Inspiration: it’s one of the side effects for leaders who have survived dark times. Malala Yousafzai shared her message at Bharatiya Chhatra Sansad, the Indian Student Parliament, this month in Pune. Although she had been scheduled to attend, the Sakal Times reported that security concerns forced her to make her visit via the internet. She has become a headliner — almost a figurehead – representing Muslim women activists, no longer “simple Malala,” the girl who survived. In addition to many inspiring leaders from corporate, spiritual, governmental and non-profit arenas, Malala’s video was part of the opening ceremony.
Engineering student Vinita Tibdewal, who attended the convention at the MIT campus in Pune, said: “I got goosebumps watching Malala’s video. If she could emerge as a champion of girls education from a country like Pakistan, we girls, who have far better opportunities and avenues available before us, should make better use of it.” (Read more from this Indian Express feature...)
The themes of this year’s gathering, which attracted 10,000 students, were: Preventing Crime Against Women, What Young India Wants, Is Consumerism Consuming India?, Is Democracy for Sale?, Art as Unifier, Innovative Education and Healthy Development. (See the bi-lingual video on YouTube, covering 9 hours of the conference…)
It is worth scanning through this video to find events of interest, because there are fascinating moments. There is also an interesting tension between youthful idealism and more conservative viewpoints. On one hand, there is a celebration of capitalism, established development strategies, and leadership by older activists, established politicians and business people. On the other, there is a critique of consumerism and capitalism, business as usual, and problematic development strategies. Young speakers call for activism and challenge; older speakers tend talk about history and theories. No surprise there…
But there are remarkable stories from everyone, including discussions of prison conditions, environmental issues, consumerist trances, and interventions by girls and women to change government policies. On the whole, there is a call for critical thinking and discernment, and deeper engagement of students to transform India. In many ways, the Bharatiya Chhatra Sansad is like any of these educational events — a combination of propoganda and idealism, marked by a series of speakers and Q&A sessions. In other ways, it marked a space of possibility, a place for leadership development on many levels.