kanthari TALKS 2017 was held at Co-Bank Towers at Palayam, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
23 participants from 11 countries shared their ideas about changing the world towards a better tomorrow.

Sherin Noordheen (Trivandrum, India)

"Why do people commit suicide? Its not because they want to die, its just because they don't have the strength to live"
Sherin Noordhen from Kerala explaining about her experience of suicide and her plans to prevent suicides among youth at kanthari TALKS 2017.

Sherin was born and brought up in Trivandrum, Kerala, a small state in the south of India. In her life so far, she had been through many stressful situations which made her contemplate on Suicide and the purpose of life. Let's Live! Projects aim to prevent young adult suicides by providing a social support system and also by inculcating the youngsters with enough life skills required to face hardships in life. Learn more about her journey visit http://letslivekerala.org/

Arthanas Matongo (Zimbabwe)

Arthanas comes from a rural community that suffered tremendous loss of children due to forced child marriages. His sisters and his childhood girlfriend were married at the ages between 12-16. As an international marathon runner, Arthanas was lucky to get global exposure. His new perspectives on harmful traditions gave him the drive to start a sports and arts academy for girls to prevent child marriages and thus save their lives.

Arthanas Matongo, an international marathon runner, was lucky to get global exposure and he want to use this exposure to prevent child marriages and save their lives in Zimbabwe through his Waruka Academy. Website: www.waruka.org/

Pannavat Veeraburinon (Thailand)

Pannavat Veeraburinon from Thailand is trying to change ADHD; "Attention DeficitHyperactivity Disorder" to "Active Driven Hyper Dynamite"!
As a child, Pannavat was diagnosed with ADHD. However, he did not suffer from ADHD, he suffered from his teachers, his family and the society; all those who didn't know how to support him in the best way possible.
Fortunately, he overcame it, but he feels that his first 20 years of his life were a waste. Thus, it motived him to found the organization “HYPPER”.
Hypper wants to create a world where children and teenagers who are diagnosed with ADHD and who have a form of hyperactivity can express themselves freely and creatively and are accepted in society.
Website: www.thehypper.org

Manita Vivatsethachai (Thailand)

"Imagine how clean the roads and streets could be, people can stop by and picnic anywhere. The rivers and canals are so fresh and clear so we could jump into the water and enjoy; That's the mission of Pakdone. We want to create a waste management system that will lead to a mindset shift in the community so they can tackle this problem by themselves."
- Manita Vivatsethachai, founder of Pakdone, Thailand

Manita wanted to find a breakthrough that cures the incurable and so she enrolled herself in the biomedical field, only to find the secret to good health lies in good food, good mind and good environment. Her way of creating a better environment is through transformation of waste to valuable resources using a creative game application that enables everybody to take part in waste management and so become part of the solution.
For more details visit: www.pakdone.org

Biju Simon (Kerala, India)

In Kerala, 95% of children passed 10th standard but what does this number really say?
"Trivandrum has 97 shelter homes with 5000 children, this is where I want to make a change.
Many of the children are trained to pass examination without understanding anything." - Biju Simon - Ether India, Kerala
Biju's poor academic background made it difficult for him to follow English lectures in college.
Thus he became a school dropout. Seminary life gave Biju a conducive learning environment.
After realizing that thousands of children, especially those of shelter homes in Trivandrum struggle
even more, Biju decided to choose social work as his path.
Biju wants to offer a conducive learning environment and an educational system to marginalized children.
"Ether India sees a world where shelter home children learn with utmost joy and happiness and where they are integrated into the larger society"
Website: etherindia.org

Henry Mkare (Kenya)

"Every year around 60% of Kenyan students dropout of school because girls will get married at early age and boys are forced to leave school to work and support their family"
- Henry Mkare, Kickstart Kilifi, Kenya
Henry was a child laborer who turned into a university-graduate. His passion is education! After joining high school, Henry lost his dad. Being the oldest in his family, he became the bread winner. Like many others in his community, 60% of all children in Kilifi County are school-drop-outs. Henry himself spent most school days on construction sites.
Henry is driven to change the schoolsystem, to make it more accessible for thse who cannot support school and he wants to improve the Curriculum to make it more relevant for all.
"Ignorance is always afraid of change, only general knowledge and ability to make rightful judgements will prevent our children from falling in superstition and radical movement.
A better educational system is the dream which Kickstart Kilifi is fighting for."
Website: www.kickstartkilifi.org

Danijela Veselinovic (Serbia)

"Our favourite show stopped and then the war began, from that moment everything changed. We had to spend most of the time under the table because that was the safest place in our home.
I remember when we were hiding in the forest, we heard the first explosion, the ground was shaking and the skies full of fire.
At that time, we all stayed together showing solidarity but when the army came, bringing food and protective masks and there was not enough for everyone, solidarity was gone.
Many of us lost our loved ones and many became disabled after the war.

