We interview a politician or someone helping values-based politicians do their job for each briefing. Kanksshi is the founder of NETRI Foundation, which we featured in our list of 28 political leadership incubators (PLIs) to watch. She is a former political campaigner and a LAMP Fellow. She was awarded a KarmaVeer Chakra Award by the UN and REX in 2019.
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How would you describe your political path?
I grew up looking at all-male politicians and wondering: “What does a female in that role look like?” I began my political journey as a legislative and political aide to a member of parliament in India, and went on to work on a number of national and local campaigns. I continued to see an absence of women on campaign trails. That made me question why there was no platform dedicated to women’s pathways into politics in India.
My dream of being in politics manifested itself when I founded NETRI Foundation. ‘NETRI’ in Hindi means a woman political leader with a vision. “Engendering power and decision making” is our vision. Our country is 50% women and they deserve dignity and power in everyday life. Our mission is to create sustainable and equitable pathways for women into Indian politics. We do this through our training programs and by providing hands-on opportunities to work in the ecosystem.
What are the most useful lessons you've learnt on the way?
The power of the collective. This movement of engendering power is not about a handful of women contesting and winning elections. In order to change the system, we need a collective of intersectional women who are ready to pass the baton to others.
Electoral politics is the result of its ecosystem. To understand the present, is the best way to prepare for the future. We at NETRI are working on building resilient ecosystems to support those who run for office.
One of the precursors to achieving homogeneity in the women’s movement is to accept that our heterogeneity, Intersectionality and its role in our worldview are essential for future leaders.
“I grew up looking at all-male politicians and wondering: ‘What does a female in that role look like?’”
What are the top three things that could be done to get courageous, ethical and trusted politicians in your area?
Building communities of trust: We at NETRI focus on sisterhood and community building. Communities not only foster courage but also hold leaders to account in the long run. We also follow our Ikigai for every NETRI.
Cultivate safe and aspirational politics: violence and a lack of resources are major barriers for women. Tackling these issues is non-negotiable. A critical mass of feminist leaders in the political ecosystem will tip the scales.
Harness the power of technology for politics: the internet is indispensable to the world of politics. Using it to reach more people, tell their stories and offer support and inclusive spaces will showcase the possibilities for an empathetic and ethical political journey.
What ideas and/or people are inspiring you at the moment?
“Occupy” by Noam Chomsky, which illustrates the history of the occupy movement across the world. In India, marginalized groups need to have a place in public discourse. Our communities are marginalized by caste, gender, sexuality, religion, language, class and more. Identity politics has become central. Local models of occupy have given me inspiration for creating movements of women from the panchayat (village level) to the parliament.
What story do you want communities to tell about politicians?
I am obsessed with stories of dignity, compassion and aspiration. We want to share stories of politicians who followed this path and stayed the course. Women especially are robbed of their basic right to dignity the moment they choose public life. We want to change this narrative. Our values run deep in humanizing power and politics and making the profession more dignified and loved than it has been in recent decades.
We want people to see that politics affects the water we drink, the schools our children go to, the air we breathe and how we are seen and treated as citizens. That’s why politics is the most impactful route for social change.
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