Abid Hussain Rather
The former president of India, Indian aerospace scientist and statesman, famously known as missile man of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam has aptly said that children and youth are the pictures of a nation’s future. They are our hope for tomorrow. In other words we can say that for a brighter tomorrow, a nation needs to empower its youth. Youth empowerment is a process, to encourage youth by all means. It is an effort towards making a course for them to sustain and adapt as per situations. It is the process of involving the youth and the young population in the decision-making of a community. In the picturesque valleys of Kashmir, a region often synonymous with political turbulence, there lies a wellspring of untapped potential – its youth. The population size of young people in J&K is about 2.50 million, so focusing on youth and channelizing their potential towards positive change is of paramount significance. While the challenges faced by Kashmiri youth are undeniable, there is an urgent need to shift the narrative from conflict to empowerment, from despair to hope. By channelizing their energies towards positive avenues, we can create a brighter future for both the region and its young inhabitants. Youth empowerment in Kashmir is vital for fostering stability, development, and positive change. By engaging and empowering young people through education, skill-building, and meaningful opportunities, the region can tap into its youth’s potential to drive social progress, economic growth, and a more inclusive society. Empowered youth are more likely to contribute positively to their communities, participate in decision-making processes, and create a sense of hope and optimism for the future. This can help address various challenges and contribute to a peaceful and prosperous Kashmir.
Education: The beacon of hope
Education is the cornerstone of progress. By prioritizing quality education, we can equip Kashmiri youth with the skills and knowledge necessary to participate in a globalized world. Investments in modern infrastructure, vocational training centres, and scholarships can create an environment where young minds can flourish, paving the way for innovative contributions to various fields. Empowerment through education can also help counter negative influences and ideologies, providing a path towards economic independence, improved livelihoods, and social cohesion. By investing in education and offering opportunities for skill development, Kashmiri youth can become agents of positive change, driving progress, and stability in the region.
Entrepreneurship: Fostering innovation
Encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit among Kashmiri youth can lead to self-sufficiency and economic growth. Government incentives, incubation centers, and mentorship programs can help transform creative ideas into viable businesses, generating employment opportunities and redefining the region’s economic landscape. Entrepreneurship offers avenues for economic self-reliance, job creation, and community development. It empowers Kashmiri youth to take charge of their futures, contribute to the local economy, and address challenges with innovative solutions.
Cultural preservation: A source of identity and unity
Kashmir has a rich cultural heritage that spans centuries. By promoting art, music, literature, and traditional crafts, young Kashmiris can connect with their roots and find a sense of identity and purpose. Cultural festivals and events can serve as platforms for showcasing their talents and fostering unity within the community. Cultural preservation also offers opportunities for skill development, such as traditional crafts, music, and performing arts, which can be turned into entrepreneurial ventures.
Sports and Recreation: Healthy bodies, healthy minds
Engaging in sports not only promotes physical well-being but also cultivates discipline, teamwork, and leadership skills. Investing in sports facilities, organizing tournaments, and supporting local athletes can create a positive outlet for the energy and enthusiasm of Kashmiri youth. Furthermore, investing in sports infrastructure and training programs can create opportunities for local athletes, coaches, and support staff, contributing to economic development.The success of Kashmiri athletes and sportsmen like Pervez Rasool and Umran Malik on a national and international stage can inspire and motivate other youth to pursue their dreams.
Community engagement: Building a stronger society
Involving young people in community service and volunteerism instills a sense of responsibility and empathy. By participating in initiatives such as environmental conservation, healthcare outreach, and disaster relief, Kashmiri youth can contribute to the betterment of their society and gain a deeper understanding of their role as change-makers. This engagement not only allows them to contribute their unique perspectives and ideas but also fosters a stronger connection to their community and its well-being. Through community-based programs, youth can develop leadership skills, collaborate with diverse groups, and gain practical experience that prepares them for active participation in shaping the region’s future.
Mental health support: Nurturing resilience
The psychological toll of conflict and uncertainty cannot be underestimated. Establishing accessible mental health services and awareness campaigns can help Kashmiri youth cope with stress and trauma, enabling them to harness their potential and pursue their aspirations with renewed vigor. By prioritizing mental health, we empower Kashmiri youth to overcome adversities, unlock their potential, and become agents of positive. Mental health support not only enhances their overall well-being but also enables them to focus on personal and academic growth.
Communication and Connectivity: Bridging divides
Modern technology offers unprecedented opportunities for connectivity and communication. By providing access to the internet, online education, and platforms for expression, Kashmiri youth can transcend geographical boundaries and engage with the global community. Furthermore, enhanced communication platforms facilitate the exchange of ideas, cultural exchange, and collaboration, fostering a sense of unity and shared purpose among Kashmiri youth. By harnessing the power of communication and connectivity, young individuals can be provided with the means to express themselves and explore new horizons.
In conclusion, channelizing the energy and potential of Kashmiri youth towards positive avenues requires a multi-faceted approach. Through education, entrepreneurship, cultural preservation, sports, community engagement, mental health support, and enhanced connectivity, we can empower these young individuals to shape a prosperous and harmonious future for themselves and their region. It is pertinent to mention here that the government of Jammu & Kashmir has rolled out a pioneering initiative – Mission Youth to provide a platform for holistic implementation of all youth engagement and outreach initiatives, and to bring the interests and empowerment of youth to the centre of policy making. It has established around 4,290 youth clubs since its inception in 2021 where volunteer youth are trained to work through real challenges and make meaningfulchange. This mission has been very successful in empowering the Kashmiri youth and has turned out to be a game changer. Further such initiatives are need of the hour that hold the potential to alleviate the persistent trauma and tension of Kashmiri youth that has affected their lives for far too long. By investing in the empowerment of Kashmiri youth, we not only contribute to their personal growth but also lay the foundation for a more stable and harmonious region, fostering a sense of hope, unity, and progress that can lead to lasting positive change.
(The author is a member of Kashmir Writers’ Association and can be reached at [email protected])