It is a matter of great pride, that Neha Swain along with Kartik Sawhney, won the Queen’s Young Leader Award (2016). The main objective of the Young Leader Award (from 2014 to 2018), is to recognize and celebrate exceptional people from the age group of 18-29 years. Apart from age, the eligibility criteria for the nomination are the social change leadership initiatives undertaken by the candidates who belong to the Commonwealth countries.
Neha hails from Rourkela in Odisha and has graduated from the Delhi School of Social Work. All of 28 years, she, along with Monisha Vemavarapu, has co-founded Rubaroo in Hyderabad. Prior to which, she was working with Pravah, a New Delhi based Not for Profit organization (NGO). An NGO too, Rubaroo focuses on building capacities of the opinion leaders and care-givers who have a major stake in influencing the lives of young people in the society. This is done by giving a platform for expression to the community. The most unique factor about Rubaroo is that it targets the self-transformation before societal transformation. Once the individual attains clarity on personal value system, to help others attain their clarity becomes not only easier, but the source of dissemination also becomes credible.
What started out as a pilot project of Pravah, Rubaroo got enthusiastic response in Hyderabad. My opinion is that much of the credit for it goes to Neha. The down-to-earth, humble soul that she is, would be quick to share the spotlight with everyone who made Rubaroo a roaring success. An ace basketball player and a street theatre actor; Neha could easily locate the pulse of the youth.She shared with me that the burning question of the youth with whom she interacts is, “What do I want from my life? How do I find my passion?” In girls, she felt that they wanted to break-away from a life where the fate is pre-decided and sealed by parents through marriage. Rubaroo’s funda, as Neha shared is “Stop. Reflect. Rethink.” Through awareness, communication and strong negotiation skills, the self and societal transformation is felt to be brought about.
Neha shared the prevalent perception of the youth around social media. She stated that the accessibility of social media on Android or otherwise is a challenge for lower socio-economic strata of society and hence they are not as media savvy as youth from metro cities and those of higher economic strata. Her personal opinion is that the youth should first learn about positive social concepts through interpersonal interaction and then land on social media since today, the media sadly is bombarded by negative concepts around body image, religion, politics and identity. Through her own experience and knowledge, Neha concludes that the youth should be taught that they are the consumers of social media and it should not be that the social media is using them.
On her experience of receiving the Young Leader award from Her Majesty the Queen, Neha enthuses, “The Queen spoke to everyone at the ceremony. She is so full of energy!” Her ten day trip to England was packed with a string of meetings with award winners from other countries. Post the ceremony, they have formed a global network of collaboration on a worldwide social movement with the determination that no one is left behind. Everyone is in and everyone marches ahead.
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