Celebrating Champions of Change

The I Inspire Leadership Awards celebrates the change-makers and the impact they have on the communities and society at large. Its all about inclusion champions who innovate and inspire taking the road less travelled. These are champions of change who use their skills, experience and resources to make a positive difference. These are disruptors who are challenging the status quo and inspire others to do the same as well. They fight for human rights, socio-economic equality, equal opportunity workplace, inclusive policies & advocating for a more just & fair world.

Priti co-founded Prerana, a non- profit and is fondly referred as Priti Tai. She has completely dedicated more than 29 years in protecting and rescuing children and women victims of sexual exploitation. They have worked with 30000 sex workers, and have provided direct protection to 10,000 children and indirect protection to another 15,000. For her remarkable efforts on human trafficking and her dedication to touch lives of women and children victims in the red light districts of Mumbai for more than 28 years, she was BeyonDiversity’s I Inspire leadership awardee for Women Rights 2015.

Growing up in West Bengal’s coal belt, Ravi, Nishi, and Rishi Kant witnessed the struggles of disadvantaged women, inspiring them to take action. In 2001, they co-founded Shakti Vahini with their father’s support, aiming to advocate for women and children’s rights in India. Today, Shakti Vahini is a leading advocate for policy and legal changes to address violence against women and children, operating in six states. They focus on tackling India’s gender ratio imbalance and trafficking of young girls and women. Recognized for their outstanding efforts, BeyonDiversity honored the Kant Brothers with the I Inspire Leadership Award for Women’s Rights in 2016.

Dr. Rashmi Tiwari is an uncompromisingly fearless person doing remarkable work with tribal girls by mentoring & developing women leaders through her organization Aahan Tribal Foundation of India. In the past few years, lives of more than 5000 tribal girls have been touched. For giving voice to these tribal girls and women when everyone else would rather forget them, BeyonDiversity salutes her courage, tenacity and passion to create a more inclusive world and she was the Women Rights Awardee 2017 at I Inspire Leadership Awards.

Sunitha Krishnan, Co- Founder, Prajwala, recipient of The Women Rights Award 2019 has been working to rescue, rehabilitate, or serve survivors of sex trafficking for more than 20 years. A Padma Shri honoree; Dr. Krishnan makes it possible for the government and citizens’ groups to jointly manage a range of protective and rehabilitative services for women and children. Her shelter is one of the largest in the world with more than 17000 survivors being positively impacted. 

Noorjehan Safia Niaz, Co-Founder, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan [BMMA], recipient of The I Inspire ‘Women Rights’ Leadership Award 2019 has concentrated on developing the capacities of marginalized Muslim women, locally and nationally. She has developed many educational and awareness materials on Muslim family law. A champion supporting initiatives of women from marginalized communities for justice, peace and development, Noor Jehan was a co-petitioner in a PIL in Supreme Court demanding a legal ban on the practice of unilateral divorce and halala .

Protsahan aims to provide girls at risk of abuse, neglect & forced marriage with a path back into mainstream education. Since then, 800+ girls have been rescued from violence, abuse & supported in getting back to school. Sonal has grown her team to launch a schools partnership programme too, working with teachers to reach more than 28,000 adolescent girls every year. Families are also provided with counselling and assistance to report sexual abuse. Sonal’s vision is to holistically transform 1 million childhoods by 2030.

Anusheela decided that lack of electricity cannot be a reason for kids to quit education. She came up with a simple yet unique solution – attach solar panels to schoolbags that collect energy to power an LED light in night. Anusheela Saha’s innovative product “The Light Bag” has impacted many kids across country making them happy owners of this special bag and in process making sure they have a strong chance to an education. Anusheela’s innovative product and the impact it has created for thousands of kids made her I Inspire Leadership Awardee – Young Trailblazer 2016.

Faith Gonsalves, a young graduate from LSR who took a conscious and courageous step towards working for and with the street children through her organisation, Music Basti. At an early age of just 23, she started to bring music to the street children of Delhi. Her charity set up in 2008, trained street children to sing and play musical instruments across three centres. From creating fun musical experiences for vulnerable children, her organisation matured into focussing on creating a space for personal growth and nurturing key lifeskills today. Faith has also been selected for the Forbes 30 under 30 Asia list.

