This is the first of a 3-part series on YUVA’s annual urban festival ComplexCity, which seeks to bring different participants of Mumbai to engage with the question of building an inclusive city. This first part narrates the experience of the Youth Covention. The second part on the Youth Competetions and Cultural Events organised during ComplexCity can be read here and the third part on the Photography Workshop can be read here.
Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA) organised the sixth edition of the Making Mumbai Youth Convention on 26 April 2023, as part of its annual ComplexCity festival. At this convention, the city’s youth engaged on emerging urban issues and developed action plans to work on identity, governance and environmental justice. The event was attended by nearly 350 youth from across the city, hailing from areas such as Jogeshwari, Govandi, Bandra, Nallasopara, among others.
It was graced by Kiran Dighavkar, Assistant Municipal Commissioner, P-North Ward, Mumbai, who encouraged the youth to ask the right questions. “When we talk about government authorities, we often say they have the power. But, the real power lies with someone who brings change in people’s lives.”
The event started with a panel discussion, which included Kiran Dighavkar; Roshni Nuggehalli, Executive Director, YUVA; Deepa Pawar, Founder, Anubhuti Trust; and Dulari Parmar, Project Associate, YUVA.
Roshni spoke about the demographic dividend that exists in the country today, as 65% of India’s population is below 35 years of age. “While youth can take the country forward, they have to face challenges in education and work, and those from marginalised communities continue to struggle for basic services,” she said.
We have often heard people say that youth have the potential to bring about change, but they need support. The panel discussion saw Deepa speak about youth identities, and Dulari shed light on the urgent issue of climate change and climate justice.
Following the panel discussion, the participating youth attended one of three breakout rooms where the discussions centered around urban governance, climate justice and youth identities.
Their discussions in the rooms helped the participating youth present an action plan on each of these three themes, which they aim to take forward in the coming year.
Let’s take a look at the discussions which spurred these longer-term strategies for action.
This session was facilitated by Deepa, where she began with asking the participants what were the negatives and positives that came to their mind when she said the word, ‘youth’. The objective was to help them understand how identity gets associated with them over time. “Any identity comes from the places where we were born, our caste, class, religion and more,” she said. Deepa’s questions compelled the youth to think about their struggles set against different backgrounds.
The youth were forced to think about what an identity gives them and takes away from them. They mentioned that they are judged and sometimes dishonored on the basis of the clothes they wear and the areas they come from. Rasna, a youth from Charkop, spoke about how friendships are affected because of a person’s religion. “In college, we are also judged on the kind of food we carry in our tiffins,” she added.
The youth reflected on how identities have been politicised over time, and how language becomes a pillar of politics. Despite India being a diverse nation, when it comes to languages, youth who speak English are given more preference over others.
Towards the end of the session, the youth were divided into smaller groups and asked to reflect on identities in the context of caste and languages among others. They also prepared certain action points, where they agreed that they needed to change certain perceptions, and work on themselves. Only when they do this, will they be able to change the community’s perception. Reducing caste barriers, putting an end to discrimination, challenging traditions and adapting Constitutional values within communities and community-based organisations were some of the other points that were discussed.
This session was facilitated by Mr. Sagar Jadhav, Assistant Engineer, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), where he spoke about the participation of youth in urban governance. The group also discussed the difference between government and governance, and how these two work in tandem with each other. In addition to talking about the levels of governance, the youth discussed the things they can do to change the system and why campaigning for good governance was important. They also spoke about why having information on local resources and their participation in policy-making was important.
Conversations about fundamental rights and duties took place. Further, the session took a deep dive into various aspects pertaining to E-governance. Features like Digi Locker, e-Certificate and Aaple Sarkar Portal were explained to the participants. Facilitators highlighted how E-governance plays a role in reducing the touchpoints of government interventions. As activities are made digital, it reduces the chances of delay and corruption.
The Draft Development Plan, its impact on slum dwellers and the probable chance of their rehabilitation was discussed at length. The session also shed light on elections and why it is important for youth to exercise their voting rights. In order to create more awareness about urban local governance, the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act was explained.
The session kicked off with a play by YUVA’s Climate Justice team that highlighted the interconnectedness of housing, drainage systems and climate change. It presented the contradictory narratives that surrounded the issue of climate justice and challenged the mainstream narrative of climate change which largely focuses on individual action and tree plantation. “How is any action on housing, basic services and healthcare related to climate change?” – a line from the play, which evoked confusion and curiosity among the participants.
The session then sought to understand what climate justice was and how it reflects at a global South Asia level. The group had a discussion on how urban poor communities bear the brunt of climate change despite contributing the least to it. The group sought to begin with a global perspective and then looked at issues within more specific environments, such as informal settlements.
Following this, the participants explored climate justice through identities and social vulnerabilities.
Climate change does not affect everyone equally. Volunteers from the participants were invited and given chits that detailed some identity related markers. Following this, questions were posed to the volunteers based on which they stepped forward or backward. Towards the end of the game it was very clear that volunteers with privileged identities had higher chances and opportunities to cope with climate change impact.
Ruksana Khan and Dilshad Ansari, who are a part of YUVA’s climate justice project shared findings from their vulnerability assessment.
As the session came to an end, participants formed groups and explored the impact of climate hazards on basic services. As they tried to come up with solutions, the issue of waste management came to the forefront.
This session also shed light on how the onus of climate change was not on individuals but on the state.
Stalls on Climate Justice
Once the group discussions were over, the youth headed to the stalls, which helped them understand these topics creatively. There were three installations on climate justice, highlighting the movements and activists in India. We have been hearing about multiple international conferences on climate change, but none of them talk and highlight the struggles in India, which are directly linked to social justice and climate justice. The idea was to highlight these movements and local actions by individuals groups which included women and transgenders who have been working not only on climate change, but also social justice issues.
Another stall also had a ‘Climate Change Diary’, with six different topics and youth had to write down their thoughts. Example: In the diary titled, ‘Mere sapno ka sheher (the city of my dreams)’, youth wrote about what they would perceive their city to be like.
The youth share their thoughts and learnings at Making Mumbai
“The event is an opportunity for us to meet our friends and also broaden our thinking through these sessions. ComplexCity gives an opportunity to interact with youth from other parts of Mumbai, and also gives us a voice to put forward our issues.”Aasiya, Nallasopara
“The urban governance session taught me about the efforts youth need to take to bring about change in their communities, and what are the procedures to follow. Over the years, Making Mumbai has addressed various issues, and helped us understand them better. There are many topics like climate justice that we are unaware of and this convention helps us understand how these issues affect us.”Saloni Thakur, Nallasopara
“I had an idea about what identities are, but the session helped me understand it in depth, be it gender discrimination or issues of the Adivasi community.”Rasna Magar, Charkop
“We knew about identities, but after attending the session I understood how caste, class and politics affect a person’s identity, and how people are discriminated against based on where they hail from.”Vivek, Govandi
“Everytime we hear climate change, we think about weather change. We had never thought about climate justice before attending the session. It helped us realise how health, too, is related to climate justice, and why the government should improve basic services in informal settlements.”Sufiyan, Jogeshwari