The 14th Conference of Highway Area Sumi Students Union (HASSU) comprising 21 villages was held at Diphupar-B Sumi Baptist Church on Wednesday with the theme ‘Integrity with Progress’.

Hekani Jakhalu, founder and YouthNet Governing Council chair, was the main speaker at the conference.

Jakhalu said that, according to Census 2011, the youth defined by the age group 15-35 constitute a significant 40.2% of the population in Nagaland or around 8 lakh. Over the next 15 years this group will be at the centre and be the main drivers in every aspect – social, political and economics – of the state.

“Nagaland in 2030 will be defined by how the youth today shape up, moulded by the opportunities and platforms they will or will not get the advantage of in the years ahead,” she said.

Nagaland has the highest rate of rural unemployment amongst all the North-Eastern states – 15.9% of the labour force. The urban unemployment rate is also at a high 11.6%, one of the highest in the country. Jakhalu also noted that Nagaland has one of the highest school dropout rates in India, which she considers a personal challenge to improve the condition and has been working proactively towards it.

Against the backdrop of the statistics shared, she said opportunities are limited and only people with merit will shine. “If the Naga youth has to progress and a new Nagaland is to develop, only meritocracy will work, as there was no other substitute,” she said.

She encouraged the youth to focus on excelling in whatever area they choose to follow and shun away from petty politics and wasting time.

She shared her experience of YouthNet, working with Rs 500 Cr Japanese International Development Corporation-funded Nagaland Forest Management Programme in Dimapur and Zunheboto District, where only youth with high merit and credible experience was hired to implement the project.

Jakhalu stressed the need of having a conducive eco-system for private enterprises to thrive and, thus, open up employment opportunities for which peace in the region was critical.

She further stated that infrastructure, especially road connectivity, will be the first point of opening up avenues for development, and the HASSU needs to identify important roads and push on developing those areas, as good road assures growth in a region.

As YouthNet works on building youth, so that they have a better quality of life and future, she committed to helping 100 youth under HASSU on skill development, capacity building and various training programmes to improve their capacity to be more productive in various walks of life.

She also committed to working with HASSU on various areas of youth development like setting up sports clubs and coaching camps to identify and nurture youth in sports, which is equally important to build up their leadership skills.

On entrepreneurship, Jakhalu encouraged the HASSU to work on a clusters approach for enterprises focusing on handicraft, handloom and agro-based business, which was the inherent strength of the region, for instant growth.

Western Sumi Students Union president Kughaho Achumi also exhorted the students.
Earlier in the programme, chief guest Minister Jacob Zhimomi said the young and dynamic youth of our nation is our greatest strength today, and shared about governance and employment opportunities in various sectors and the way forward.

Also read: Mon killings: Cabinet meeting rescheduled as Eastern Nagaland protests

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