Indian School Of Democracy: Duo To Start Institute That Mentors India’s Youth To Be Politicians

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If today one asks a kid in India who his/her role model is, celebrities from Bollywood or cricket are the most familiar answers. Occasionally, a few might bring up yesteryear’s freedom fighters like Gandhiji or Netaji. 

“But why do we never find a role model among our present political leaders?” asks Prakhar Bhartiya, a youth activist and co-founder of Indian School of Democracy.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

Today, politics in India is perceived as a dangerous abyss to step into, tainted with relentless corruption and delinquency. No matter how much a youngster is motivated to become a dynamic leader, he is almost always dissuaded by his family to get embroiled into politics.

This ingrained attitude of society cannot be uprooted in a day. This can only happen when people witness honest, upright young leaders marching onto the political scenario of the world’s biggest democracy.

With this thought in mind, Prakhar &  Hemakshi Meghani floated the idea of Indian School Of Democracy – an institution exclusively dedicated to mentoring promising aspirants into young political leaders, through a series of global-standard courses and exercises.

“We believe that external change is manifestation of internal change and that’s why the fundamental focus of ISD will be on inner transformation. We will cultivate a habit of reflection and community that will help them in the not so easy tasks of selfless community service.” shares Hemakshi.

Four Pillars Of Democracy

Prakhar Bhartiya, a Teach For India fellow, is also the founder of Youth Alliance – a popular forum for conscious young men and women to be trained into emphatic leaders.

“My experience with Youth Alliance assured me that it was indeed possible to prepare young minds for electoral politics. I wanted to start a platform where driven youths are trained to become leaders with a strong moral compass and take on the four pillars of democracy – executive, legislative, judiciary and media,” Prakhar explains.

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Indian School Of Democracy – The Blueprint

As per the present plan, Indian School of Democracy (ISD) will launch their one-year residential programme on leadership by next year. “The first-ever course will be centred around electoral politics. We will open our application portal in 2020 and expect our first cohort of selected students by 2021,” informs Prakhar.

The year-long programme will comprise theoretical sessions on politics, administration and other aspects of governance, as well as on-ground interactions with rural communities in remote hamlets to understand their woes and learn from them. Overall, the practice-oriented programme will ensure a holistic leadership training for the aspirants.

Moral Reimagination & Greater Participation Of Women

“To change the system, we need to focus on ‘moral reimagination’ – a practice we want to inculcate in our candidates,” shares Hemakshi, a graduate from Harvard Kennedy School in education policy and a former employee with Boston Consultancy Group. The ISD curriculum is thus being designed after interacting with politicians, academic experts and leadership coaches to render it foolproof.

Hemakshi throws light upon how ISD plans to encourage greater participation of women in politics.

At present, in a country of 1.3 billion people, the number of women politicians is woefully small, especially at the higher administrative levels. Thus, the idea persists that women’s grievances are not properly addressed by our government.

“While we should create more opportunities for women to enter politics, it is also important for political parties to readily welcome and accept more and more women. It has to be a two-pronged approach. This idea will be imparted at all ISD session. We are ensuring 50% participation of women in our present workshops,” Hemakshi informs.

A Meticulous & Non-Biased Selection Process

“We have a tedious selection process for every single government job. So, why don’t our politicians have to undergo any sort of screening before they occupy the highest seats of democracy and govern us?” Prakhar asks.

Indian School of Democracy

To ensure that the ISD programme identifies and generates the best youth leaders, Prakhar and Hemakshi have decided to dole out a meticulous selection procedure for the programme. Aspirants from all around the country will be shortlisted based on their leadership potential, merit and sincerity, irrespective of their gender, religion or socio-economic background. The age limit has been set between 25 and 40 years.

Laying The Groundwork

As of now, the core founding team of ISD is conducting awareness campaigns and two-three day workshops across India to gain an in-depth insight into the youth mindset in India while also spreading the word about their ISD initiative.

Their interactive brainstorming sessions with politically motivated youth in different cities, towns and villages in India are helping them see the bigger picture of the future of Indian politics. Prakhar and Hemakshi believe that this will help them to leave no loose ends in their course programme design.

“By the final month of their ISD training programme, they have to finalise the constituencies they wish to contest from. They have to live up to the expectations of the people they choose to serve,” Prakhar expresses his true hopes about ISD.

A Non-Partisan Political Organisation

As an organisation, ISD would be staying completely non-partisan and house candidates with different political ideologies together, who, after their graduation, are free to join the political party of their choice.

The idea, as the two founders believe, is to uphold the democratic ideals above everything else at the organisation, so as to acquaint the youths in various facets of democracy instead of encouraging sentimental politics driven by personal viewpoints.

“The larger idea of politics is public service. We are striving to bring back that idealistic firmness in politics, over and above its darker connotations,” Prakhar emphasises.

“If we fast forward to say, a decade ahead, I wish to see our graduates gaining prominence as new-age leaders, ushering in a different spectrum in the Indian political scene,” he expresses his wish.

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A Group Of Karnataka Women Pushes Alcoholic, Abusive Husbands & Social Stigma Aside, Earns Through Recycling Workshop

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At thirteen, Neela was married off to a husband much older than her. At sixteen, she became a mother, and at nineteen, she was a widow. Despite having no regular income, she was faced with the daunting task of taking care of her in-laws, her own parents and of course, her little daughter. For young Neela, life has never known a trajectory where her voice is heard and her destiny is not blamed. That was until she came under the ambit of Hosa Belaku Artisan’s Foundation and discovered a new identity for herself. The taste of financial independence was indeed delightful for her, but her zeal to work hard for a newer, better life stood at the helm of it all.

