A Lifeline for Migrant Youth
Two recent stories out of India highlight an effort by Pratham and Citi Foundation aimed at helping rural youth transition to life in a new city.
After earning a certificate in hospitality through Pratham’s vocational training program, twenty-six-year-old Vyjayanthimala Panda left her parents and younger brother behind in Odisha to work in Mumbai. She was terrified during most of her 1000-mile journey to the metropolis.
Unskilled rural laborers moving to an urban area are not a new phenomenon; the concentration of economic opportunities in big cities has always been a magnet for those seeking financial opportunity. For these migrants from remote villages, the adjustment can be acutely difficult.
Those who speak little or no Hindi will have to learn a new language. They will need access to banking services, which will first require obtaining identification documents. It will be difficult to navigate the sprawling public transportation system or even just to find a grocery store near them.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle, particularly for women, will be finding a place to stay in the expensive city. As Medha Uniyal, head of program development at the Pratham Institute puts it, “Nobody wants to house low-income single women.”
This unique set of challenges and lack of a support network force many to quit their new jobs and return home.
Pratham, with support from Citi Foundation, has created Project Rise to ease the transition for these new arrivals. The program provides low-cost hostels and offers the support needed to acclimate to their new surroundings. The goal is to provide a “home away from home” for disadvantaged youth. So far, there are hostels functional in New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Chandigarh.
The program has already provided assistance to 200 youth. Vyjayanthimala Panda is among the success stories. After staying in Pratham’s Santacruz hostel for six months, she was able to rent an apartment on her own in the same part of town. Today, she lives independently and is able to help support her family back home. Having settled into her new life and job, she has no plans to return to Odisha anytime soon.