By Sonia Sarkar
NEW DELHI, India, 4th July 2009: Samuel Venkatesan’s bright eyes dart excitedly from one media person to another. Already, a mini-celebrity, he prepares to answer the series of questions- “How do you feel representing India at the J8 summit?”, “What will you say to the Prime Minister when you meet him?”
Seventeen-year-old Venkatesan is one of the voices representing young India at the Junior 8 summit in Rome this year. Joining him are 16-year old Sanjukta Pangi, from Koraput, Orissa and 15 year old Narendra Kumar from Rae-Bareli, Uttar Pradesh.
Selected by the local district administration and NGOs with support from UNICEF. these children will be joining 56 other young people aged 14-17 years for the 5 th chapter of the J8 summit to be held from 4-10 July, parallel to the G8 summit in Italy.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to have the voices of the Indian young people heard. And not only among their peers but also by the world leaders who will be at the J8 summit as well.” says Angela Walker, Communications Chief, UNICEF .
“My villagers thought I was raving mad, when I told them I was going to Italy to meet other children from across the globe.. The journey from my native village Shoolagiri to Chennai and then Delhi and finally ready to fly to Rome is just unbelievable.” Even as he speaks to us, Venkatesan starts rolling his handycam that his chaperon from Nalandaway has given him. Specially commended to the summit for his flair for communication, he excitedly continues in Tamil,
Also read how Samuel Venkatesan is preparing for J8 Summit
“I believe in communicating through films. I have already made two short documentaries, one on sensitizing teachers and another on superstitions and myths about ghosts. My dream is to make a film; on the real situation of children in rural India. I want to tell children about their rights through my films. I also want to help other children whose parents have to leave them behind and go to work in big cities.” Venkatesan’s mother- a widow works as domestic help in Bangalore.
When Sanjukta , a bright student of Govt. Girls High School, Pottangi, Orissa exchanges notes with her peers at the J 8, her parents in back of beyond tribal village Karanjaguda , Pottangi block, Orissa will be rejoicing. Shy, yet confident, she says “ I dream of becoming the District Collector. I want to meet new people and understand how they overcome social and economic challenges around them. In our village, girls do not go to school and are married off early.”
The G8 and G20 processes increasingly set the global agenda and provide leadership in a number of policy areas. A strategic and active engagement with the G8 and G20 promises to produce tangible and worthy commitments which ultimately helps UNICEF achieve its own work priorities- benefiting children. The focus of this year’s J8 is aligned to the subjects of the G8- climate change, the financial crisis and poverty in Africa, as they impact the lives of children and young people.
Also read how Sanjukta Pangi is working towards her dream at J8 Summit
On 9th July, one of the selected Indian youth delegates will share their recommendations directly with G8 leaders, in L’Aquila.. Similarly, one representative from each of the fourteen country teams will have the opportunity to engage with their respective leaders on concerns identified by the J8 Summit. Apart from India, the group also includes representatives from invited countries such as Brazil, China, Egypt, Mexico and South Africa.
While words like “climate change” and “impact of financial crisis” may yet mean nothing to the teens, their real life experiences of local phenomena will certainly help world leaders take responsible decisions.
“With industries in my village and large scale cutting of trees, we are getting less rain. My father is a poor farmer and we keep waiting for the rain which is delayed every year. “says Sanjukta Pangi. Venkatesan, whose day begins with towing four buckets of water from the nearby lake to meet the needs of his joint family of ten, says “Now there is less water in the lake. Earlier we used the water to irrigate our fields, now with villagers farming directly on the river beds feeding the lake, less water gets stored. In desperation, many have taken up jobs in nearby industrial hub-huzoor. Even those jobs are hard to get as factories are shutting down”
Apart from 9th July when the young people get to meet the world leaders, and officially present the outcome document to the President of the Chamber of Deputies Gianfranco Fini, a series of other exciting events awaits them. Dinner with celebrity chef Gualtiero Marchese on the importance of nutrition, hosted by the Goodwill Ambassadors, the Firefighters of Italy on 4 th July followed by the official opening ceremony on 6th July at the Sala Polifunzionale of the Presidenza del Consiglio.
In addition to the 56 young people, Gianni Letta, Undersecretary of the Presidenza del Consiglio, Giorgia Meloni, Italian Minister of Youth and Vincenzo Spadafora, President of UNICEF Italy will attend. On 10 th July, Sanjukta, Venkatesan and Narendra will participate in the official closing ceremony with Giovanni Alemanno, Mayor of Rome.
For additional information and to interview young people, please contact:
Chief of Communication, UNICEF India
Tel: +44 71 624 196 790 or +91-98-181-06093,
Communication Officer- Media
Tel: +91-98-101-70289, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
To read more about J8 2009, www.j8summit.com B-roll of the youth participants activities during the J8 summit will be prepared and distributed through http://www.thenewsmarket.com/unicef