I want to see a Serbia where people show togetherness, where people buy products not because they are produced BY people with disability but because they love the quality.
The first step is to WAKE UP SOCIETY."
- Danijela Veselinovic, founder of Wake up Society, Serbia
Danijela is from Serbia, a small country with a big heart. Now there is peace, but she grew up in a terrible war environment. In her family respect and support was important. But the war forced most people to fight for themselves. Danijela's dream is to end the bad weather for her country. Her initiative, "Wake up society", will open a new chapter for many young disabled people.

Sadhana Nayak (Odisha, India)

42% of tribal women are affected by violence and I am one of them. One day my friend invited me to stay with her. In that night, I was abused by her brother, abuse is not a crime in our culture and the victim is forced to marry the abuser."
- Sadhana Nayak, founder of SADHAN in Odisha, India

At age of 22, Sadhana was sexually abused by the brother of her friend and since her community doesn't accept an abused woman, she was forced to marry him. Later she was exposed to a painful torrent of violence by him. For many years the abuse had silenced her until she found the courage and strength to raise her voice and fight against this brutal injustice.
"I got a job in district hospital and at that time I met so many women who were affected by violence. The situation was always the same, you are a woman! You have to compromise.
I want to do something, create a platform where woman can raise their voice.
I want to see an Orissa where women live independently with dignity, BREAK THE SILENCE"
Sadhana's organisation SADHAN which means "achieve the goal", stands for woman rights. You can read more about Sadhana and SADHAN at www.sadhanisc.org

Rahel Zegeye (Lebanon)

Lebanon has more than 250,000 domestic migrant workers from different countries including Ethiopia, Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, Madagascar, Sri Lanka and India.
Domestic migrant workers are often badly treated by their employers and there is no law supporting domestic migrant workers in Lebanon. Most of them don't have weekly rest days and don't have access to their official papers. Many migrant workers suffer from psychological, physical or sexual abuse. Human rights organizations estimate that each week two migrant workers commit suicide
"I want to give my life, my voice and my experience to other suffering migrant workers"
- Rahel Zegeye, founder of Mesewat, Lebanon

Rahel was a domestic migrant worker that became a human rights activist. 17 years ago, Rahel moved from Ethiopia to work in Lebanon. Since then, she had firsthand experienced the violence and injustice that migrant workers face on a daily base.
Today, she supports the women whenever they are in need, stands up for their rights and gives everything she has to create a better future for migrant workers in Lebanon.
Her organisation is named “Mesewat”, which means ‘share whatever little you have’
To know more about Rahel and Mesawat, visit www.mesewat.org

Imkong Wati (Nagaland, India)

During his 8 years of priesthood, Imkong came across many troubled youth. Some were depressed because of alcoholism and some became addicted because of depression. All he could do was praying, giving counselling and sending them away which never helped them in any way. Imkong left his priesthood to learn how to provide more sustainable help. Through Mosaic he wishes to give these troubled youth a new perspective on life.
Mosaic Nagaland is a support centre for young people who are suffering from alcoholism and depression.
Mosaic will use Sports, music, art to help people who are suffering from alcohol addiction within Nagaland.
Mosaic Nagaland already started spreading awareness about its existence through talks conducted in church as well as through the football match which was conducted last week.
The people in Mokokchung, Nagaland are now becoming familiar with Mosaic and begin to understand the seriousness of issues like alcoholism, depression and unemployment.
Mosaic Nagaland's first initiative was to use sports and job placements as a medium for working amongst alcohol addicted and jobless youths
More information at www.mosaicnagaland.org

Gbemisola Bamiduro (Nigeria)

"Why is art so important? Art allows us to express ourselves, it allows us to tell our story, it frees us from social constructs and norms. When we see art, it makes us begin to ask questions about the issues hovering around us related to politics, economics and culture."
"Art is part of our natural being, it represents beauty, colour and freedom. It is important for communication, freedom of expression and raising awareness. People love to see it in their homes and around their surroundings, yet it is taken for granted."
- Gbemisola Bamiduro, founder of Kipepeo, Nigeria

Gbemisola was a graduate without a job until she had retraced her steps and started following her passion for art. She made paintings and handmade greeting cards and to her and her parent's surprise, people bought her work. In Nigeria there are currently very few conducive places to nurture artistic talents. Hence, Gbemisola wants to create a space where artistic creativity can be fostered for the many unemployed and underprivileged youth in her country.
Website: kipepeo.org.ng

Kapila Rathnayake (Sri Lanka)

