Helping Youth in Gagal Find Their Footing

In Gagal, our youth transformation program is supported by ACC Trust. This is an overview of the hurdles that youth at that location face and how the program is helping address them.

Gagal is a small village in Bilaspur Tehsil and district of Himachal Pradesh. The district features several visitor attractions, including Bhakra Dam and a number of temples.

ACC’s cement plant is an employment hub that brings others from outside the state to the area. Beyond that, agriculture is the primary occupation in Gagal.

Anjali Chhura is currently the trainer in Gagal for the Make India Capable program that we run in partnership with ACC Trust. She is from Rayagada, Odisha and worked in the Finance field before joining the Head Held High team in November 2020. She has handled two of the three batches completed at that location and is in the process of mobilizing youth for a fourth batch. 

 Here’s a summary of Anjali’s observations about youth in Gagal and the impact of the training on them.

Challenges for youth: Many youth have even completed some higher education but their biggest roadblock is in accessing jobs. There are very few local job opportunities in this place. Even jobs in places like Bilaspur, the closest town that is about 20 km away, are beyond their reach since they are reserved for local youth. Most young people in Gagal, particularly girls, are unwilling to consider external jobs due to family restrictions.

How the program has impacted them: The main difference has been in their self-confidence. When they joined, most of them shied away from speaking up and preferred to let others do the talking. This changed within one to two months of starting the program. They slowly began to feel comfortable with classroom sharing and presentations. Although we can’t expect them to be fluent in English within six months, they became familiar with handling tenses and other grammar rules. We kept challenging them through various speaking and writing exercises. They also learnt about discipline and work ethic, topics that they had not thought about much earlier. Lastly, we gave them a chance to practice leadership skills through scenarios and role plays. We have helped many youth from the last two batches get jobs at Vardhman Textiles in Baddi – around 200 km to the south of Gagal. This is helping many youth and their families become more open to the idea of exploring jobs outside the area. We are also helping youth in the program access social welfare schemes and providing skill-based training for community women in particular.

Key insights/takeaways:

  • Counselling can help youth overcome reservations about external jobs
  • Given the reluctance to move for jobs, place-based opportunities are also important
  • Skilling and vocational training can help create more livelihood options