Navina Gyawali doesn’t feel like she’s visually impaired, especially when she cooks. “We are just like everyone else, all we lack is infrastructure. So we don’t need sympathy, we just need education.” she says. Navina is one of 23 participants at Kanthari, who have come from various countries to take part in the annual leadership training programme.
Kanthari, in Thiruvananthapuram, runs an annual leadership programme for people from across the world who have overcome major societal hurdles to carve a place for themselves. It aims to provide tools to participants to help them start their own social leadership programmes back in their respective countries.
On October 6, Kanthari will hold a fair at Manaveeyam Veedhi, and participants of the workshop will showcase their learnings here.
Navina plans to make pani puri and waffles at the fair. Back home in Nepal, Navina plans to start SATH (Supportive Action Towards Humanity) for visually impaired people in Nepal. She dreams of a time when visually impaired people are not discriminated against. “I was in the US on a Fulbright scholarship and I was so surprised to see the facilities they had for people like me. It made life so much easier. During my time there, it struck me that the people in my own country don’t have the same facilities,” she says.
Under SATH, Navina also plans to start Tick Tick, a cooking and catering service. “For people to believe me, I have to show them what I am capable of. Hence, I will cook on October 6. I want to do a lot for people with disabilities, but I will start by helping people with visual disabilities in small ways,” she says.
Sohibjamol Rakamova is planning to start a chess club in Tajikistan for children with disabilities, especially kids between the ages six and 18. A chess player herself, she says the game is much more than a sport in her country.
“Children with disabilities are usually forced to stay at home in my country; some of them are not even sent to school. Parents are overprotective and disabilities are often stigmatised. Even if the children are sent to school, teachers aren’t trained to handle their needs. The government is helping, but there aren’t enough facilities,” she says.
Delhi-based Priyanka Singh plans to start a social enterprise to allow rural and urban women to interact with each other. Kakembo Galabuzi Brian from Uganda is planning to study why farming yields have fallen back home and start a clean energy company. In Thailand, Ruangtup Kaeokamechun wants to break taboos against sexuality and usher in a more inclusive society. These are the stories of just some of the entrepreneurs at Kanthari.
Kanthari’s seven-month annual training programme was first launched in 2009. Over the years, it has trained 183 people from 41 countries, who have, in turn, launched 130 social initiatives and organisations.
Sabriye Tenberen, who is from Germany, founded Kanthari with her partner Paul Kronenberg with the vision that in the future children with visual disabilities would run a school for children like them. She herself is visually impaired.
Located in the serene village of Vellayani, on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram, on the banks of Vellayani River, Kanthari is now a household name. “We feel at home here,” says Sabriye.
Why the name Kanthari? “It’s a tiny chilly, no? But it’s too spicy for daily use. It is grown in the backyard of houses in Kerala. Here is a space for marginalised people, who aren’t part of the mainstream,” Sabriye chuckles.