No one has ever become poor by giving – Anne Frank

Founded by Kameshwari from Bengaluru, the foundation works with distressed women in three Karnataka villages, helping them to earn their livelihood by handcrafting a wide range of decorative or daily-use household items. Like Neela, nineteen women with struggles similar or worse, have found a new lease of life at Hosa Belaku Artisan’s Foundation. Every piece of item created at Hosa Belaku is recycled from leftover fabrics, paper, dry waste or scrap metals.

Hosa Belaku – a new dawn

“I have been working in the social sector for the past two decades. Since 2013, I got associated with Belaku Trust, who was working with rural women in Karnataka,” shares Kameshwari, a former legal executive. 

“Most of these women were victims of alcohol abuse and harassment on the domestic front. Some were widowed, single mothers or differently-abled – making life all the more hard for them in a patriarchal society. Unfortunately, circumstances led Belaku Trust to close their operations in 2015. The women were left in a lurch,” she narrates.

Some of these women desperately pleaded with Kameshwari to let them sustain their only source of income and independence. Moved by their plight, Kameshwari resolved to do her best to help as many women as possible. Investing a sizeable proportion of her own savings, she launched the Hosa Belaku Artisan’s Foundation in 2017.

At present, the foundation has active workshops in three villages in the suburbs of Bengaluru, namely, Halasuru, Achalu and Kadahalli. 

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The gritty women of Hosa Belaku

At the prime of her life, Pavithra’s husband left her for another woman. Heartbroken and devastated, she was clueless about how to earn her living. The story is similar for many other women in these villagers, with careless, abusive or estranged husbands, most being alcohol addicts. The pangs of poverty would sometimes become more unbearable than the constant physical abuse by their husbands. Yet, they had no way to have some respite from the ordeal. Few women did work seasonally as agricultural labourers. The backbreaking toil in the sun would take a toll on their health, while the deplorable situation at their homes would haunt them for the rest of the year.

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

Kameshwari mortgaged her jewelery for Rs 6 lakh to start Hosa Belaku Artisian's Foundation. Most of the women employed in this foundation face domestic violence in their homes. Kindly donate here : bit.ly/hosabelaku

Posted by Efforts For Good on Sunday, July 21, 2019

Society, with its primitive doctrines, only made it worse for these women. For instance, nobody was willing to marry Shivlingi because she had a facial deformity. After a point, her own brothers abandoned her as if she had become a liability.

If one visits these women now, they would be found basking in their newfound success with Hosa Belaku. But, not only the women, Hosa Belaku’s workforce comprises a 19-year-old young man as well. All his life, Yogi, who is affected by Polio, had accompanied his mother everywhere. She used to work with the foundation until she recently passed away in an accident. Yogi’s father is visually-challenged, so the entire family received a major emotional and financial setback after his mother’s sudden demise. A helpless Yogi would painstakingly drag himself from door to door in search of work. “We took him in and trained him in toy-making. Now you would find him in a corner, making beautiful toys for children,” shares a proud Kameshwari.

Sunshine, Lamp and Dawn – Illuminating lives

The women groups at the three villages are designated with three unique names and assigned with a unique task each. Kirana (Sunshine), the group at Kadahalli is involved with paper products, making notepads, bags and jewellery.

The Halsuru group Deepa (Lamp) has adopted the art of block printing. Vibrant, stylish and beautiful handbags, cushion covers, stoles and notebooks are curated with the utmost care and precision by the women.

At Ushe (Dawn), needle and thread rules. Women who were already skilled in sewing and embroidery now earn by making stuffed toys, patchwork products and embroidered fabrics.

True to their names, the groups have indeed brought new light into the lives of their employees.

Suma and Jayamma are both senior workers at Kirana who have succeeded in constructing small concrete houses for themselves, a huge step up from the dilapidated huts they spent their youth in. Another aged lady in the same group has another compelling achievement to be proud of. Bearing the taunts and trauma from her drunkard husband all her life, she has single-handedly raised a son and a daughter with proper education. Her son, who is currently an aspiring engineer, was supported with a laptop from Hosa Belaku. Honamma, a young widow from the group Deepa is treading a similar path, raising her son all on her own.

The only solace

How much gratitude these women have towards Hosa Belaku is perhaps evident from Shri’s unwavering dedication. Diabetes is taking a toll on her eyesight yet she refuses to give up and continues etching her grit on the ornate block-printed fabrics.

The reason for such gratitude is manifold. For the conscious urban consumers, Hosa Belaku is striving to save the environment with their 100%-recycled policy. But, for the workers, it is the lifeline which not only offers them economic security but also allows them a place to voice, share and resolve the problems plaguing their lives.

“They come here and find a peaceful break from their household obligations. Some still face domestic violence regularly, the workshop is an escape for them. They discuss their issues and try to find feasible solutions. It takes the load off their tired minds. The work here is a breath of fresh air for them,” Kameshwari asserts.

“We have been assisted time and again by established non-profits and retail chains across Bengaluru, who have graciously showcased and marketed products made by our artisans. We would like more people to know about Hosa Belaku and its incredible women, and respect their brilliant spirit by purchasing their crafts,” Kameshwari expresses her wish.

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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