More than ever, the past few months have demonstrated the need for women’s representation to address injustices. We recently witnessed how systemic power undermines justice with the way authorities addressed the wrestlers’ protests against the former President of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), Brij Bhushan Singh, accusing him of sexual harassment. Where do women of India find safety and justice? The courage and leadership shown by our wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Anshu Malik and many more gives us strength to keep fighting.
As we close 2023, we reflect on the year gone by and some of our highlights that have kept us moving in some of these turbulent times. In 2022, I wrote about how it was the year of many firsts for us at Kuviraa. 2023 was the year where we worked to build a stronger and deeper foundation for our work with adolescent girls over the next decade.
After two years of various pilots with schools and nonprofits, in May this year we took the plunge to launch our flagship Kuviraa Ambassadors Program for girls from the ages of 14 to 20 from across India. In addition to our participatory curriculum that helps strengthen skills such as leadership, team work, negotiation and critical thinking, we invited speakers with expertise in politics, policy, gender and data to introduce the participants to the world of politics and policy making. Based on the positive feedback received, we hosted our second cohort in December.
78% of program participants felt more motivated and confident about engaging with Indian politics after completing the Kuviraa Ambassador Program.
In 2020, we began researching what adolescent girls in India thought of politics and if they were interested in getting involved. Although there was some research done in the global context, we found no data on Indian adolescents. To improve political representation and engagement, we understood the need to spark political curiosity, interest and civic action early.
To understand the scale of the problem, we decided to conduct this study ourselves and partnered with researchers from the Department of Social Welfare at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to study this political interest and engagement in adolescents and young adults across India. We released our study “Talk Politics to Me” in August 2023 that found that just one third (29%) of Indian girls considered themselves to be politically engaged compared to over half (51%) of Indian boys.
Our study also found that boys had lower awareness than girls of the structural barriers women face in Indian politics. The one thing that surprised me the most from our study was the impact parents and guardians have on their children.
We found that the more parents encourage girls to be politically engaged, the less they believe that it’s difficult in society for women to become elected officials.
The findings from our study helps build a stronger case for all the work we do at Kuviraa in engaging girls in political discourse from a young age. This article in The Conversation by our Advisor, Sara Wilf provides a great summary of our report.
Earlier this year, Kuviraa was listed as one of the “62 Political Leadership Entrepreneurship Organizations to Watch'' by the Apolitical Foundation. I was also part of the Salzburg Global Seminar’s program on Civic and Civil Education as a fellow where I had the opportunity to learn from people working on civic education from across the world and share some of our learnings at Kuviraa with them.
Lastly, after three years of going back and forth on registering Kuviraa and multiple conversations with other founders and mentors, we registered Kuviraa under the name of Abbakka Foundation as a legal entity under Section 8, of the Companies Act of 2013. I am looking forward to growing our work and impact significantly in 2024.
All of our work at Kuviraa for the past three years has been very intentional, hoping to build a solid foundation for the work we do over the next few years.
Everything that we have achieved has been because of our community - fellows, volunteers, interns, friends, advisors that have believed in us and pushed us to think bigger. I am forever grateful for this and am looking forward to growing Kuviraa further with all of you. If you are reading this and are looking to get involved in our work or know anyone we should be speaking with, please do connect me with them.
I’m hoping for a great 2024 where girls and women in India and abroad, have their voices heard and claim their seats at the decision making table.
All my best,