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Youth Of South Asia Works Together For Sustainable And Inclusive Change

South Asia is yet to practice sustainable living and equal rights with conviction, for all its inhabitants. It is imperative that South Asia collectively and persistently strives to design transformative frameworks that are grounded on egalitarianism, human rights and social consciousness within their respective nations.

Riddled with numerous ongoing issues ranging from poverty, and political instability, to religious and cultural conflict – it’s easy for South Asian nations to neglect the fundamental principles that are essential for an inclusive, sustainable, and progressive future. The failure of governing bodies to take effective action has created an upsurge of grass-root movements across the region, with activists adamantly calling for immediate change.

On 28 February 2019, implementers of change from across South Asia gathered at Barefoot Café, Colombo in an event organised by The Swedish Institute (SI). The ‘Young Connectors of the Future’ (YCF) programme of 2019 saw participants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka who are driven towards developing impactful initiatives in their respective regions.

At the event, participants of the programme shared their insights, strategies and innovative solutions on challenges related to sustainability and awareness. The solutions were developed following two days of work with six Sri Lankan organisations that comprised of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka, Family Planning Association, The Good Market, Venture Frontier Lanka, Roar Media, and Act 4 Theatre for Change as collaborative partners.

GOOD MARKET challenges

For Orikalankini in India; How to make it easier for youth to connect with each other and with information related to menstruation and sexual health in a sustainable manner?

“We had a small group of only two people, so we did the challenge a little differently than others. The team members drew on Good Market’s experience with design thinking and bridging digital divides to work on problems their own communities were facing,” Amanda Kiesssel from Good Market stated.

A campaign slogan “The future is bloody inclusive!”

Sporting resonating slogans, the solution that emerged from this team was a new online presence for Orikalankini that includes curated videos, local language content, a directory of resources, a podcast, links to chat groups to provide safe spaces for peer-to-peer discussion, and an online store with inclusive and environmentally responsible products: washable cloth pads, trans-inclusive menstrual cups, period charting artwork, bracelets, games, comic books, and art-based menstrual education tool kits. To provide further insight into the importance of their mission, guests at the event were offered a chance to listen to moving voice recordings of trans male individuals from across South Asia who share their menstrual journeys.

Prototypes of trans-inclusive menstrual cups

The team also developed a strategy for internships and trainer programs to connect the online space with the ongoing community work and help scale Orikalankini’s impact to more areas. An initial low-cost prototype strategy was developed which is to be tested with the Orikalankini community.

For more information: https://orikalankini.goodmarket.global/

For Mountain Resiliency in Nepal; How to help indigenous and marginalized farmers in remote mountain communities in Nepal connect to multiple market opportunities?

Mountain Resiliency is a non-profit organization in Nepal and is therefore prohibited from engaging in trade. The farming community here is too remote to be able to market products on their own – this offered a structural challenge for the team. The team devised a solution to develop a new social enterprise called Mountain Products to bridge the digital divide and support the farmers with value addition and marketing. The initial product range and market development strategy was planned out and linked with potential agri-tourism opportunities in the area.

Mountain Products created a brochure and a Good Market profile page for the new brand: https://mountainproducts.goodmarket.global/

Roar Media Challenge

How to tackle Facebook’s ever changing algorithm?

Roar Media’s solution to tackle this challenge was to optimize Facebook’s organic reach of content through better utilization of Facebook tools such as Facebook Live, Facebook Stories, locations, hashtags, emotions, and user engagement (comments and likes). Other solutions included an app-first approach where the mobile app is kept at the centre of the design and delivery of content, an offline-online model which leverages offline networks for each new user, email marketing, Whatsapp broadcasts as well as marketing on alternative digital platforms such as Quora and Instagram.

Participants showcasing their solutions at the event at Barefoot Cafe, Colombo

The YCF 2019 challenges also comprised:

  • Innovations and funding solutions for ocean related ventures and sustainable waterways.

  • Solutions to enhance active engagement with peace building activists on online platforms.

  • Inventive approaches to produce accessible, engaging and relevant education materials on modern contraceptive methods and sexual/reproductive health.

  • Scaling up and exploring ways towards sustainable financing models for a not-for profit organisation.

“YCF has enabled us to reach our goals and reflect more on the reasons behind the work we are determined to accomplish, and the movements we are trying to create in our mission to achieve a sustainable society that rejoices in its diversity,” participant Dr. Sneha Rooh from India stated, speaking on the impact of the YCF programme. “Instead of focusing on fixing the problems of just India, the powerful networking YCF provided has allowed me to view South Asia as a single unit that can collectively work together to rectify the problems of our region as a whole,” she further expressed.

Throughout their week of training in Sri Lanka, the young leaders have ensured that other issues of global relevance also be discussed. On Wednesday, 27th February an event titled “Qisse KrantiKali: Stories of Young Feminist Activism in the Global South” was organised by Rachel Bali, Co-founder of KrantiKali and one of the participants of YCF 2019. The panel discussion focused on young feminist activism in South Asia through the activist journeys experienced by the panelists in their respective countries.

“This programme is as much about personal development as it is about professional development. In addition to growing as a leader that is equipped with innovative tools and perspectives to tackle imperative global and social issues, we also strive to encourage personal growth and instill a renewed sense of confidence and encourage out-of-the-box thinking,” said Ulrika Engström, elaborating on YCF’s purpose.

YCF is an inter-cultural leadership programme that is designed to uplift youth leaders in South Asia, and was launched by SI. It provides participants with the necessary networking tools to achieve lasting impacts in their work to shape a society that is grounded on equality and sustainability. The Swedish Institute seeks to establish collaboration and lasting relations with other countries via strategic communication and exchange in the fields of culture, education, science, and business. All participants are experts in their field, with 200 young leaders currently in an active alumni network.

Art exploring peace, war and equality in South Asia showcased at the event
Art by Saraban Tahura Zaman, Human Rights Lawyer/ Founder of JUSTICIA Network/ Researcher at Bangladesh Legal Aid & Services (BLAST)

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