Bhubaneswar: In a bid to constructively engage the youth and student community of the city, towards raising awareness on ‘Safe Spaces for Youth’, Bhubaneswar Smart City Limited (BSCL) and Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) have initiated several programmes in various slums and educational institutions starting from the International Youth Day on 12th August 2018.

In line with the theme of this year’s International Youth Day, ‘Safe Spaces for Youth’, these interactive programs have been organised at various colleges and slums to create awareness on the need of safe spaces for youth at all levels including civic, public, digital and physical spaces. The theme focus on the fact that youth need safe spaces where they can come together, engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision making processes and freely express themselves.

Part of the socially smart Bhubaneswar initiative, a collaborative effort of BSCL, BMC, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and implementing partner Humara Bachpan Trust, the activities included street plays staged by young boys and girls from the slums on the need for having safe spaces for the youth.

Besides, community mapping was done in few of the slums wherein young boys and girls facilitated identification of unsafe spaces and articulated their thoughts and suggestions on how their respective slums can be made safer for girls and women. The process was coordinated by peer leaders and volunteers of Humara Bachpan Trust, at slum level.

All the suggestions collated after the activity were submitted in the form of a memorandum to the respective Councillor of the area. Some of the key suggestions which formed part of the memorandum included installation of streetlight near the community toilet in Birsamunda 1 basti, removal of a discarded broken bus lying near Birsamuda 2 basti which had turned into a point of alcohol consumption by boys of nearby slums, repairing of the community toilet near Kanjiahuda basti along with provision for streetlight near it, restricting entry of outside people into anganwadi and other community centres in slums, creation of proper space for recreation, play and leisure for the youth. Another major suggestion from all the slums came as complete curb on liquor sale and drug peddling in and around the slums.

During the drive, city government officials appreciated the youths of Shantinagar slum who have collaboratively worked to turn an open space available near their slum but was being used as an open defecation site into a clean and safe play and recreation for children and the youth of the area.

At the educational institute level, students of SOA University organised focussed group discussions on the theme ‘Safe spaces for youth’ while students of Astha school of Management prepared a skit on the theme of safe spaces for youth’ which they plan to stage in five to six villages located around the institute in coming week.

Similarly, KIIT NSS bureau organised a special program at the KIMS Auditorium wherein a nukkad-natak was staged by the students on the issue and several of them also articulated their views on the need for safe spaces for youth. Speaking as the keynote speaker at this programme, Mr. Bibhudendu Tripathy, Add Govt. Advocate, Odisha High court, stressed on the importance of ensuring safe spaces for all especially the youth adding that there is a dearth of physical spaces for children and youth in the city at present. During an open house discussion, students shared their concerns on various safety issues at multiple levels including while using social media. Several of the students suggested more awareness on this issue amongst children and youth along with awareness on whom they can approach for help if they face any privacy invasion or safety concerns.

It may be noted that there are currently 1.8 billion young people between the age of 10 and 24 in the world, which is in fact the largest youth population ever recorded. But unfortunately 1 in 10 of the world’s children live in conflict zones and almost 24 million of them are out of school. Political instability, labour market challenges and limited space for political and civic participation have led to increasing isolation of youth in societies.

12th August, which is observed as International youth day was first observed in 1999 by UN General Assembly. Since then this has become an annual celebration of the role of young women and men as essential partners in change, and an opportunity to raise awareness of challenges and problems facing the world’s youth. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, specifically Goal 11, emphasizes the need for the provision of space towards inclusive and sustainable urbanization.


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