“Where are our youth today” may seem like a rather simplistic question. But if asked in an implicit manner, it is probably a question that should get each of us thinking. More so as the YWCA works with young women of all social strata to address issues that surround their lives.
According to some estimates 51% of the Indian population is under 25 years of age and the figure goes up to 66% if you include those less than 35 years. India is positioned as a nation of the youth, waiting to flood the world labour market in every industry possible, and it is rather ironic that we should ask this question.
I especially experienced the absence of our youth during the recent recession. Companies were firing their employees with one hour notice. Flouting every labour law and the young people in these companies bowed their heads and accepted the verdict on them.
During this recession our youth displayed disempowerment, lack of knowledge about their rights, individualism, ignorance, low self esteem and low self perception. And yet, till a few months earlier these were the very same young people who were poised to be the pillars of future India.
No thanks to the recession friends, the pillars of the country seem to have been shaken, and while I completely believe in the tremendous resilience of our youth, there is still a task ahead for the YWCA, as an organization working with the community, working with women and working with the marginalized.
Finding Our Youth
Where are our youth today, is a question probably asked in pondering and yet it reflects a certain amount of disconnect. Because our youth are very much around, very vocal, interacting and connecting, but perhaps you know not where.
I have 240 friends on Facebook, 68 friends on Orkut, 300 followers on twitter, 70 connections on LinkedIn, 18,000 people have visited my blog on wordpress, I have two other personal blogs I write on, and this is just me! There are lakhs of young Indians like me out there who are much better connected, who have a much wider network, who are speaking and engaging at complex, higher levels.
Our youth my dear friends are very much there, albeit in cyber space, using digital media and networking through social media. Talking, making friends, discussing, thinking on very many serious issues, including social issues. They are on, and promoting groups like ‘People against cruelty of animals’, ‘People Against Child Abuse’, ‘People against Torture’, ‘People against Violence on Women, ‘Against Discrimination of People with Disabilities’ and so on.
The question now to groups like the YWCA, who are working with youth, is,
- Are you on these ‘Online Spaces’?
- If not, do you plan to get on to these ‘Online Spaces’?
- Do these spaces really hold an opportunity for advocacy of social issues and long term empowerment?
Having spent 9 years working with NGOs and a year and a half with Social Media, I think Cyber space offers
- A brilliant opportunity and platform for engaging youth,
- For introducing youth to a pro-people, pro-community culture, and
- For harnessing their time and potential for social change.
At the very onset let me assure you that I do not wish to glamorize the online social interaction spaces.
It comes with its own paradoxes of ‘virtual connect and physical disconnect’, but these spaces are growing in importance. They are the comfort zones and ‘hang outs’ of our youth today. It is where our youth interact, speak and be heard, listen and lobby, and the youth on the internet have the potential to leverage their time, intelligence and internet access for social good, to lobby for issues, to advocate for the disadvantaged.
While the real work may still be offline, in a physical space and in the generation of ‘opportunity’ for less privileged youth, the support group, your potential volunteer base, your lobbyers, spend hours in a ‘virtual world’, online and you need to meet them there.
Are Young Indians Really on Social Networking Sites
- India – is the worlds 7th Largest Internet Market and growing at 11.2% a year.
- An estimated 21 million Indians are active on Social Media Sites. This is 60.3% of the Active Indian Internet Audience.
- More than 90% of Indian Online Users belong to the 18-45 age group.
- On an average, an Indian spends 110.4 minutes a day on a Social Media site and makes 10.4 visits per month.
- Social Media Websites in India are growing by almost 100% year on year.
What are some Social Networking Spaces Your Organization needs to be present on?
- Facebook – Fan Page / Cause Page
- Ibibo, Bharat Students Orkut – community
- Twitter Page
- Photograph sites – like Flickr / Picassa
- Video Sharing Sites – Youtube, Metacafe etc
- Document Sharing Sites – Slideshare, Docstoc, Scribd
- Question n Answer sites – like Yahoo Answers, Rediff Answers, etc
What are the Benefits of an Internet Presence to the YWCA?
As a Social Justice Organization,
- Social Networking sites are a great place to create awareness on your social issue / campaigns
- To attract volunteers
- Excellent way to document your way
- Get feedback on your work
- Raise funds online
And all this comes at a very little cost and a lot of volunteer time!
Getting Started on Social Media
OK, now you’ve convinced that social media could hold some benefit for your organization and you want to get started. You sit before your computer and then realize, why? I don’t know a thing about how to use this. Well there is an easy way out, get one of the young people in your organization to start up a blog, a twitter page, a fan page on Facebook, create power point presentations on your programmes and campaigns and publish them on the internet. Get them to teach others in the group, so that they can hold out for each other.
There is also a PPT to go with this and it can be accessed
This article was written for the YWCA South India Pre Convention held at Bangalore on 7th-8th of Nov ’09