‘You have to act as if it were possible to radically change the world’ ~ Angela Davis
I see the story of humanity as a story of activism, action, and perseverance - people and communities working towards a more just and equitable world. And, as there is space for anger and catharsis in this story of activism, so too should there be space for joy, hope, an optimism. Joy in our common humanity, hope for the progress that has been and is being made, and optimism in the incredible work being done by thousands upon millions of incredible people we may never know.
As a young person committed to fighting for change, I have sought my own inspiration, as much of the mainstream media I consume has tended towards the dark, the hopeless, and the pessimistic. Information is essential to doing good work, and understanding the desperate need to dismantle systems of oppression is fundamentally important. However, we need more than that, and we deserve more than that. And inspiration has not been hard to find, on the ground. I know that what will keep me motivated, and save me from cynicism, is the combined energy of the incredible people I have met, and the incredible work I have seen, read, and heard about.
So - my purpose with Project Janta is twofold. On a practical level, I want to open up a conversation about what works in activism, movement-building, and social change, to begin to answer the question: how does change happen? By sharing stories of success, progress, and perseverance, I hope we can all come to understand fundamental similarities between movements and leaders that are taking steps to better our world.
My second goal in sharing these stories is to remind myself and my community (that’s you, dear reader!) that change is happening. Extraordinary work is being done, all across the globe, by ordinary people - people who looked around themselves and their communities, realized that they deserved better, and worked to achieve that progress. To sustain my own (hopefully) future decades of work, I know I will lean on the unbelievable stories of hope and transformative change we collect, and I hope that you will do the same.
Read Manu's vision by changing the tab above!
When I moved back to India to work on tackling extreme poverty, I expected it to be harrowing. Mainstream media (within India and especially, abroad) paints such a bleak picture of India ~ as if nothing good has ever happened or will ever happen in India. I expected to feel jaded at the lack of progress. To be disappointed at the lack of good work happening on the ground.
Obviously, the opposite happened. Every single village I visited blew me away. The more I traveled within India, the more optimistic I became. Over a thousand villages later, I can confidently say that there’s an *insane* amount of good work happening on the ground. I have personally met countless young and old Indians who are fighting the good fight, refusing to give up on India and in turn, serving millions of people. And not surprisingly, I realized that most Indians didn’t know these stories.
Most Indians don’t know about Bunker Roy’s miracle work in Tilonia (he helped move 3 million women out of poverty by making them solar engineers) or Dr. George’s amazing work in building Shanti Bhavan (an incredible school in Bangalore that serves the most underserved communities in our country). Most Indians don’t know about Kaan Khajura Tesan, a missed-call based radio station that has over 60 million daily listeners in Bihar and Jharkhand (the world’s largest radio station). The station provides free health and farming advice sprinked between soap detergent ads and the latest Bollywood songs! Digital Green (a movement that has helped 1.5 million farmers in India), Kudumbashree (a women’s empowerment group that has changed 5 million lives)... The list is endless.
Stories of hope and progress are not rare in rural or urban India. In fact, they are more of a norm. My personal vision with Project Janta is to help Indians see the real India. To recognize and learn from the phenomenal work that is already happening within our country. Instead of focusing on what’s wrong with our country, I want to focus on people trying to fix those wrongs.
Read Divya's vision by changing the tab above!