Unveiling the Extraordinary: Meet the Champions of Youth Co: Lab 5th Edition driving positive change in India.
August 11, 2023
India's youth population, numbering over 260 million between 18 and 29, is a testament to the country's vibrant potential. Youth today are rising to confront pressing issues, such as climate change, accessibility, poverty, and hunger, through innovative solutions. For example, they are championing climate action by spreading awareness and voicing their concerns. Their imaginative solutions in agriculture are fuelling improved crop productivity etc.
Channelling the collective energy of this demographic towards socio-economic and environmental progress holds the key to realizing India's sustainable development goals. Amidst this dynamic backdrop, investments in Indian youth and youth-driven social enterprises are scaling new heights. Under Start-up India Initiative, initiated in 2016, the government introduced various measures to support start-ups, such as tax benefits, simplified regulations, and access to funding. The government also established a dedicated Fund of Funds for Startups with a corpus of INR 10,000 crore (approximately 1.35 billion USD) for providing financial assistance through selected Venture Capital (VC) firms. UNDP believes young people are positive agents of change who represent an immense and valuable potential that governments and institutions should nurture and invest in. To further this, we have been working in India and globally to support youth innovation and entrepreneurship for social change. One such effort is the Youth Co: Lab, the largest youth innovation movement in Asia and the Pacific.
Co-created in 2017 by UNDP and the Citi Foundation, Youth Co:Lab aims to establish a common agenda for Asia-Pacific countries to invest in and empower youth to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) through leadership, social innovation, and entrepreneurship.
Youth Co:Lab was launched in India in 2019 in partnership with Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog. It has launched five editions since then, with this year’s edition concluding in June, unveiling six exceptional minds driving innovative solutions to tackle the most pressing challenges of our era.
This World Youth Day, we bring you the six young changemakers who are driving positive change in the country through their creativity and determination.
Sandeep Kumar: Bridging the Healthcare Divide (Uttar Pradesh)
Sandeep's brainchild, Digiswasthya, leverages technology to bridge the healthcare access gap in remote regions shrinking the miles between urgent medical needs and expert care. Digiswasthya's magic lies in its ability to connect individuals in remote communities with virtual doctor consultations, medical advice, and even prescriptions, revolutionizing rural healthcare access. With Sandeep's vision, what once felt like a distant dream is now a lifeline to medical expertise.
Soumya Dabriwal and Aradhana Rai Gupta: Empowering Rural Women on Menstrual Hygiene (Delhi)
Project Baala, by Soumya and Aradhana, addresses the pressing menstrual hygiene challenges faced by Indian women, including accessing sanitary napkins, their disposal, or the social stigma around them. According to a report by UNICEF, about 60% of women do not have access to sanitary facilities, 71% do not know about menstruation before they get their first period, and about 23 million women drop out of school at the onset of periods annually. By crafting reusable sanitary pads and executing targeted awareness campaigns, they empower women with knowledge and solutions. Over 500,000 women have benefited from their efforts in India. Their impact has extended far beyond India, across Nepal, Tanzania, and Ghana, saving the environment from 112 million plastic pads, and heralding a new era of access to menstrual hygiene.
Sonal Shukla: Crafting Sustainability, One Product at a Time (Delhi)
eConscious, led by Sonal, breathes life into the concept of environmentally conscious choices. Their ingenious recycling method transforms waste plastic into functional products, from park benches to artworks, driving awareness for sustainability. Having recycled over 100,000 kg of plastic waste and creating more than 1,000 eco-friendly products, eConscious walks the talk on the circular economy, inspiring a brighter, eco-friendly tomorrow.
Dimum Pertnin: Cultivating Traditions for Empowerment (Arunachal Pradesh)
Dimum's Gepo Aali revives indigenous crops and ancestral farming practices, empowering over 50 women farmers in Arunachal Pradesh. Coming from the Adi tribe, Dimum is a first-generation entrepreneur. Her deep connection to the forest, sustainable agriculture, cultural heritage, and her grandmother's wisdom inspired her to create Gepo Aali to promote traditional varieties of millets. The millets are climate-smart and considered superfoods, which would have otherwise been lost due to modern agricultural practices. Dimum’s journey highlights how by preserving tribal identities and sustainable farming, one can nurture traditions that harmonize with modernity.
Akashdeep Bansal: Illuminating Pathways of Inclusivity (Rajasthan)
Akashdeep's journey is characterized by resilience. Despite being visually impaired, Akashdeep did not shy away from working towards inclusivity in the digital world. He has established the Office of Accessible Education at IIT Delhi, benefiting over 150 students with disabilities every year by providing assured on-campus accommodation, scribe support, compensatory time, access to the required assistive tools, accessible study materials, skill development training, reserved seats in classrooms/ seminar halls, etc. He has also co-founded SaralX in 2019, a venture dedicated to converting inaccessible content into formats compatible with screen readers. This innovative solution has empowered over 4,000 individuals with disabilities, converting more than 600,000 pages and transcending challenges like equations and complex layouts. He also works actively to support corporates to adopt digital accessibility and foster inclusive employment.
Pranjuli Garg: Nourishing Change through Sustainable Nutrition (Mumbai)
Pranjuli's brainchild, ProMeat, redefines protein consumption with climate-friendly alternatives to conventional meat. By merging technology and indigenous crops, they produce plant-based chicken that is both nutritious and eco-conscious. Their commitment to quality and sustainability makes ProMeat a force for healthier lifestyles and a greener planet. These young innovators epitomize the spirit of change, resilience, and commitment. Their journeys underscore that innovation knows no bounds. With bright minds like these, the stage is set for India's youth to lead change that transcends boundaries and uplifts communities, truly leaving no one behind.