An eighth standard boy, who thinks of environmental protection and gender equality, is an old head on young shoulders. Now 18, Siddhant Sarang, who is the founder of Youth Frontliners, will be awarded the prestigious Diana Award for making a difference in the lives of others and working towards a greener planet.
The award recognises young people aged 9 to 25 years, who have been carrying out their activity for a minimum of 12 months and making an outstanding and selfless contribution to their communities.
Established in the memory of the late Princess of Wales, the Diana Award is celebrating its 20th anniversary year. The award is given out by the charity of the same name and has the support of The Duke of Cambridge and The Duke of Sussex.
Sarang, who is a first-year student of Delhi University and originally hails from Muzaffarpur, Bihar, says, “I, along with like-minded classmates, started the organisation when we were in std VIII.
Collecting our pocket money, we started a monthly magazine Nature Lifeline dedicated to environmental awareness.” But what really made him think deeper was a visit to the flood-affected areas in Bihar. He went along with his father — a senior journalist.
“Looking at the state of affairs I was really moved. After which I started reading and researching on the cause of destruction. When I found out how the actions of humankind were impacting nature I realised how important it is for every individual to contribute towards environmental protection and how we must co-exist,” he adds.
For Sarang, nature not only means trees, mountains and the oceans. “Man, woman and any living being is part of nature too,” he says adding that this thought keeps pushing him forward to create a change for everyone. Sarang also made a three-minute short documentary film titled She Tells Story, in which the struggles of rural women and girls have been shown.
“As an organisation, we have also generated awareness of diseases like cancer, HIV and others as per the guidance of World Health Organisation and have also raised substantial donations for cancer patients in India with Cancer Aid Society,” he says. However, he points out that their work doesn’t stop there. “Creating awareness and educating people on certain issues takes a lot of time, effort and perseverance and when you are a bunch of youngsters, who wants to listen to you anyway?” he says.
But of late Youth Frontliners has been voicing their thoughts in a way that even adults are compelled to listen. “Be it protecting a lake from being encroached or planting hundreds of trees, people will support you if it’s a good cause,” he says.
Sarang is committed to educating and empowering other youngsters to speak up and take action against social injustice. He also writes for national newspapers, his blog and website for causes close to his heart such as climate change, child labour, gender equality, public policies and the quality of education. “My ambition for Youth Frontliners is that it should not just reach maximum numbers of cities in India, but also have a coordinating ambassador in every country,” he concludes.