There are 315 million young people aged 10-24 years in India, representing 30% of the country’s population. Youth empowerment is often addressed as a gateway to inter-generational equality, civic engagement and democracy building. It is essential to India’s social, political and economic growth. However most of the youth population nowadays struggles to find their identity and cement their place in the community. This is the story of one such youth who struggled to find her identity in the society but has now undergone a miraculous transformation and is now working rigorously to change the lives of many others.
Mamta Manubhai Patel, 23 is a resident of Meghaninagar. Her father passed away when she was an infant. The responsibility of the survival of Mamta and her younger brother fell on her mother’s shoulders. Mamta had always been a mediocre student through the primary schooling and flunked in her 10 board exams. Her mother was extremely supportive of her and guided her to work for a better future rather than lamenting in past failures. She realized early on in her life that if she would have to survive she would have to start working at an early age. She took up her first job at the age of 20 at a medical needle making workshop at a pay of Rs.2200 a month. After six months she quit her first job to become a librarian at a small library in Shahibaug. She received a pay of Rs. 4000 working as the librarian. However she was caught up in the monotonous web of life. She felt that she had no meaning in life. She felt that she did not have a concrete image in the society.
Since 2011 the field workers of SAATH have adopted a new strategy for marketing, i.e. Door to Door marketing strategy. One of these workers visited Mamta’s home and explained her mother in detail about the programme, its structure, fees and benefits. Mamta’s mother suggested her to join the course. Mamta too found the course tempting as she did not have any training in computers and the course gave her a chance to learn briefly about Computers, Spoken English and Personality Development. Also, came the added incentive of a better job opportunity after getting training in accounts. She was extremely satisfied with the course structure and it’s working. Another thing that she was fond of was the activities conducted on Saturdays. Mamta didn’t get a chance to attend college but the different days organized at the center allowed her to let go of the disappointment of not attending formal college. During one of the UMEED lectures, Sandeep Panchal the coordinator of Youth force programme in Ahmedabad visited the Meghaninagar center and talked to the UMEED participants about the concept of the Youth programme, its benefits and its mission. Mamta was immediately interested to join the Youth group. She remarks “I instantly felt a connection with the programme. I had already learned a lot of new concepts from the UMEED programme. It had also given me a platform to meet new people and make new friends. I felt that I had the skills and knowledge but however lacked the confidence to showcase them. I felt that by joining the youth group I could overcome my fears. I felt it could provide me with a platform to build my image and in the process help me become independent “. Mamta enrolled for the youth group. She would attend the UMEED lectures on weekdays and would attend the youth group meetings on weekends.
When the UMEED course concluded then instead of taking up a job immediately like her peers she decided that she wanted to become an active member of the youth group. She explains “I did not want to take up a job just for the sake of earning money. I wanted to become a part of an organization where I could get a chance to grow, experience the real world and build my own identity. I wanted to do something for others, something for my community and the members of my locality. Seeing her intense passion she was offered the position of team leader of Meghaninagar. She took the offer without a hitch”. She is having an amazing experience working at with the youth group. She got a chance to visit various recreational and spiritual landmarks of the city like Gandhi Ashram, Science Center etc. She remarks “Even though I have been born and brought up in the city of Ahmedabad, I never got the time to visit Gandhi ashram. The trip gave me an opportunity to relieve the independence struggle and Gandhiji’s sacrifice for the nation and the Gandhian values. In today’s world most of us have forgotten about the values that Gandhiji taught us. If we would sincerely follow his teachings then the world would be a better place”. She also got a chance to visit the different UMEED and youth force centers around the city to understand their way of working. She participated in the cleanliness campaign that was conducted by the youth group in Vatva.
Mamta has undergone a huge transformation since she has joined the youth force. There is an immense passion in her to bring about change in the society. She is extremely proud of her mother whose constant support has helped her become what she is today. She explains “I have become extremely confident today. I now want to channel my energy towards women empowerment. I want to initiate a movement against women exploitation. The traditions of dowry and child marriage have been going on for years in our Country. I want to put an end to these rituals. Women deserve an equal footing as men. I always motivate other girls of my age to be brave and follow their dreams. I have seen all my dreams come true since I have joined the youth force group. I am proud to be a member of the youth force. I am extremely proud of my mother who has worked every single day to provide me with a better life. If I can do it, anyone can”.
Mamta has become an inspiration for many girls of her age and for the youth of India. She would like to give one message to her fellow peers “Never be afraid to tell the truth. Never lose hope, with hard work and determination anything is possible. Everyone should get a chance to explore the outside world. You cannot learn if you remain locked up in the four walls of your house. Try to live not only for yourself but for others. Try to understand people rather than critiquing what they say. It is extremely important to become independent and self-sufficient. This is the time to build a platform for yourself and help others in building theirs”.
Story by Ishan Bhatt