Conversations with Daniel: Voices from India

Interview by Daniel (he/him), 26 QLD

We discuss the needs and challenges of young people in leadership positions – in Part Seven of my journey to amplify voices in the Asia-Pacific region.

If you’ve been following my journey so far, you’ve met all manner of interesting and accomplished young people – from aspiring YouTubers, to organisation leaders, and everything in-between.

There is at least one more person I need to tell you about – a crucial and necessary voice for young people in the region. Meet Mahima – from Madhya Pradesh, India. She immediately struck me as someone with an eagerness to share and learn – listening and engaging non-judgmentally.

Mahima has a high-profile role in her organisation – as Vice President on the Board – representing young people across the nation. I have also taken on the responsibility of representing young people for a large organisation and am eager to learn from her experiences. Here’s what she had to say:

What kind of work are you involved in?

The work I’m most involved in is mobilising young people. I see how they work, and what is working for them. Do they have the support they need, or do they need something more? That includes creating opportunities for young people to get involved in activities, which will help them to exchange ideas and gain the perspectives of others. It’s also about giving each other mental support.

We try to let young people know that we are always there for them. And we are always listening and trying to help.

Can you tell me more about your position as Vice President? How did that start?

I first got involved in 2017. I was interested in joining, but there were no local branches. So, we started our own. We brought together church elders, young people, and family members. And since then, we’ve been working very hard to build it. Now, we have a small piece of land.

I got involved on a national level in 2020. During the COVID times, I got the opportunity to host online events and anchor Zoom meetings for international youth. The national officers saw the potential in me – and in 2022, they motivated me to apply for the national Vice President role.

Can you speak to some of the highs and lows of being a young person in a position like yours? Are there some frustrations as a young person?

The biggest frustration is that when we communicate, sometimes we have to use the words and the perspective of older people. It’s kind of manipulative – but sometimes it’s the only way to get things done. It can be frustrating, but I’m trying my best to communicate for the betterment of young people.

Being a young person is difficult because people think that you don’t have any experience.

But it’s not like that – I have extensive experience with my sports. I have six years’ experience with starting my own branch. Older people don’t take that into account.

What do you think is the number one issue affecting young people today?

I believe it is very difficult for young people to follow their passion. For example, my passion was in sports. But, once I became a teenager I was told I need to get a ‘normal’ job. A nine-to-five job.

My perspective was no, I can’t live like that. I don’t want to be that person.

I’m very sensitive, and I’m lucky that my parents are supportive. They provided financial support for me to pursue my passions until I became an adult. But I have some friends who are not able to do that.

In India, people are just studying to become engineers or doctors. Their parents are forcing them to do that. And because of that, they are not able to find meaningful things they want to do. Young people are working for other people’s dreams, and they’re not able to follow their own.

Finally, how optimistic would you say you are about the future?

I try to keep myself 100% optimistic. But there are highs and lows. We are still struggling to reach everyone with our message, that young people can be leaders too. But work is being done – we are connected. We are taking steps out of our comfort zone.

 

Mahima is exceptionally wise and tuned in to the attitudes of young people. Her goals and mission are clear – and I find that very encouraging.

Like Mike from Penang, Malaysia, Mahima acknowledges the pressures on younger people to find a traditional job. As she describes, there is no longer space to pursue a passion – it’s sink or swim. And future generations may continue to face that pressure unless attitudes change.

Her story, of starting her own branch at a young age and filling a need in her local community, is inspiring. I’m also comforted to learn that the difficulties I sometimes experience as a young person in a professional environment are not unique to me – that it is a shared experience for many young people. We have frustrations and doubts (am I really the right person for this?) – but young people must remember to back themselves and each other. We have the experience, and we DO provide a unique perspective that organisations, leadership, and decision makers should value.

I share Mahima’s frustrations with reaching decision-makers and being respected as a young person. The rallying cry of this generation is a desire to be heard, but that message is still failing to reach everyone it needs to. But as mentioned previously, the young people here have bonded over a shared belief that we should be empowered to lead, create change and build a better today. Our confidence has grown, and our voices are louder. We have made progress – and any progress is better than none. There is still reason to celebrate.

 

Illustration by Aileen. You can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenngstudio

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