Hailed as as a “free speech warrior” by the Time Magazine; one can agree with Gurmehar’s views on Pakistan and campus violence, or one may not. What one cannot deny is that she had the right to express her views, which were neither derogatory nor inflammatory. That for expressing those views she was subjected to ridicule and heckling, apart from other very real threats, was most disturbing.The harassment, and the 20-year-old’s dignified and courageous response, is the reason why Gurmehar Kaur was 2018’s Young Trailblazer Awardee.

The youngest Sarpanch India has ever seen, Jabna Chauhan, was the proud recipient of the Young Trailblazer Award 2019. She was only 22 years old when she was elected to the post last year and is the youngest sarpanch not only in her state but the entire country. Hailing from a poor background, Jabna completed her education from local schools and colleges and contested the election with the desire to make her panchayat an example the entire region could follow. It was her desire to work for the development of society is what has now brought her here, and she has brought about massive changes in just one year.

When Murunganatham discovered that his wife was forced to use dirty, unhygienic rags during menstruation and the choice was between family meals vs sanitary pads, he vowed to help her solve the problem. Though the research which began in 1998, started on a personal note – it has now evolved to be a powerful business model. Murungantham, also a recipient of Padma Shree, has taken his invention to the farthest of Indian villages and districts. Hailed as ‘Padman’, his journey has intrigued writers, filmmakers. He has revolutionised menstrual health for rural women in India and across the globe by using simple machine that can be used to make low cost sanitary napkins. 

The infamous Nirbhaya gang rape that had the whole nation in uproar trigerred Elsa Marie D’Silva to take the matter in her own hands, and led her to start Safecity in December 2012. Inspired by Sweden based HarassMap, Safecity was launched in India to help women share their stories of abuse and harassment in public spaces. The app then translates that information on a map in the form of location based trends or hot spots. A unique and first of its kind in India, women can report places and incidents which then get captured on a map and can serve as vital source of information to take further action for the individual cases/areas. 

Abhijit Sinha, a young visionary, is reshaping traditional educational paradigms with his initiative, Project DEFY. This project questions the relevance of traditional teaching methods and believes that everyone can be both a teacher and a student. Emphasizing experiential and practical learning over theoretical concepts, Project DEFY operates on minimal costs, often utilizing materials sourced from trash. Originating in the village of Banjarapalya, Project DEFY has emerged as a vocal critic of the Indian education system. Abhijit’s innovative approach to education earned him several recognitions. 

Haqdarshak is a social impact organisation that aims to bring awareness to the rural population about their entitled welfare schemes and empower them in the process. Using technology as a solution, Haqdarshak is helping rural India benefit from government welfare schemes and has over 1500 Haqdarshaks working across ten states in the country. For their innovative way to bring in financial inclusion in the country; Hardarshaq and it’s co-founder Aniket Doegar was our 2018 awardee for The Social Innovation Award.

Breakthrough is a human rights organisation that aims to end violence against women and girls. Using media and technology as a solution, Breakthrough India works to transform social norms and the cultures that enable them. For their innovative approach to empower women and young girls through education, to save them from child marriages and domestic violence, and to end gender-based sex selection and sexual harassment.; Breakthrough was 2019 awardee for The Social Innovation Award.

Indian writer and LGBTQ rights activist, Ashok Row Kavi founded Humsafar Trust in the late eighties after returning from Canada. At that time prejudice and conventional Indian societal values prevented MSM and transgender Indians from getting effective health services. The initial focus of the trust was on activism for providing HIV/AIDS health services to gay men, but soon expanded to the complete spectrum of the LGBT community. The Humsafar Trust is the oldest LGBTQ organization in India and is one of the leading organizations covering the spectrum of sexual minorities in India.

Nipun Malhotra, born with Arthrogryposis, a rare congenital disorder, faced discrimination but turned it into inspiration, founding the Nipman Foundation. Collaborating with the Ministry of Social Justice, his foundation advances the Accessible India Campaign. Conducting accessibility audits for the government and corporations, he promotes equal opportunity. The Nipman Foundation Equal Opportunity Awards commend inclusive practices. He is a dynamic man with an attitude of “never give up’. His relentless energy and passion to make the world accessible and inclusive for all makes him a true leader.

Impacting a community is not easy and we acknowledge the work done by Make Love Not Scars. Ria Sharma, Founder is the recipient of The Community Excellence Award. Her organization supports not just acid attack survivors but victims of gender-based violence. Under Sharma’s leadership, they have conducted many successful campaigns to raise funds and filed for numerous petitions to amend the existing laws under which the government provides rehabilitation and compensation to acid attacks survivors.

