New Delhi: Expanding their horizons, Generation Next wants to look beyond the classrooms and take up a more pro-active role in bettering the lives of women and girls in the society, if the outcome of a pilot volunteer project by international humanitarian organisation CARE India is any indication.
Within or beyond the campuses, with or without their favourite gadgets like mobile phones, ipods and computers, the students are eager to extend themselves to change the fortunes of Indian women bogged down by gross injustice and inequality. More importantly, they want to utilise the latest social media tools like Facebook for social changes, according to findings from the 'iCARE' campaign.
The campaign was carried out during the last three months in Delhi and Hyderabad on a pilot basis to raise awareness among the students about grave problems faced by women and girls in the poorest communities in India, and rope in their support in the fight for equality and justice, and poverty alleviation.
The campaign directly reached out to over 40,000 students in the two Cities and got an overwhelming response from them. 9,000 students pledged their support in writing while nearly 21,000 students joined the campaign through online platforms.
"The response was tremendous. We wanted to bust the myths about women prevailing in the society. But, along the way, the campaign itself shattered another myth that Generation Next is apathetic to social issues. In Delhi, over 4500 students signed up as iCARE volunteers while in Hyderabad, more than 5500 came forward to join the movement,'' said Alka Pathak, Chief Advocacy and External Relations Officer at CARE India.
"Today's youth are eager to bring about change and do more for their country. They have the ability to look at themselves not only as students but also as agents of change. They just need encouragement, a platform and a push in the right direction,'' she said.
CARE India reached out to 35 institutes in Delhi and 28 in Hyderabad with the message and trained about 100 young ambassadors to take the movement farther. By partnering with college festivals, organizing workshops and interesting events like an amateur football tournament (Kick for a Cause), the NGO made a powerful connection with the students.
"It was such a rewarding experience to see that flicker of understanding and empathy in almost all the students we addressed. They were made aware of problems that exist in our country - those that they don't necessarily encounter on a daily basis. Through interesting videos, interactive sessions and other activities we were able to gauge their reaction to such problems. They shared their feelings and ideas with us and also penned their thoughts in the form of pledges,'' said CARE India Volunteer Engagement Coordinator Natasha Uppal.
Stirred by the campaign, many schools have expressed their interest to extend the partnership and incorporate it into structured community service programmes for students. There have also been suggestions to include it into the curriculum itself.
The pledges and reactions from the students were equally promising. "I would like to become the change factor for the society of India, and I hope that CARE would give me that opportunity,'' Manvi Abrol of Lady Irwin College, pledged.
"I got to know that about 8.5 million children are out of school, majority of them being girls. Being an iCARE volunteer, I will definitely spread awareness and bring a change. The main problem is the attitude and the thinking of society. I swear, I care!" said Aditya of Sankskriti School, Hyderabad.
"We learned that women are the backbone of society and a nation. I thank CARE India for teaching me meaningful things like health is wealth. If women are healthy, they can improve their wealth and spend their money for social causes. If a mother is educated, then the family is educated,'' quipped Suryasai Teja, a Grade 7 student.
Buoyed by the success of the pilot project, CARE India now wants to scale up the programme to a higher level aiming at more students and schools in more cities in the next phase, which is expected to be launched this year itself.
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