Today is International Youth Day and in commemoration, MetroPlus zeroes in on five young people who have taken the road less travelled, overcome hurdles, and impacted life and society

Laxmi

She was only 15 in 2005 when she was attacked with acid by a man from her colony whose advances she had not responded to. Her court hearing took a good deal of time and her assailant was sentenced to only 10 years of imprisonment in 2009. At 23, she may not have become a singer as she had aspired but her story has given women in her plight the courage to fight.

“I am so proud of Laxmi who recently fought successfully for a ban on random sale of acid and compensation for acid attack victims through her PIL at the Supreme Court. She has undergone seven operations and is still not in a state to have a plastic surgery done. Despite the disapproving looks, mocking and scorning kudos to her for actually going out there, getting a job, making a living and still fighting for justice,” says school counsellor, Shireen Sait.

Malala Yousafzai

The 16-year-old Pakistani school pupil and education activist from the town of Mingora in the Swat District of Pakistan's North western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is among the bravest young women alive.

Says author Milan Vohra: “A lot has been written about Malala’s courage. What I found so moving was hearing her speak at the UN, a child of 16, with a huge personal experience like hers — to be shot at in the head at point blank range by the Taliban for speaking about the right of girls to get an education. Yet she came across as a true hero, not dwelling on this in her UN address, instead she stayed focused on the subject of girls’ education. To not make the speech about her own terrible ordeal is remarkable for a person so young. She said ‘thousands of people have been shot at by the Taliban; I am only one of them’. That is real grace. The bullets that were fired to silence Malala have instead given voice to thousands of others around the world for the burning need for ‘Education First’.”

Edward Snowden

Whether he is a hero or a traitor will remain a matter of debate for the world but Edward Snowden, former technical contractor for the United States National Security Agency and employee to the CIA who now seeks asylum in Russia after leaking information to the public about ‘top secret’ American and British government mass surveillance programs to the press, fears torture and execution if he were to return to his country. Pramod Pratap, an entrepreneur says: “While Snowden did go against the law of the land and has to face severe consequences for it, if it isn’t for whistleblowers like him, no corrupt government/leadership can ever be exposed. In a democratic land, it is the people who run the country and the leaders they elect must be accountable to the masses. I, like the 60 percent of youth aged 18-29 in America who participated in a poll there, believe that Edward Snowden performed a public service.”

Sabah Haji

The story of this former student of Bishop Cotton Girls School, Bangalore, might bring to memory SRK in the critically acclaimed film, Swades. “Sabah quit the comfort of a corporate job and went back to her ancestral village Breswana (10 hour drive from Jammu and an additional five-hour trek across the mountains) to set up a school (Haji Public School) where she was determined to provide children with free education,” says author Milan Vohra adding: “This school was started out of two rooms in her father’s house. But she used her modern day savvy, social media networking to create a small but effective change so much so there are two more branches in J&K. What I find remarkable is that all those who teach at these schools are volunteers who she invites to come and teach at the free school in the back of beyond. And there has not been a single child dropping out of school in five years!”

Abhimanyu Sarkar, Programme Manager at Teach for India doffs his hat to the 22 year old Canadian youth who works with those affected by global water crisis. “Ryan began raising money at the age of six and has since raised millions of dollars for water and sanitation projects in Africa and helping in building a total of 720 wells and over 910 latrines in 16 countries bringing clean water and sanitation services to over 7,60,500 people. That talks about determination and power of youth in a big way,” he says.

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