By Manita Jangid, Minakshi Singh, Shikha Wadhwa
Young people constitute the majority of India’s population today. Nearly one third of the population is rural youth. The rural sector faces an increasing problem of unemployment. Exposure to new initiatives and opportunities are underway by various establishments of Government such as Nehru Yuva Kendra Sanghtan (NYKS)*, to engage and provide employment opportunities to youth.
“We are so glad we got engaged in promoting the use of iodized salt in the villages through community interactions, rallies, village contact drives and surveys. The whole process transformed and oriented our lives towards social issues and enhanced our self-esteem. This initiative broadened our horizons and employment opportunities”, said Bharatlal Meena , Youth member, Tonk
UNICEF’s partnership with NYKS is one of the pioneer initiatives to involve educated and unemployed rural youth in social projects. One such programme is the Universal Salt Iodization programme.
With the guidance and support of UNICEF, NYKS builds the capacity of young people and links them with the community to promote use of iodized salt. Familiarity with the local dialect, culture, knowledge about the village and motivation are some of the factors responsible for effective project implementation.
Presently, nearly 200 youths are involved through NYKS in spearheading the Salt Iodization Programme in six districts of Rajasthan, namely Jodhpur, Nagaur , Tonk , Udaipur , Rajsamand , and Dholpur.
Teams of youth volunteers are actively engaged in conducting market surveys of the salt available, assessing awareness levels, environment and awareness building and sensitizing community, salt traders and producers.
UNICEF imparted trainings to youth groups regarding iodine deficiency disorder associated with non-iodized salt and technical aspects of iodized salt to sharpen their learning and escalate motivation.
The groups then started their work by conducting market surveys to identify the non iodized brands. They identified production, crushing and packaging units in the districts. They tested the salt being used at the anganwadi centres and schools. The teams then updated the block and district administration officials on the salt production and consumption. Subsequently, they conducted the village contact drives aimed at generating awareness and creating a demand for iodized salt in the community.
Youth groups of Urban Tonk did marketing of the salt in 45 urban wards. They did so by building linkages between the salt traders and the community ensuring that community has access to iodized salt. The groups also created awareness among the shopkeepers regarding the value of iodized salt.
“I feel strongly about the repercussions of consuming uniodized salt. I took the responsibility in my village to sensitize the community about the usage of iodized salt and subsequently motivated other community members. This project is very beneficial for the community. We always try to highlight the issue of iodized salt in different platforms available to us”. expressed Rameshwar Chaudhary, a youth from Tonk district of Rajasthan.
The success of NYKS youth groups in promoting use of iodized salt has led to other programmes pouring in for them. The exuberance and commitment of the youth groups will play a significant role in reaching the goal of universal salt iodization.
*Nehru Yuva Kendra Sanghtan is an autonomous body under India’s Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs. NYKS runs various programmes involving youth volunteers (urban and rural), in coordinating and implementing public health programmes of government and NGOs. Their mission encompasses channeling the energy and motivation of young persons in the right direction through training, vocational courses, skills building and their participation in developmental programmes.