Today is the International Women’s Day and we are proud to introduce you to a young but not immature youth, who has devoted herself to the acts of social work. She is not someone from a big city but she is from a small village of Dharamshala, in district Kangra, but has made her mark internationally.
She was awarded by the BBC WORLD SERVICE TRUST as a “Youth Star” of the country for her work in HIV/AIDS awareness among the rural youth and women. She also represented India as a youth delegate to China in 2006. She has acclaimed many awards on state and national level including Best Youth Awards, Best Cadet Award, Best Cultural Activist and many more.
After reading so much about her let me end your curiosity and welcome Miss Sarika Katoch!
Disha Singh: Who is Sarika Katoch in flesh and blood, and how did the rendezvous as a social worker began?
Sarika Katoch: I am a 25 year old youth activist, artist and anchor belongs to a rural orthodox family. My father was Ex-serviceman in army, he passed away when I was studying in LKG. My mother is a housewife and elder brother is engaged in social upliftment of youth and childern. We have seen many facet of life. I did my graduation from Govt. Degree College, Dharamshala. Now pursuing Masters in Rural Development from IGNOU. Since my school days I had been so keen in social, cultural and extra curriculum activities. I canâ€™t mark that from where I started social working, but N.C.C. and more than that field work experiences in Nehru Yuva Kendra as a National Service Volunteer has changed the direction of my life and career from dreaming as an army officer to Youth Activist.
Disha: You have taken up a very challenging and important awareness campaign i.e. HIV/AIDS. What social personal issues you face related to AIDS awareness?
Sarika: Well in my very starting days when I started voluntarily talking to the people on the epidemic, their first reactions were Simply NO to Listen on Dirty issues. I am a girl from rural area and orthodox family, so sometimes things were taken in negative ways, but today I realise that there is nothing like they dont want to listen, but the thing is ‘How do you Communicate?’ But these were challenges and I enjoyed it and still enjoying by taking it.
Disha: What do you think are some of the issues we should be concerned with when dealing with the youth?
Disha: How should Himachal approach addictions, drug-use, and alcohol abuse, from the perspective of social services and counseling?
Sarika: Life skill trainings, better career prospectives, strong moral values, special initiative should be taken in rehabilitating such people who are addicted. Family counselling and of course need of strong will of policy makers to eliminate the problem.
Disha: How does it feel to receive ‘Youth Star’ Award by the BBC World Service Trust?
Sarika: Unforgetable, I should confess that before this honour sometimes I doubted that “Have I Chosen the Right way? will this be helpful to our people? Will this be fruitful in anyways? It was a serious task for me but never thought that it’ll get importance from others and on such a high level.
Disha: In your opinion what are the main issues concerned with women empowerment in Himachal.
Sarika: Dowry and Female foeticide let us live our life and other difficulties of life we’ll look after ourself.
Disha: How should we get around to involving the rest of the community in social work?
Sarika: If we look back at our culture I am talking about villages, in old days there were some common fixed (as cleaning up of ponds, repairing unmetalled ways as kualoo, gor etc.) tasks which were to be completed and contributed by the villagers at their own level on volunteer basis. These were the forms of social work. One dont need any degree or experience to serve community only â€˜Willâ€™ works. We’ll have to re-establish those healthy trends again.
Disha: If someone wishes to help you for this good cause, how can they join hands with you?
Sarika: By telling me, after that many ways to help will be open automatically. But important thing is that One wishes only or willing also?
Disha: What are your future plans?
Sarika: Right now I am nominated as Regional Youth Caucus Member (Representative India) for Commonwealth Youth Program and Deputy Chair for Commonwealth Youth Program, Asia Region. Though, I’ll have to see other youth issues too but HIV/AIDS and Female Foeticide issues will be my priority.
Disha: Finally, can we have your message for the people of Himachal?
Sarika: We are one of the luckiest people on the earth by having such a beautiful state/motherland, take the responsibility of development of your state and our own people of devbhoomi.
Raised in Shimla and originally from Mandi district, Disha wears many caps which includes being part of a lead team of a fast growing IT company based out of Chandigarh. Earlier Disha was associated with My Himachal and visits Shimla regularly.