Ashoka announces the Induction of 14 new Fellows to its South Asia Fellowship!

February 6-10, 2017

Ashoka South Asia announces the Induction of 14 new social entrepreneurs to its South Asia Fellowship. Along with 12 Fellows in India, Ashoka is going to induct one Fellow in Nepal and Sri Lanka each. Ashoka’s new Fellows come from various geographies and sectors but are united in their efforts to bring systemic change to the fields they work in. Over 2016, Ashoka has elected Fellows from the fields of mental health, governance, sustainability, transgender rights, women’s empowerment, peace and non-violence, youth empowerment and citizen journalism. 


The election of these 14 Fellows was done on the basis of their unique social innovations that aim to tackle and diminish significant development challenges like access to quality education, health care, sustainability and safety and empowerment of women. Ashoka Fellows are elected on the basis of a 5-point criterion, which focuses on the novelty and potential social impact of an idea. Ashoka’s aim is to nurture these social leaders as Fellows, and enable the spread and success of their idea in society. Ashoka provides a financial stipend, strategic advice and a global network of social entrepreneurs as a supportive ecosystem to its new Fellows. 


Ashoka’s new cohort of leaders is significant not only for their innovations, but for the kind of social movements they are building to make their visions the new normal. From Ashif Sheikh, who is transferring leadership to Dalit women to lead anti-manual scavenging programmes across India, to Meera K, who is empowering citizens to report and fix civic issues through her platform Citizen Matters. Fellow Sriram Kuchimanchi has created a way for citizens and businesses to take ownership of their own sustainability, and Chris Rego has broken through years of violent prejudice and distrust to help tribes in the North-East co-exist peacefully with the army in North East India. Nepal now has a functioning mental health policy, thanks to Matrika Devkota, and Ashila M is bringing security and empowerment to Sri Lankan women through her work.  In doing so, these new Ashoka Fellows are exhibiting how every member of society can be a changemaker and make a positive transformation in their own lives, and that of others.


Their journey with Ashoka starts with their Annual Induction Week in Delhi between February 6 and 10, 2017.


SRIRAM KUCHIMANCHI (Smarter Dharma)Sriram envisions a world where every consumer has the information and awareness to make socially and environmentally sustainable choices, and has enough sustainable options to choose from, because businesses too are empowered to cater to the growing consumer demand for sustainable products and services.







RAMYA VENKATARAMAN (Centre for Teacher Accreditation - CENTA)Ramya is driving a fundamental shift in the quality of education in India, by creating an ecosystem that values great teachers and has the capacity to create an accelerated growth path for them. In collaboration with key national and international institutions, teachers and thought leaders, she has created an independent and unique teacher certification framework that can assess teachers’ skills and knowledge, which has been taken up by teachers from over 500 cities, towns and villages in India.







LEWITT SOMARAJAN (Life Lab)Lewitt recognizes that despite the promise of Activity Based Learning (ABL), it has not spread to low-income schools in India as there have been no support structures to enable teachers to repurpose their roles as facilitators. He is bridging this critical gap by designing and codifying these support structures through a two-year long coaching process. Through easy-to-use toolkits, teachers are guided transitioning to their new roles as effective facilitators in low-income schools, nudging students to take charge of their own learning. Through his work, Lewitt is making it possible for any school to effectively apply ABL and improve learning outcomes.    






ASHIF SHAIKH (Jansahas)Ashif is building a national movement to abolish the unconstitutional caste hierarchy in India, with community leaders from the lowest and most marginalized Dalit caste, at the center leading the movement, supported by institutions like lawyer networks, community based organizations and cultural groups and the constitutional law.






