The term millennial has become a buzzword in the last couple of years. A millennial is defined as a young person born between 1980 to 2000. By that logic, over half of the Indian population qualify as millennials.
Everybody from political parties to big companies are redefining their growth and business strategies with these young people in mind. Not to mention, the term millennial is thrown around in the media and the Internet all the time.
Today, more than 50% of India’s population is below the age of 25 and more than 65% is below the age of 35.
Who are these young people? Do we know what’s on their mind? Have we ever bothered to find out how these youth feel about the world they are inheriting? And what is it that these young people really want?
It’s been more than a decade since ComMutiny The Youth Collective (CYC) was formed to bring together organisations across India who are working with youth.
Over the years, it has become clear that young people today need a space that they can call their own – a space created, run and owned by them. This space is called the 5th space.
It is a space that exists beyond the 4 spaces inhabited by young people – family, friends, education/work and leisure. It is where a young person can ponder over who they are as an individual and as a collective unit of humanity.
The 5th space shows what young people really want:
Young people want a space where their ideas and contribution are respected
Still not rigid in their thinking, young people have the mental space to let ideas in. But how many of them dare to share their ideas? They may feel hesitant because chances are that their ideas were dismissed as silly or stupid in the past by a person who was older or had more authority. An atmosphere that does not have room for your ideas can feel stifling.
Young people also tend to face stereotypes. They are often labelled as misguided, wild, naive, immature, idealistic, unreliable and lazy. It’s time to move beyond these labels.
A young person is a creative being with ideas and as a society, we need to acknowledge and respect that. By listening to young people and appreciating their insights, we encourage them to express themselves and be their best selves.
Youth are seeking ways to share their ideas fearlessly. They want to do this in a place that is neither their classroom nor a conference room. They want to speak without having to worry about judgment or rejection.
Young people want a space where they can share their inner truth and be vulnerable without being judged
India’s youth today is a highly anxious generation, reveals the Attitudes, Anxieties and Aspirations of India’s Youth: Changing Pattern survey done by Lokniti in 2016. Findings show that 78% of 18-25-year-olds were worried about employment. Also, 83% of 15-17-year-olds were worried about education.
Evidently, Indian youth is under tremendous pressure. They are plagued by guilt right from childhood which holds them back from speaking their mind & taking action. Older people often recount the sacrifices they’ve made for their children and sometimes, the only way for youth to alleviate that guilt is to simply follow the rules.
How can young people share all that is inside them – without a backlash or reprimand or free advice that starts with the sentence, “When I was your age, I did blah blah blah…”
How do they expose themselves with all their vulnerability without being shamed and judged? The 4 spaces of family, education, work and leisure in some ways render themselves inaccessible for this kind of authentic sharing.
A young person who really wants to share her/his innermost truth has to seek a safe space where judgement is kept at bay, emotions are respected and stories are heard with empathy.
Young people want to discover their talents and strengths
In schools and colleges, every young person has seen how unfair it is when a few favourite students form the elite circle of the talented and intelligent few. Also, the rise of social media has added to the social pressure on youth.
On one hand, all the hours a young person spends on social media create even more competition in today’s world. Either one wants to outdo the others or feels that they’re not good enough after looking at someone else’s unachievable feats.
Yet on a positive note, young people now have the chance to learn and practice new skills easily with technology and information available at their fingertips.
So, what young people really want and seek today are healthy communities that encourage them to discover and polish their talents.
Young people want to make a tangible difference
Young people today are disturbed by constant negative news, corruption scams and inequality. They have barely any say in the decision making processes of governance, public policy, educational curriculum and in company boardrooms. They feel distrustful of a system that doesn’t regard them as a vital part of itself and keeps them on the sidelines.
The young dream of a better world and they’re ready to make it happen because the stakes are too high for them. After all, it is the world that they’ll live in. Youth are looking for ways to make a dent into the system.
An increasing number of young people are asking themselves how they can make a difference that actually changes the society for good. As more and more young people begin to see injustice, they are seeking out a space which will help them change their learning and reflections into action.
Young people want to meet both like-minded and diverse people
Young people form their groups and cliques early on in life. They acquire stereotypes and prejudices through their families and communities. While this keeps them in a mental space of safety, it also shapes a one-sided view of many situations where they tend to regard anyone else who is different as the ‘other’.
For instance, only 1 in 4 youth surveyed by Lokniti approved of same-sex romantic relationships. 22% said they felt uncomfortable about a neighbour from a different religion. A significant 47% said they were uneasy about being neighbours with an unmarried boy and girl living together.
While the figures above show that Indian youth are still hanging on to conservative ideas, there is another side to the story. It may even be the case that a young person finds herself/himself pressured by a narrow-minded peer group and is unable to fit in or find her/his type of people – the ones who subscribe to the same values.
Today many young people are looking for a community of people with a similar mindset and values but have trouble finding one. At the same time, they are curious about others who are different than them yet afraid of the unknown.
Young people want to experience the world as their classroom
Young people are tired of schooling – they can’t wait to be done with boring lectures and bookish knowledge that is ladled out to them day after day.
Every young person is a creator, a maker and an innovator. Youth want the world to be their playground. They want to have fun as they learn. They want to have the freedom and choice to forge their own learning path and creative journey. They want to get out of the four walls that surround them, observe the world, listen to people’s stories and have experiences that they’ve never had before.
The young can achieve this through the 5th space.
It’s a space that doesn’t judge them.
It allows them to explore and make mistakes.
It lets them learn, develop themselves and develop their communities.
CYC facilitates the 5th space by mentoring a number of youth-led organisations across India. If you are a young person and are looking for opportunities to explore yourself, then connect with any of our forum members in different parts of the country.
Also, if you are a youth worker or interested in a career in youth work, then connect with us at CYC at firstname.lastname@example.org to understand what’s going on in the youth work sector in India.