Why the 5 million young Indians present the hope of stopping the pandemic

23-year-old Mumbaikar Kshitij Kamble educated and publicized COVID-19 vaccination and window openings among his family, friends and acquaintances. “I keep an eye out for window openings for vaccinations and help them register. I also talk about vaccinations and answer their questions. When you talk to people, you realize that there is so much that they don’t know. In addition, the information they obtain is not always accurate. “ he says.

In addition, he also uses his training in psychology to facilitate sessions on mental health. “The sessions aim to enable people to adopt healthy defense mechanisms or coping strategies to anxiety-related problems induced by the pandemic”, explains Kshitij.

A pan-Indian movement to mobilize youth

Kshitij is one of 1.2 lakh of young people who have joined the Young Warriors Coalition – a pan-Indian movement to hire 5 million “Young Warriors” to fight COVID-19. Launched on May 10, 2021, the movement is led by youth, CBSE, Ministry of Youth (MoYAS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), YuWaah and UNICEF, with support of more than 1,750 coalition partners across government, civil society, UN agencies and the private sector to address the current COVID-19 crisis.

The campaign aims to recruit volunteers aged 10 to 24 and educate them on the right protocols, information on appropriate behavior for COVID-19, so that they can dispel myths about the virus, reluctance to vaccinate and even provide information on initial home care. or the steps people need to take to secure their lives. Over a 12-week period, the campaign hopes to leverage the support of 5 million young people to secure the lives of at least 50 million families across the country.

As India faces its biggest crisis since independence, the collective courage and drive of 300 million young people represent the country’s best chance for finding a way out of this crisis. Even though young people are among the groups most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, they have emerged as those with the best networks and the best awareness, which is necessary for a campaign like this. Young people have been at the forefront of protecting, safeguarding and promoting the rights of all young people in terms of education, health, gender, social justice and many other areas. And, stepping forward and mobilizing people in the country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic is a timely and natural extension.

“Young people hold the key to pulling our country out of the current crisis and towards hope and healing. If we can equip young people with the right support, they can change the course of the COVID-19 trajectory in India ”, said Usha Sharma, secretary of the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

The campaign was designed not only with the potential of young people in mind, but also their strong desire to make a difference at a time when the country is going through a deadly crisis. Last year, the global multi-stakeholder platform launched by UNICEF, YuWaah’s engagement and consultations with young people and partners showed that there was a need for an initiative that could be the backbone of launches a movement where young people can contribute, learn and lead the charge to better manage the current situation. The Young Warriors campaign took root here.

Facilitate awareness and action

The only quality one needs to sign up for the campaign is to be motivated. Each young person registers 10 more and commits to taking specific measures to protect themselves, their family and their neighborhood against COVID-19.

To facilitate engagement with Young Warriors, the campaign was designed as a series of real-world tasks hosted on tech and non-tech platforms in 10 regional languages. When young people take on and complete tasks, they are provided with information that can help them take the first steps towards securing themselves, their families and their communities. While participants will receive a certificate of participation and receive reward points for completing each task, Campaign at Heart is fueled by motivated young people and their desire to lead change and make an impact.

Real-life tasks are categorized into five key areas – detecting and flushing out fake news, encouraging others to sign up for immunization, providing peer-to-peer mental support, enabling home care delivery, and influencing and amplifying the appropriate behavior to COVID-19. For example, the program provides tools and techniques to proactively identify and demystify fake news. The initiative is also working on a mechanism for young warriors to answer other doubts or questions through regularly organized online sessions. Interventions with experts to identify and resolve issues raised by young people are also underway.

Young people will be able to get the information they need through three platforms. The first is a chatbot on WhatsApp called UReport, the second is an interactive voice response (IVR) based platform for those who may not have access to WhatsApp / Internet on their multifunction phones and the third option is a community radio program for those who do not have access to telephones. In addition, young people will also have access to a knowledge and learning center via a virtual library with state-specific indexed information tools and blended learning tools suitable for adolescents and young people.

The campaign also provides a safe space and peer support for young people. While the dissemination of information and the conduct of action is one of the main areas of intervention of the program, the initiative seeks to create a safe space for young people where they can share their concerns. There are specific activities that have been designed to help them cope with and heal from the grief and distress they experience when facing a crisis of this magnitude. As part of the Young Warriors campaign, YuWaah works to connect young people to mental health resources, including a helpline and peer support groups to deal with stress and anxiety. caused by the start of the devastating second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A multi-stakeholder effort

Since the “Young Warriors” program is led by YuWaah, which is a global multi-stakeholder platform launched by UNICEF, the program is supported by various ministries, government agencies and civil society organizations. The list of ministries supporting this initiative includes the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MoYAS), the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), the Ministry of Education and the Central Council for Secondary Education. (CBSE). Over 1,700 partners from civil society, UN agencies and the private sector, including UNFPA, UNDP, UNESCO, UNHCR, WHO, Bharat Scouts & Guides, Google, Save the Children, Breakthrough, Digital Empowerment Foundation, Youth4Jobs and many more are participating in the campaign. The partners pledged their support and in turn pledged to engage at least 3.1 million young people.

Each of these partners has some expertise in terms of engaging with young people and the campaign effort is to make optimal use of each of their individual strengths in the most effective way. For example, while some partners have expertise in IVR, some have expertise in mobilizing rural audiences, many others have access to or influence certain groups of young people. The campaign will leverage their expertise to tap into their network and knowledge to tailor the message to the specific demographic and psychographic audience and also provide capacity building support in creating and running sessions for young warriors.

Within three weeks of the program launch, more than 1.2 lakh of young people started taking action through the U-Report platform. “Collectively, thanks to the commitments of our partners, we are already on the right track to mobilize more than 2 million young people. In addition, with guidance from the Youth Ministry, we are also reaching out to NSS and NYKS networks across India, and with the arrival of CBSE, Yuwaah will be able to reach thousands of schools across the India to mobilize young people in the COVID- 19 response.

Since the vaccination campaign has started for people over 18 years old, “The #YoungWarrior movement is timely. Young people can lead the way in keeping their communities safe, getting vaccinated and encouraging communities to maintain appropriate COVID behaviors ”, sharing

Co-Secretary Padmaja Singh, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said.

The campaign aims to constructively engage a minimum of 5 million young people across the country at the earliest so that specially designed tools and resources can help them during the current crisis. With young people on board, it will be possible to reach a total of 50 million people through COVID-19 response programs. It is India’s best bet yet to overcome the second wave of COVID-19.

Join the #YoungWarrior movement in one of the following ways

  1. Type in “YWA” and send it to +91 96504 14141 on WhatsApp (tied to a technology-based chat-bot platform called U-Report);
  2. Give a missed call to 080-66019225 (an interactive voice response (IVR) based platform for those who do not have WhatsApp / Internet service on their phone)
  3. Make the pledge, post “I’m a #YoungWarrior” and tag 5 friends. Log on to yuwaah.org or visit its social media pages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. (Need to hyperlink social media pages and website)
  4. Search for UReportIndia on Telegram.

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