150 young people from various districts of Malwa and Nimar region of central India gathered at Indore, the business capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh, on May 11th and 12th to participate in a youth convention on HIV/AIDS. The convention was organized by UNICEF in partnership with Madhya Pradesh Voluntary Health Association (MPVHA), a network of social organizations in the state. The objective of the convention was to create awareness, encourage dialogue, and offer HIV/AIDS related information in the form of simple presentations, skits, songs and films on the issue.
The participants were divided into five colour-coded groups - red, green, blue, white and yellow - identified by the colour of their caps. Members from each group had to write slogans, speak extempore, participate in a quiz or compose and sing a song, all on the theme of HIV/AIDS. It became highly competitive, at times, but for a worthy cause. “We just didn’t realize that the convention was over. It was not only fun, we learned a lot” said Shweta, a student of public relations at Indore University and one of the anchors at the gathering.
Mr. Mukesh Sinha, Executive Director of MPVHA, thanked UNICEF for its catalytic role in bringing youth groups and networks like MPVHA together on the issue.
Mr. Tapas Datta, State Representative UNICEF office for Madhya Pradesh & Chhattisgarh, said efforts like this not only create awareness but help provide right information to the youth, which is important. He added that HIV/ AIDS is more a social issue than a health issue and that there was an imperative need to involve all members of society, especially the youth.
TV Star Ajay Nagrath, and skating champions Aditi Banerjee and Parul Jaiswal, added local celebrity flavour to the gathering. Senior media personalities were also present as judges of various events.
What did the youth have to say at the meet? Raghumaharishi, a student from Indore, said “We need to talk on the issue openly and need the right information.”
Hira Lal, who was participating from Khargone district in Madhya Pradesh, said it was for the first time that he had an opportunity to appear on stage. “This is different - in this UNICEF meet we all are active, everyone is assigned some task - rather than it being just a series of lecture sessions,” said his friend from the same district.
Gayatri Parihar, working with a non governmental organization ˜Vasudha Vikas Sanstha’ was participating along with ten other young volunteers from Dhar, a tribal district. She said that they had assimilated a lot of information and that she would “re-cook (the information) as a local dish which is easily relished, hence many people will benefit from it.”
Anil Gulati, UNICEF Communication Officer