Yuva Active, a Chennai-based bilingual advocacy forum, aims to bridge the gap between citizens and the government by enabling people with tools to highlight their civic and social issues. Founded just a year ago by Aishwarya Kalpathi Aghoram, the forum that has over 900 members, hopes to educate and empower youngsters into becoming more informed and responsible citizens.
Aishwarya, a political science graduate from St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, who also has a Master’s degree in Management from Warwick Business School, shares with TNM that the idea is threefold - ‘education, empowerment and leadership’.
“When I was doing my undergrad in St Xavier’s, I realised that most of the students who were not doing political science, were not interested in governance and policies. It is mainly because they do not understand the effect it can have in their lives. I wanted to start a forum that would enable more participants from society on governance,” she shares.
With this as its primary goal, Yuva Active allows a member to start campaigns that would eventually be shared to grab the attention of the elected representatives.
“Using our campaign feature, people can highlight any kind of issues in their community. Based on the votes a particular campaign receives, it would then be forwarded to the specific councillor or MLA or MP. This brings a sense of accountability for the elected representatives while empowering the residents,” Aishwarya explains.
Aishwarya Kalpathi Aghoram
She further adds, “Such campaigns work to bring attention towards communities. A drainage issue in a remote village may seem small to someone in Chennai but could actually be affecting the community deeply.”
Yuva Active has organised workshops (certificate courses) in over 30 colleges in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur districts, enabling students with basic knowledge on governance. “We don’t take more than 30-40 in a batch since it is a very interactive forum. Students will be trained on how to file an RTI, how to gain the right kind of attention for their campaigns, how to approach the right kind of officials to highlight their issues, etc. By the end of this year we want to cover at least 100 colleges,” she adds.
“Quite recently, a student from Pachaiappa’s College in Chennai succeeded in starting a public library with help from the right kind of government officials,” she tells us.
In addition to creating an online platform for political advocacy Yuva Active also has an extensive election database. “We had a lot of people call and tell us that they used the information provided on our site before voting in the recent elections,” says Aishwarya. The website has a basic profile of the electoral candidates to help voters carefully evaluate their options.
Aishwarya believes that such forums will create a ripple effect, encouraging more youngsters to participate. “Indian democracy has one of the largest populations of youngsters in the world. When young people become more responsible, it becomes inspiring for the entire society,” she says.