Running An NGO In India Is No Easy Job – Top Changemakers Reveal Why

In the last few years, there has been a severe clampdown on funding of NGOs in India, with foreign investments coming down by as much as 30% in 2014-15. Many nonprofits have had to shut down their operations. 70 years since independence, India is still riddled with socio-politico-economic inequalities, that need bridging urgently. The government has a powerful role to play in filling these gaps, but civil society bodies and individuals, too, have contributed and have enormous potential.

To this end, Youth Ki Awaaz and Achche Nationals, a community of changemakers highlighting the work being done by civic society in India, asked prominent nonprofit organisations and activists about the challenges they face in India.

Here are the highlights:

Teach for India, Non-profit fellowship programme training India’s youth to become leaders of tomorrow

Q: What was the inspiration behind initiating the Teach for India Fellowship?
A: Leadership and lack thereof. Behind every successful positive change we’d seen, there was a motivated person. The Fellowship pairs talented, committed people with complex problems stalling progress on quality education.

Q: What in your experience, are the challenges to initiating and running an NGO in India?
A: One challenge: perception. We see teaching as leadership, but the world sees it as a sacrifice. It’s an investment.

Q: How can the government support NGOs better to maximise their reach and impact?
A: The government is a critical partner in the movement and a stakeholder in our success. They can financially support and enlist NGOs, but also engage in and catalyse conversation among siloed players.

Q: How can young people play a part in ensuring that your work reaches thousands more?
A: Join the Fellowship or work at the grassroots level! Keep advocating for change wherever you are. BE the change!

Nipun Malhotra, Disability rights activist and CEO of the Nipman Foundation

Q: Can you tell us a little about the Nipman Foundation?
A: Nipman Foundation works in the areas of Health, Dignity and Happiness for the Disabled. We work towards making corporates sensitive towards the disabled through Access Audits, sensitisation, job mapping.
Our flagship event is the Nipman Foundation Equal Opportunity Awards recognising inclusive companies. We also work towards making events accessible – JLF, NH7 Weekender, Auto Expo, Serendipity Arts Festival. Our latest project – a crowdsourced platform connecting those who need wheelchairs to donors.

Q: What have been the biggest challenges to working on disability rights in India?
A: Lack of sensitiation, stigma and attitudes. Attitudes and stereotyping of disabled needs to change. Sadly,70 years after independence accessibility remains a challenge. The disabled haven’t yet been mainstreamed.

Q: What is the mindset change we need to ensure an India that’s really accessible?
A: I think we need to start judging people for what they can do and not what they can’t. We need to start looking at people as complete individuals. Disability is just a part of a person’s identity.

Q: What kind of government and media support can help your work reach thousands more?
A: Top down change will really help. The government can do a lot – especially in accessibility, education, vocational training. There are movies on the disabled, but why not have content/ mainstream shows with disabled characters? The news media can debate policy, celebrate success stories and get disability into the national debate.

Harish Iyer, Prominent LGBTQI activist

Q: What is the current state of government support for those working with LGBTQ+ rights in India?
A: The government doesn’t support LGBTIQ rights. Sushma Swaraj said that it is against indian ethos to have gay people as parents. We are still sexist, who believe that “boys don’t cry”.

Q: What is the dominant societal perception when it comes to NGOs that advocate for LGBT+ rights?
A: People think LGBTIQ rights is about the right to have free sex. We are more than sex. We fight for equality and dignity.

Q: Is there a need for change in the way media houses report on sensitive subjects like LGBTQ+ and child sexual abuse?
A: I think media is getting better by the day. There are a few insensitive reporters, but largely things are getting better.

Q: What policy changes could enhance impact of activists and organisations working on social justice issues?
A: I think in the education sphere we need to go beyond the gender binary. We need to be mindful of language.

Khel Khel Mein Foundation, Non-profit working to establish sustainable sports model in schools and communities

Q: What was the inspiration behind initiating the Khel Khel Mein Foundation?
A: We wanted all children, irrespective of their backgrounds and access, to get an opportunity to play and experience the joy of sports.

Q: India has a long way to go in sports. What were the challenges in setting up an initiative promoting sport in daily life?
A: Major challenge include lack of playgrounds, getting schools to adopt a sports curriculum, and making sport an integral part of life. Lack of awareness about sports academies and spaces in community, lack of access and quality coaches.

Q: What have been the learning outcomes of introducing sports to underprivileged communities?
A: Students show great physical health, improved self-confidence, more interest in coming to school, and teamwork in community.

Q: What policy/ societal changes can impact the way forward for sports in India?
A: We need to maintain space and playgrounds that are usable for children to play sport, implement mandatory sports curriculum, provide designated areas for sport in parks rather than limiting play for children, increase awareness about coaching classes, increase sports tie-ups within communities and RWA hubs.

As you can see, the conversation was extremely successful and informative, opening up many new avenues to spark insightful conversations in, and helped make over 3 million impressions. There’s no doubt that we all took something away from it. If you have any suggestions about empowering and supporting civic society, write in or tweet to us!