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YOUTH

"Young people are the innovators, creators, builders and leaders of the future. But they can transform the future only if they have skills, health, decision-making, and real choices in life. Today’s record 1.8 billion young people present an enormous opportunity to transform the future,"

- Babatunde Osotimehim Executive Director, UNFPA

India is a young developing country with an increasing youth population, often called it’s secret weapon. According to the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) State of the World’s Population report,PDF File Opens in a new window India has the largest population of youth in the world - 356 million 10-24 year-olds i.e. 28 per cent of the country’s population. Other records show that around 66 percent of the total population is below the age of 35. They are the future of our country. But, in order to make full use of this demographic dividend, India needs to address the many systemic issues and invest in it’s young by providing for their education, good health, safety, and overall development including putting the right policies in place that cater to and protect their rights, in order to increase their efficiency and effectiveness which could result in a potential boost for it’s economic development.

This stands true and even more so for the most neglected and vulnerable of the youth – Youth with Disabilities, who more than often face discrimination, severe social, economic, and civic disparities and experience an even higher risk of living in poverty, deprivation and neglect as compared to non-disabled individuals. Estimates suggest that there are between 180 and 220 million youth with disabilities worldwide and nearly 80% of them live in developing countries . Conservative estimates from the World Bank report suggests that 70-100 million persons with disabilities live in India. This further suggest that there is a substantial number of disabled youth in the country and yet, the voices of these disabled youth have still not found sufficient resonance in the policy making and decision making processes nor have they been given a platform for voicing their opinions and highlighting their issues even within the disability rights movement itself. This leaves the disabled youth often feeling isolated, under confident, confused and worried about their future – job, life partner, social life, disability identity, and so on. Many of them are not even aware of their rights, entitlements, technologies and support systems that are available in the country.

The future of a country hinges on its youth and on whether the country is able to provide for its most vulnerable communities especially the youth. But, change will not be possible without awareness and political will. It is therefore, very important for us to have well informed youth that can take the agenda forward. The call for youth with disabilities to become self advocates and demand their rights is the need of the hour.

We at NCPEDP believe that if we are committed towards ensuring an inclusive and sustainable development agenda, then this can only be addressed if we work on several areas simultaneously involving youth with disabilities to become equal stakeholders in taking the work forward. Sensitization, creating awareness about the rights based approach, training and capacity building programmes for youth with disabilities is important in order to prepare them to meet the difficult challenges in the path of advocacy.

However, with lack of inclusive and quality education, accessible built environment, transport and information and communication technologies, youth with disabilities have either no access to education and employment opportunities or if they do, the quality is very bad and the struggles are extremely high which further lead to their being excluded from the national mainstream.

In the past 2 decades, especially after the enactment of the Disability Act 1995, opportunities such as education and employment have opened up for youth with disabilities. The 3 percent reservation in educational institutions and employment (in public sector organisations) has to an extent enabled some percentage of this young population to be in the top colleges and universities of the country, and get jobs not just in the Government but also in the private sector. This has built a whole cadre of young talented people with disabilities who are becoming part of various key sectors. This new breed of young people and potential leaders of tomorrow needs to be mentored to take on the reins of the disability movement in the future. However, for Youth to take on this role and become the driving force behind all such initiatives, they need to be well aware of the development agenda and the various policies and legislations in the country including their rights and entitlements.

Thus, in order to provide an avenue/platform for Youth with Disabilities to enhance their leadership potential – capacity building, advocacy skills, team building, strategic planning, decision making, NCPEDP developed some focussed programmes so as to encourage youth with disabilities and help them develop a clearer and more effective thought process through the valuable insights and experiences of disability leaders, experts and professionals - National Convention for Youth with Disabilities (NCYD), Leadership Training Programme for Young Leaders with Disabilities and International Exposure to Youth with Disabilities.

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