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Stepping Stones: Engaging with youth in South Asia – PANOS

Throughout the developing world, young men and women face high levels of unemployment coupled with strong feelings of dissatisfaction with their quality of life in contexts of weak governance and institutions, increased political instability, and growing state authoritarianism. These are all factors that render societies vulnerable and play a role in radicalization. Current strategies to counter these phenomena remain state-centered, with limited participation of civil society (non-governmental sector) stakeholders. The young men and women who suffer most from this violence, insecurity, and lack of civic engagement, continue to be largely excluded from participating in policy and governance-related decisions. But youth are active in an array of movements associated with emerging social, economic, cultural, and political issues.

To understand these processes, a closed call for proposals, “Giving youth a voice: promoting spaces for civic engagement, inclusion and violence reduction in South Asia and Latin America”, was launched in June 2017 to generate knowledge about promoting civic engagement of youth through social innovation for positive social change. The Stepping Stones project is looking at finding new ways of preventing sexual violence by working with young people in educational and training institutions.

This project builds on previous projects that looked at recent histories of sexual violence in five countries in South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) and a media initiative that built capacities of young journalists to bring the voices and lived experience of women in conflict regions into the mainstream media. It aims to take these learnings further using new ways to communicate with youth. While the previous projects made progress in analyzing difficult and complex issues around sexual violence, they did not address the prevention of these issues. Panos South Asia will collaborate with New Delhi-based Zubaan to work towards an activism of prevention rather than reaction. Working with youth and using different creative forms, such as theatre and art, the project aims to deepen civic engagement and generate discussions on specific findings of the two research studies among students and youth.

Project ID
Project Status
End Date
24 months
IDRC Officer
Navsharan Singh
Total Funding
CA$ 200,000.00
Democratic and Inclusive Governance
Governance and Justice
Institution Country
Project Leader
Ms Urvashi Butalia
Stichting Panos South Asia