“Our Founder is the most socio-politically marginalized in our group” – this simple statement by a team member today, at a Leadership workshop with youth, tells an entire story of personal struggle as well as organizational risk-bearing capacity of its leadership. We find this statement to be an organizational privilege – grassroot leadership gives direction, content, vision and programs that always strive to be inclusive and democratic, that defines ‘scaling’ as going deeper into the roots – more into the grassroot, finding more marginalized groups – than simply expanding in numbers. It also simply helps us perform much better and meaningfully.

This sentiment, and various other nuances of Leadership were discussed in a full day training with youth leaders from Kolegaon and Rahtoli – that made the youth critically think about this word, self reflect, question their privilege where applicable, and claim leadership spaces where denied due to social hierarchies.

The Training topics included 1. Storytelling for Change (in which youth presented their stories of social change), 2. Democratic and Inclusive Leadership, 3. Dilemmas in Leadership.

This day was also NT-DNT Vimukta Diwas – that is, the day that the nomadic & denotified tribes celebrate as their Indpendance from the stigmatizing ‘criminal’ status. Youth from varying Bahujan communities including NT-DNT came together on this day for a full day of critical thinking and action plans.

Along with this, scholarships were given out as part of our mental health support which includes career counselling, admissions help and continued mentoring.

Some youth feedback:

  • Ashwini: Every participant in the team from the first to those in the middle, to the last are important. Only if every individual is given importance the team will win. This is the same for any group.
  • Ganesh: In this game (an activity), too much force was harmful for the end results. Similarly, not every social change needs force – some changes need soft and patient leadership. Soft is not weak.
  • Kunal – Girls just getting the mic is not leadership, but also taking care of backstage work, logistics etc., otherwise it remains tokenism. They should be truly leading the team and the process, not just be on stage.
  • Harshali – I need practice for my leadership, instead of giving me on the spot tasks, I will take up roles from earlier and practice and then come forward
  • Asmita – It is true that girls need to claim their leadership space
  • Priyanka – This is my first experience of leadership learning, I will try and take your mentoring to move ahead
  • Bhushan – I will be a leader without getting pulled into political party footsoldiers, and when I am capable, I will create a space for myself and maybe enter politics too
  • Ankita – If I am sharing my problem, one should not think that we girls are very weak or see me with sympathy. It is simply that we deal with more challenges and that boys can be more considerate.
  • Santosh – I realized that we all have stories that are important to be heard, which connect others to us and us to others
  • Sahil – My opinion is not that girls being given more privileges in terms of equal rights is wrong, but that they have the right to fight more for themselves
  • Diya – More than stating that a problem has happened, one should ask why it happened, and then think how to solve it
  • Anvita – Unless we take leadership, how will we know what it means and what are its challenges
  • Jayashree – Girls should fight for their own rights, come ahead, I will work on myself to be more self confident
  • Arya – What are the challenges in leadership I have realized today, which are not in my textbooks. The things that textbooks teach us are quite different from our lives.