Please welcome Binalakshmi Nepram and Ishita Chaudhry into the Fellowship!

Binalakshmi Nepram is a pioneer in the micro-disarmament movement in India. Her movement is focused on grassroots efforts aimed at the people most affected by violence - women - to advocate for a robust legal and policy regime at the national and international levels. She is the founder of two organisations: the Control Arms Foundation of India (CFAI) based in Delhi and the Manipuri Women Gun Survivors Netowrk (MWGSN) based in Manipur.

Bina sees micro-disarmament as a process that is dependent on myriad factors such as the State's ability to protect its citizens, economic opportunities and the degree to which the gun has become accessible and legitimate within society. She believes that effective micro-disarmament requires a combination of sound law and policy, action by law enforcement, and specific grassroots efforts aimed at the populations most affected by violence, particularly women. Rooted to the belief that women are highly invested in preventing, stopping and recovering from conflict, she sees women playing a critical role in the micro-disarmament movement. 

With her work with CFAI, she is working with the Central Government to redraft and tighten gun legislation. Given that the micro-disarmament movement in India is at its nascent stages, CAFI extensively researches the field to map the problem and identify strategic points of intervention. CAFI then works with various departments of the Government to include the debate around small arms into their agenda and action. Among other things, it is advocating for a centralized registry of all licensed arms in India that will help keep track of movement of guns from one state to the other and tighter standards for the grant of arms license. 

To guarantee that new policies are built and reinforced by the most affected communities, Bina formally launched the Manipuri Women Gun Survivors Network (MWGSN) in 2007 to rehabilitate, empower and engage women survivors in micro-disarmament. MWSGN engages women to start meeting every month, discuss human rights issues and receive training on legal redressal mechanisms. MWGSN has also built a network of women lawyers to represent the cases of the survivors. 

Bina believes that if women are involved in decision-making and at creating policies, they will open a wider perspective to human security. Towards this, Bina has created a network of 92 women parliamentarians apart from writers, journalists, researchers, activists and policy makers who have begun to engage with issues surrounding micro-disarmament in different capacities. 

She consolidates and builds on this to network sensitize and engage, more young people and women, to democratize participation in the movement. She has already started an “Anti-gun violence campaign” to work with 120 schools in Delhi to sensitize the school authorities and students. The Mumbai police have also approached her to help them tackle issues surrounding unlicensed small arms. To increase international pressure for the Arms Trade Treaty, she works closely with organizations in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal and the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) for the United Nations Programme of Action on Controlling Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons. 

This is what Bina had to say about joining the Fellowship:
 The Ashoka Fellowship is a recognition and tribute to all women who are working towards making their villages, towns, cities and lives safer from gun violence and in making disarmament a movement that is meaningful to people's lives. In a country like India that sees 5000 people shot dead every year due to gun violence, the fellowship reaffirms that this is a new idea whose time has come. So thank you Ashoka for your support. Me and my network feels strengthened and inspired that from now onwards our work will be connected to the wide Ashoka family whose ideas have transformed the world.

Ishita Chaudhry is the founder of The YP Foundation (TYPF) based in Delhi. TYPF is strengthening youth led movements in India by creating opportunities for the youth to engage with social change and transform adult dominated systems.  

The youth in India constitute a large majority of the population. However, they are not recognized as active citizens. They have little or no say in matters of policy or implementation of ideas that have, now and in the future, direct impact on their lives. 

TYPF equips young people with the tools to access information, services and rights so that they can build collective platforms to create social change and negotiate with adult led systems. Working directly with approximately 300 young people every year, TYPF provides the youth the framework to organize themselves into action-oriented teams leading initiatives across six focus areas at the grassroots and policy levels. TYPF bridges the intergenerational divide by building partnerships with CSO’s that provide a basis for the youth initiatives and facilitating cross learning. In addition, each young person in TYPF is connected to an adult mentor from among the network of partners who provides inputs and dialogues with him/her through entire their time with TYPF. 

TYPF also establishes strong connections between youth movements across India to build their capacities and encourage them to collectively lobby for their causes. Over the last 10 years, TYPF has provided a space to the youth to undergo a transformative experience and created sustainable social impact through their initiatives. More than an approximate 40% of TYPF’s alumina are working with Human Rights related issues and an additional 20% graduated to establish their own organizations and initiatives that TYPF has continued to support.

TYPF and its volunteers has until date conceptualized, developed, executed and funded more than 250 social projects by working with 5,000 peers across in India, reaching out to over 300,000 young people. More recently, TYPF worked with UNAIDS in Geneva to co-draft the founding and structure of their first Global ‘Youth Leadership and Mentorship Hub’ that will encourage inter generational mentoring for upcoming young leaders to include young people’s leadership within the HIV prevention revolution, with a particular focus on encouraging leadership and grassroots participation from young people in communities in the Global South. 

These are her views on the Fellowship:
The idea that people who create and impact positive process of social change and justice, ensuring equity and access for those who need it the most, come together at a platform like Ashoka - has inspired me since I was in school and began working in this sector. Ashoka brings together some of the most unique, challenging and inspiring ideas from across the globe and to even begin to be a part of this space, where I can listen to and learn from voices from the field in my own country, is incredible. The fellowship has brought full circle for me, more than ten years of work with young people and inspires me, to push our work and myself further. These are leaders whose work has given me strength, courage and the ability to take this journey forward and is a constant reminder that we are never alone in what we believe in and work for.