PARAMITA BANERJEE (Diksha)Paramita believes communities living in red light areas in India continue to experience the highest rate of violence and abuse, not just because of external perceptions, but also because of internalized sights of disempowerment. By putting the local youth in charge of change, Paramita has completely stopped forced intergenerational prostitution and pimping in one of Kolkata’s major Red Light Areas.                                 







SAURAV GHOSH (Swanigamit)Saurav Ghosh is bridging the critical human and financial resources gap needed to transform Panchayats (village governance bodies) into self-corporatised units (Swa Nigamit) that can sustain continuous village development. Saurav is building this strong cadre of ‘Panchayat Development Entrepreneurs” and creating a role for both the Panchayat and the local youth communities to contribute to the progress of their villages.





CHRISTOPHER REGO (Sunbird Trust) Christopher Rego recognizes that conflict and violence has impeded growth in India’s North East. By building a platform for peace, trust and collaborative development projects, Chris is bringing together diverse stakeholders like the local communities and tribal populations to build infrastructure for the betterment of the children in the region. A collective will to improve is diminishing distrust and long-standing hostilities, facilitating harmony and progress. 






ANUP AKKIHAL (Logistimo)Anup Akkihal is combining adaptive technology and a human network built on trust and collaboration to tackle the inefficiencies of last-mile supply chain and ensure accessibility of “essential goods” or “social goods,” like vaccines, agricultural produce and energy products, to the most remote areas in developing countries.                                                                       





AJIT SINGH (Anant Learning and Development Pvt. Ltd.)To increase the quality of skilled youth workforce in India, Ajit believes that it’s imperative to introduce transparency and robust monitoring and evaluation systems into the currently existing employment linked skill development programmes. Through Anant, Ajit is building an ecosystem that integrates transparency and accountability measures along the entire skills development value chain, and creates a mutli-stakeholder buy-in for this new and ethical paradigm in skill development and equal economic opportunity.






MEERA K (Citizen Matters)Meera recognizes the power of in depth local news and information to catalyse and accelerate local citizen movement. She started Citizen Matters, a platform that publishes local and hyperlocal content, combining professional reporting with citizen stories. The growth of Citizen Matters in Bengaluru is intertwined with the power of growing neighbourhood groups, resident welfare associations and citizen groups who now play an active role in re-building a vibrant and civic-minded Bangalore.







AKKAI PADMASHALI (Ondede)Akkai believes that minority communities, like LGBTQI, have so far been isolated from voicing their opinion on mainstream issues of social and political importance. Akkai is thus building a cadre of empowered leaders within minority groups like the transgender community, to bridge the gap between them and the mainstream, create a platform where the collective voices of minorities can flow through these leaders, and ensure that every individual, regardless of caste, sexual orientation or gender, is able to participate with equal right in matters of national importance.






MATRIKA DEVKOTA (Koshish, NEPAL)Matrika is breaking the silence and stigma associated to mental health by empowering those who have experienced mental illness first-hand, and have recovered from it, to be the self-advocates of their own rights. Koshish has created a decentralized model for care by utilizing already existing government structures, such as awareness programs, peer support models and disability allowances through Social Welfare Ministry, and building psychosocial capabilities within the local Primary Health Centers to provide holistic care to the mentally ill.





ASHILA MAPALAGAMA (Stand Up Movement, SRI LANKA) Through the “Stand Up” movement, Ashila Mapalagama is pioneering a fresh approach to an old problem; using a mutual assistance program that is an employee-based and self-financed social security system to create a collective identity and spur self-organization among predominately female Free Trade Zone (FTZ) workers and laborers who are affected by outsourcing in Sri Lanka.






WILLIAM MUIR (Equal Community Foundation) Recognising adolescent boys and men as critical stakeholders in fight against gender discrimination, Will is changing the way the community perceives gender by working on the mind-set, and attitude of adolescent boys towards women, and then enabling them to become agents of change. Acting as role models in their communities, the young boys positively influence the thoughts of the other children in the wider community who have only seen male behavior exemplified through the roles of a perpetrator or a bystander in the acts of violence and discrimination against women. Will is creating an alternative space for men to occupy in the movement for gender parity.