHG) model. By utilizing microfinance or government help the youth can ensure employment specially by stressing on rural agro- based industries. A part of the profit acquired can be utilized for rural infrastructure development. This will change the profile of the village into a progressive one. Government must enact laws that foster the creation of community-driven projects with urban youth living in poverty; support youth-led entrepreneurial initiatives in urban communities, as well as UN-HABITAT’s work in slum development.

GOAL 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education

Ensuring primary education for all is the key to unlocking the potential of all societies. Education enables people to take care of themselves and their families, to take control of their futures, and most importantly, to pull themselves out of the shackles of poverty. Young people are already helping to achieve the target of universal primary education The first step in this project is to include young people in initiatives to enhance education and teach other young people. Funding should be made available in order to replicate them in other communities. Furthermore, young people have proven to be good mentors for younger students in school and helping them with their studies and counselling them.

Young people can make important contributions to the development of youth-relevant curriculums for schools. When young people are given opportunity to share their views while framing the curriculum it promotes a sense of ownership over that curriculum since it includes their opinion.

GOAL 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women

Despite progress towards achieving gender equality, women are still not given the same protections, rights and roles as men and are denied opportunities for employment and education. Poverty and social practices are the biggest impediments to gender equality .Beyond education, a lower status of women is perpetuated by economic, legal, and political policies. Young women grow up in a world of wage disparities, unequal protection and inequitable laws such as those that deny the right of inheritance.

It is crucial that young men should be involved in reducing gender-based violence and building a culture of gender equality .Young women can become trainers in participation and leadership to enable young women to help their communities. Young women can increase their civic participation through holding conferences for other young women to address issues of concern, and opening other means of formal political participation, such as seats for young women in political parties or caucuses.

GOAL 4: Reduce Child Mortality

Improving the health and life of the mother is the first step to reducing child mortality. The chances of child survival increase when the mother has more education, not only because the mother is older, but also because she has learned more about hygiene and nutrition etc. Early marriage and adolescent pregnancy can severely threaten child survival. Beyond physical health and maturity, women need adequate services during pregnancy as well as access to health care after birth.

Young people be involved in the design and needs assessment required for of teen clinics and adolescent pregnancy centers etc. The unemployed youth can train themselves in community-based health work, prenatal care, emergency obstetric care and family planning and expand these services in a strategic manner in developing countries. Youth can be active partners in decreasing the rate of child mortality by acting as health service providers in their communities, mobilizing to provide vaccinations for all, spreading awareness about reproductive health and rights, and providing education about sanitation and infectious diseases for other youth.

GOAL 5: Improve Maternal health

Maternal death and unsafe motherhood primarily result from lack of comprehensive reproductive and sexual education and health services, circumstances connected to diseases such as malaria and AIDS, complications during birth, and unsafe abortions. Young mothers are a vulnerable group along with their infants.

The youth can promote sexual health education in rural and urban areas through formal and non-formal activities like street plays. Community-based condom distribution for youth by youth can also be helpful. Young men and women can help in preventing gender-based violence through their participation and leadership in trainings and awareness programs. The youth must become educated, active members at the local level so that they are equipped to make the right sexual, reproductive, and family-planning choices for their future.

GOAL 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

AIDS is one of the biggest killer diseases today. Youth activists must organize in their schools, their communities, on the Internet and through international meetings. The youth must stress on the need for openness in discussions and youth training youth programs. Young people must create, mobilize and strengthen teams of young peer educators to visit schools, places of worship, and other structures in their communities. HIV-positive youth; can advise the government on health policies and on how to distribute resources.

To combat other diseases the youth can mobilize themselves into awareness groups, and also act towards prevention of disease outbreaks in their communities’ .They must keep their community surrounding environment disease free.

GOAL 7: Ensure Environmental Stability

Rapid economic development has resulted in damage to the environment. With the biological systems and biodiversity in continued decline, young people face an uncertain future. Today the developing countries face major environmental threat.

The youth from developing countries can attend and participate in UN environmental processes. The youth can also form a network where they can work at a global level by investing in the ideas of likeminded youth around the world. Youth can work out an effective strategy of employing green tourism while working towards a sustainable future for their own community. For example youth can act as guides in eco tourism or rural tourism hotspots to showcase and protect their local environment.

The youth must also campaign for fresh water and use of renewable energy. They can find ideas for sustainable consumption. Youth can come together and work on scientific solutions which will provide an answer to the energy needs of the world. These solutions can come in the form of renewable sources of energy or judicious and sustainable use of the non-renewable sources of energy. Such ideas can be exchanged by the youth among themselves around the world. This will create a network of global green citizens tomorrow while taking care of the environment.

GOAL 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development

The youth can take part in the global economy, enabling them to become active partners and beneficiaries. The youth at a global level can network and partner to develop the environmental and social wealth. Global ideas on entrepreneurship can be discussed and a global model can be developed. In these networks, the youth can use the medium of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) as opportunities for education, business training, literacy, social activism and volunteerism. They can give a framework to youth related programmes in consultation with the government and the civil society.

Thus we see that the youth have a vital role to play in achieving the MDG’s. The youth can network and channelize their efforts in this manner to achieve global development. It will be a world which will be environment friendly; disease free and one which talks of sustainable development with hope for a better tomorrow.

(Views expressed by the author are personal.)

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