“The youth of today are our future and the real strength of the state. Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh-led Punjab Government is committed to further strengthen them for making the state stronger and more prosperous,” said the Chief Secretary, Ms Vini Mahajan, here.

She was presiding over a virtual event to mark the first anniversary of ‘Pride of Punjab’ — a joint initiative of Punjab Government, UNICEF and YuWaah (Generation Unlimited India).

She said the ‘Pride of Punjab’ programme was aimed at enabling the best opportunities for Punjab’s young people to help them realise their dreams and aspirations to become change leaders in their communities, and support other young people. “Youth are playing an active role in solutions and policies that impact their lives,” she asserted.

‘Pride of Punjab’ was launched by the Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh in August last year with the aim to connect the state’s youth with civic engagement, career guidance, skilling, employment and entrepreneurship support opportunities.

The Chief Secretary disclosed that the project has so far engaged more than 70,000 young people of the state.

During the virtual event, 27 youth were felicitated for their outstanding civic participation under the ‘Pride of Punjab’ programme, to motivate them and introduce them as exemplary youth to the larger public.

Karandeep (21), a youth leader from Amritsar, who leads a youth club in his village, talked about mobilising the young people of his village to lead cleanliness and plantation drives, and contributing to crisis response efforts during the second wave of Covid.

Parveen (21) discussed how important it was to resolve civic issues, and how she worked to repair and maintain about 20 streetlights in her village, apart from contributing to waste management and sanitation in her community.

Manpreet Kaur (22), Yoddha YuWaah Ninja, said that she began her engagement with the ‘Pride of Punjab’ programme, by solving civic issues in her village and the challenges posed by Covid.

Punjab Sports and Youth Services department, the nodal department and YuWaah worked with civil society organisations like Reap Benefit, Aasman Foundation, RoundGlass Foundation and team Fateh, to equip youth with the information, tools and skills to identify, investigate, develop and implement solutions for civic problems.

Last year, the state government, UNICEF and YuWaah had also released the ‘Voices of YuWaah’ report, which took insights garnered from a large-scale U-report poll to assess more than 28,000 youth’s access to learning, skilling and employment.

As recommended in the report, Phase-2 of the ‘Pride of Punjab’ programme aims to instil an entrepreneurial spirit amongst the Punjabi youth (15-24 years) by enhancing their creative thinking and problem-solving capabilities, along with internships, career guidance and skilling opportunities, and access to job connections.

UNICEF’s Special Representative for Young People and Innovation and Member Punjab State Advisory Council, Ravi Venkatesan, said, “When we came to Punjab, we knew that youth here had great aspirations and drive. But we didn’t expect that over 70,000 youth would participate with such energy in a range of activities. This cohort has demonstrated exceptional and sustained leadership even as the state battled consecutive waves of the pandemic, thereby emerging as assets to the state. They are truly the pride of Punjab.”

The youth leaders, especially those demonstrating high levels of engagement such as the ‘champions’ and ‘yoddhas’, worked on Covid response. They also undertook a wealth of actions, from simple tasks like dissemination of verified information and busting misinformation to encouraging families and communities to register for the vaccine, working with local government officials to mobilise Covid response, developing posters and videos for awareness, supporting mask production, supporting families facing financial difficulty with food packets and much more.

The active ‘YuWaah Ninjas’ led a range of actions towards transforming their communities including strengthening sanitation systems, safeguarding indigenous varieties of seeds, plants, and local bird species, undertaking clean-ups, waste management, tree plantation drives, reporting streetlights, taps, and broken roads.

Principal Secretary Sports and Youth Services Raj Kamal Chaudhuri, Director Sports and Youth Services DPS Kharbanda and COO YuWaah Abhishek Gupta and other senior officers of the state government attended the ceremony.

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