Impacting a community is not easy and we acknowledge the work done by Naz Foundation founded by Anjali Gopalan. Naz Foundation is the recipient of The Community Excellence Award. As a strong advocate for the sexual health and rights of the LGBT community, the organization spearheaded the eight year legal battle against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). In 2001, Naz Foundation filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) to decriminalize homosexuality and put an end to the archaic law under which individuals were harassed and discriminated against based on their sexual orientation. The Delhi High Court ruled in favour of Naz India in 2009 and declared Section 377 an infringement on individual rights. This groundbreaking ruling was a great leap towards an accepting and discrimination-free society.

Dilip Kumar Ganta remarkable efforts to promote women in sales, particularly in remote areas, are commendable. Dilip’s mentoring of women leaders and his passionate commitment to diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives have influenced his team and stakeholders consistently, fostering an inclusive culture. He deserves recognition for challenging the notion of sales as a male-dominated field and overcoming conservative beliefs in Tamil Nadu. Under his leadership in Vodafone, the gender ratio in the sales and marketing team increased from 14% to 21% in 2014-15 through concerted efforts. Dilip introduced the groundbreaking concept of the ‘all women sales trainee batch’ under the ‘Shakti’ initiative. With his guidance, the first batch of 15 trainees successfully graduated and secured full-time roles across the circle, including distribution positions in remote areas. Additionally, women were hired in distribution roles in remote locations, furthering diversity efforts.

A chance encounter with a grateful mother of one of Lemon Tree’s employees deeply impacted Patu Keswani. Her visually impaired son’s marriage, made possible by his job, highlighted the transformative power of employment for people with disabilities. Inspired, Keswani instituted an inclusion mandate at Lemon Tree Hotels, ensuring 15% of employees are from disadvantaged segments. Since founding Lemon Tree in 2004, Keswani has expanded it to 29 hotels across 18 Indian cities, employing over 3600 people. Recognized as the “Best Employer of Persons with Disabilities” by the President of India in 2011 and 2012, Keswani champions a barrier-free environment and provides skills training to disabled employees. Lemon Tree Hotels not only employs persons with disabilities but also sensitizes others to foster dignity and enablement.

Deep Kalra, the founder of MakeMyTrip.com since 2000, has transformed travel services in India with his capable and modest leadership as CEO.  Deep recognizes and values the contributions of women in the workplace, harnessing their potential through initiatives like the Holiday Expert program. This program, tailored for stay-at-home women aged 20-45, empowers them to pursue careers in travel, resulting in approximately 650 women travel consultants at MakeMyTrip. In addition to his business endeavors, Deep actively engages in various organizations including TiE Delhi, NASSCOM, “I am Gurgaon” NGO, Udayan Care, and GiveIndia, underscoring his commitment to social impact. MakeMyTrip’s employee-centric culture, known as “Trippers,” fosters an atmosphere where each day is an adventure, consistently earning the company top rankings on the Great Places to Work List.

Sameer, a passionate advocate of Inclusion & Diversity (I&D), has led as CEO of KPMG Global Services with 25 years of industry expertise. His strategic I&D initiatives have boosted women’s representation and colleague engagement, yielding improved business outcomes. Prior to his role at KGS, Sameer served as CEO of Barclays Shared Services, overseeing remarkable growth from 700 to 10,000 employees across three cities. He emphasizes the importance of organizational cultures that support women’s confidence and potential, beyond external influences like government programs and media. Sameer firmly believes in the intrinsic value of I&D, not only for driving business success but also as a moral imperative. His unwavering commitment and dedication to advancing Inclusion & Diversity serve as a source of inspiration for colleagues and peers alike.

Shabia’s journey defied death at just 21 days old, setting the tone for her relentless pursuit of changing destinies. Raised in challenging circumstances, she tutored 80 children daily with her mother while excelling academically, always ranking in the top three. Her ambition drove her to manage three careers simultaneously. With 30 years in media, she ascended from assistant director to creative director, writer, and producer, earning recognition as one of the industry’s best. Shabia’s book, ‘Mamma Mania,’ chronicled her pregnancy experiences. When media no longer challenged her, Shabia founded ‘Wild Earth,’ a natural skincare brand. With no business background or funding, she grew the brand globally in just two and a half years, starting with minimal resources and homemade products.

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