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The Empty Seat at the Table

June 7, 2017 | Articles & Reports

By Neil Ghosh, Executive Vice President

The global youth population is currently the largest it has ever been. With almost half the world’s population under the age of 25 and nearly a quarter between the ages of 10 and 24, empowering young people has never been more important.

I have seen the power of youth voice firsthand. As a child growing up in India, I watched my dad mentor troubled kids and even bring them along on our family vacations. I saw my mother constantly cooking for complete strangers, many of whom were youth. In my teens, I started the Calcutta Youth Club to encourage youth participation in civic projects. We produced handwritten leaflets to post on message boards; organized blood donation camps, charity events, and sporting activities; improved living conditions in several slums in Calcutta; and provided shelter to women facing domestic violence. The Club provided a safe place for many vulnerable young people, but most importantly, it offered a practical internship on writing, mentoring, organizing, budgeting, and other critical professional skills that enabled youth to articulate their interests and convert them into action.

In 1984, at the height of the “Reagan Revolution,” I decided to leave my home in Kolkata, India to pursue higher education in the United States. My career path later took me to the private sector, through trade, diplomacy, and defense contracting, including five years in India from 1993 to 1998. Throughout this time, I maintained a passion for poverty alleviation, so it was perhaps inevitable that I should find my way back—or forward—to the development sector and to issues related to vulnerable young people. But this time, I had a new perspective: I was convinced that the lessons I had learned from my experience in other sectors could be applied to development, especially regarding children and youth.

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