The head quarter of Medak district in Andhra Pradesh - Sangareddy- witnessed a gathering of over 2000 youth on 15 Febrauary 2007. These youth are volunteers of a village level micro planning programme initiated by UNICEF and carried out in partnership with Non governmental organisations (MEDVAN) and Medak district administration. They had gathered to reinforce their commitment to make Medak a child friendly district.
Inaugurating the convention, district collector, Mr. B. Venkatesham, said like good things speak for themselves, the good work of volunteers should speak for itself through the changing social and developmental scenario of the villages. He also felicitated selected volunteers for their achievements in birth registration of all children, all new born being exclusively breastfed for first six months and consumption of iodized salt by all households in their villages. He also released the second edition of Samishti – a magazine developed by local school children who are being trained to be child reporters. Mr. Saint-lot, UNICEF representative for the states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka who was also present there, urged the volunteers to become what Gandhi had envisaged for the youth of India “Be the change you want to see.’’
The Village Planning Programnme aims to foster community involvement and ownership of the development process. The process involves participatory techniques to enable communities to understand and assess the situation of women and children vis a vis their survival, protection and development and envision a village plan of action to achieve their aspirations. The village volunteers selected through consensus from the village are trained to follow up on the social action plan prepared by the community and regularly monitor 16 identified key social indicators which include full immunization, vitamin A supplementation, deliveries by skilled attendant, nutritional status of children, access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities among others. A foundational premise of the programme is the understanding that addressing the overall well-being of children involves convergence of basic services such as health, education, nutrition water and sanitation. Besides accelerating access to basic services, behavior change communication for enhancing the survival chances of women and children also forms the fulcrum of activities at the village level.
An exhibition was also organized on the significance of social indicators as well as on specific interventions such as HIV/AIDS counseling cell, bio- intensive garden for the schools and compressed stabilized mud brick making. Other development interventions in the district were also displayed by the NGOs such as Key Clinics of Population Services International.
The highlight of the convention was a special motivational session conducted by Ms. Jhansi - social activist and a popular TV/radio anchor in Andhra Pradesh. She impressed upon the volunteers to transform themselves from informed youth to youth-in-action. The session also included creative performances by local artistes to communicate and reinforce messages on knowledge, attitude, and practice relating to key social behaviors pertaining to girls’ education, child labor, hygiene and HIV/AIDS. Ms. Jhansi emphasized voluntarism for self realization as well as collective transformation, and drew on the testimonials of volunteers to inspire and cheer them in their endeavor. The volunteers also undertook a pledge against child marriage – a key concern in the district.
Commitment reinforcement exercise during the convention heralded a new chapter for the ongoing village planning programme through a collective reiteration of commitment on key social indicators by all assembled volunteers. As part of the exercise, each volunteer was asked to randomly pick one card each in which one indicator was written and repeat it to a minimum of five other volunteers as his/her commitment for the year.
District heads of all departments, NGO officials and elected representatives of the district participated in this convention. The convention was a major milestone in the developmental trajectory of Medak where a total of 2032 youth reiterated their pledge to work voluntarily for the collective good of their families and communities – by ensuring that every child in their village has the right to survival, development, education, and protection. The meeting was a testimony to the spirit of voluntarism and the energy of youth to make a difference – they are truly the harbingers of a new Medak.