Nidhi is an aspiring youth leader from an underprivileged Dalit (a historically marginalized community in India) family. Her parents still wash and iron clothes for a living while living out of a makeshift hut in the suburbs of Lucknow city in India. A first generation learner, Nidhi was able to secure a soaring high 95% in her boards and is presently pursuing an under-graduate course from one of the top 10 colleges in India. She is a proud alumna and proactive member of Study Hall Educational Foundation, advocating strongly for social justice in her community. Nidhi strongly feels for women rights because she saw injustice done to her elder sister when she was pulled out of school to get married which turned out to be really oppressive. She is making sincere efforts towards solving caste, class and gender issues. She does not leave any opportunity and platform that comes her way to educate and sensitize masses about social justice and equality. She voluntarily and actively engages in her immediate surroundings by having critical dialogues to deconstruct oppressive social structures like patriarchy and caste. She is also an active member of ‘Women Development Cell’ and ‘Policy Centre and Gender Lab at her college and is leading many research projects. The fact that she herself belongs to an underprivileged background makes her even more focused and dedicated towards social equality goals she has chosen to speak for. She is living by her belief of having a meaningful life with a sense of purpose and creating a positive impact on society.
What are the causes that are important for you and the youth today and why?
At the outset I must tell all the readers that I am a staunch humanist advocating socio-economic justice in all aspects of my life and community. Owning to my socio-educationally marginalised background, I strongly support SDG 4 – which aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” and SDG 5 – which concerns gender equality and women empowerment. Thus, the cause of access to universal quality education built on rights-based pedagogy is very important for me and the youth as well. It is the need of the hour because only transformed education would have the power to transform lives and societies for better with the eradication of all sorts of discrimination and inequalities. Apart from this, cause of caste annihilation is very important to me which is particular to Indian context.
What is something adults do not understand about youth? What is a common misconception they have about young people?
I strongly feel that across societies youth has always found itself stuck between the dilemma of being a child or a grown up individual. Consequent of this prevalent dilemma, adults have many misconceptions about young people, I have tried to list some important ones below based on my contextual observation:
- Adults have the understanding that good decisions are a direct result of experience which comes with age. However they fail to understand the true potential of today’s youth in informed and innovative methods of decision making we have.
- Another common misconception is about leadership skills which again adults believe to be subsequent of growing age. We need to understand that youth today is very different and dynamic. The better knowledge and possession of technology would help motivated youth for social change. I have always seen myself as a youth leader aspiring to solve my causes through a rights based intersectional feminist approach.
What was the first moment of enlightenment that encouraged you to take action for the society you live in?
The causes I have decided to speak about have become important to me because of my background and personalised experiences I hold. I was always passionate about ensuring social justice but the first moment of enlightenment that encouraged me to actively take action for the society was seeing my sister’s marriages. I have two elder sisters, who despite being very good in academics were not allowed to complete their education. Both were married off at the age of 16 in Class 9. It was heart-breaking to see how their marriages have turned out – one has filed for divorce and the other is a victim of domestic violence and dowry. I was scared seeing this unravel before my eyes, but it also pushed me to work harder to avoid this eventuality. This has led me to take up research projects, engage in critical dialogues on issues like gender and caste discrimination, importance of education and so on.
What is your advice for young people who want to make a positive impact? How should they begin?
I would advise the following to young people who are motivated to make a positive impact but are confused with how to begin:
- Identify the causes you relate most to and are passionate to solve. The cause can be anything impacting you and society at large.
- Once you identify and choose your battles to be fought, educate yourself and people around by having constructive and open dialogue on the issues. Start the change making process from yourself to your family, community and then society.
- Sustain this process through continuous and active advocacy about your causes to see positive impact.