Using the Interactive Voice Response technology, a campaign invited young people to share their ideas on the policy towards marginalised groups in society and how to mainstream them. As part of the ‘Close the Gap’ campaign, Oxfam India recorded opinions, particularly from young people, to talk about their experiences of inequality, and to say how they thought the problem could be fixed.
“Do you know what Dalits, tribals or Muslims feel when they are deprived of opportunity all their life?” asks Dr Nisha Agrawal of Oxfam India.
The caller dialled 66030040 for English and 66030041 for Hindi and gave a missed call. Oxfam India called back to record the response. So far, some 50,000 calls were made for the campaign that had been launched in Delhi, Jharkhand, and three other states. Oxfam India will be releasing a report on the campaign soon.
“At times we were dumbfounded to hear the profound stories the youth had to tell us,” says Dr Agrawal.
Needless to say, the exercise had been an eye opener for many working on the campaign where the young generation spoke about the urgent need to create change and build a more inclusive society.
“We want to connect the dots as fast as possible, but cautiously, as this is a very vital matter,” says Stephen Dziedzic, an Australian volunteer with Oxfam India.
Another Australian volunteer, Gautam Raju, who is the architect of the campaign, says that it is absolutely vital to engage young people in public debates, rather than just treating them as passive bystanders.
“25 years is the average age of Indians but it’s 60 for politicians!” he points out.
They hoped to not only energise young people, but also help them to set the political agenda and shape a comprehensive policy framework. They started the campaign by asking young people to call in to their phone line and talk about gender inequality.
The campaign also tried to provoke discussions with young people about the way women are treated. Public discussions and workshops were held at IIT Delhi and other educational hubs and universities by Purple Mangoes.
“Offline engagement was absolutely essential for a programme like ours and we got the most amazing stories at times,” says Gautam, adding that the online campaign had also been strong, with youth gender blog Got started @ and Youth Ki Awaaz, a web portal, reaching out to talk about the campaign and gender inequality.
The campaign used social media and celebrities such as actor Rahul Bose, Nandita Das and Kiran Bedi while also advertising on MERU cabs, billboards and bus shelters.