"Don't cry… you are a boy! Don't play with dolls… you are a boy! Don't wear pink… you are a boy! Don't cook… you are a boy! Don't be emotional… you are a boy! Don't… don't… boys don't…. you are a boy!
Most often we say that men are controlling women, men are aggressive, men are rough and tough and men are the perpetrators of violence against women, they can't control them they just are like that. But did have you ever questioned why men are aggressive? Are they born like that? Is it biological? Or are we brought up like that? Or are we shaped like that? Are we conditioned like that? Even before we are born, our gender identities are imposed on us. Thereby we are prisoners of these identities."
- Kapila Rathnayake - founder of Voices of Human, Sri Lanka

When Kapila buys a pink laptop-bag, when he cries, when he wears unisex dresses, when he works slowly, his friends say: "don’t act like a girl, be a real man". Social pressure in a conservative surrounding in which roles of men and women are clearly defined, influenced him to dream of a genderless society. Kapila wants to challenge stereotypes through offering a new life style for "voices of HuMen".
Website: httpsvoicesofhuman.org

Manju Sharma (Kolkata, India)

"How many of you can think of marrying a person with disability?", Manju Sharma from Kolkata, India asks this question to all 'non-disabled' people.
Manju's job as a cabin crew exposed her to the world. But then she had an accidental fall that resulted with her becoming a wheelchair user. Thus she experienced social exclusion and the physical & attitudinal barriers that people with disabilities face in society. Through her organisation SAMATWA she wants to strive towards social inclusion through adventurous and recreational eye-opening activities that lower the barriers between people with and without disabilities.
She says, "Disability should not be a reason for not being allowed to live a life with equal opportunities and full participation".
Manju Sharma is the founder of SAMATWA which in sanskrit means 'equality'. Disability should not be a reason for not being allowed to live a full life of equal opportunities, access & participation in the society and therefore Samatwa's mission is to de-stigmatise and normalise disability.
- carries out awareness and sensitisation workshops about disability for students in mainstream schools.
- Imparts basic computer education to persons with visual impairment.
- Introduces sign language in mainstream schools

Found out more about Manju and her project SAMATWA at: www.samatwa.org

Lingala Naresh (Telengana, India)

"Fortunately my father who is a farmer didn't commit suicide.. yet. But i came across many situations where farmers did kill themselves. Majorly there are four reasons for farmer suicides in India;
1. Financial crisis: Over dependency on agri-business companies for the seeds and pesticides. As a farmer, they buy a seed which is known as ‘killer seeds’, this means the seeds cannot be used again. Every year the farmer has to buy new seeds as well as more pesticides. The farmer borrows money and ends up in a lot of debt.
2. Climate change
3. Government policies: Policy makers are neglecting the agricultural sector in India to promote urbanization.
4. Societal pressure. The profession of a farmer is looked down upon.
We want to conduct public farmer talks where farmers like me share their feelings and experiences with others and express their concerns with the society because every seed has a story to tell, every plant has a story to tell and a farmer also has a story to tell."
- Lingala Naresh, founder of Tharunam, India

Young farmers in villages are advised to stay away from farming and parents don’t like to see their children becoming farmers. Naresh was born in a tribal village called Duginepally that is situated on the banks of the Godavari River. Unsustainable farming practices pulled Telangana farmers into debts that lead to suicides. Through his organisation "tharunam", Naresh wants to see a Telangana that will inspire the world with sustainable farming practices. Tharunam has two meanings: crisis and opportunities. Naresh wants to take farmers out of crisis by offering opportunities.
Website: http://tharunam.org/

Anumuthu Chinnaraj (Pondicherry, India)

"A high number of homeless people live on the street without access to basic needs, employment and medication. They have no place to live; they have been chased from place to place, not only by the owners but also police officers and mosquitoes. They don't have a place to go to the toilet. And the shabby looks isolate them from the mainstream community. Loneliness often leads to alcohol addiction. The main causes for homeliness are poverty, unemployment, disability, natural calamities and so on.
I wanted to experience what it means to be homeless, so at kanthari I grew long hair and a beard, didn’t cut my nails and lived on the street for 3 days as a beggar in Trivandrum when the cyclone Ockhi hit Kerala. The experience was heart breaking, more than hunger and thirst, was the humiliation… No-one noticed us.. we were invisible”
- Anumuthu Chinnaraj, founder of Snehan, Pondicherry - India

Anumuthu was born in a poor family, his father was a woodcutter and his mother a housewife. He lost his father through sudden death. Anumuthu became a child laborer when he was seven. He suffered as a child without support. Thus, for him it is important to state that every human being is important and valuable. Having firsthand knowledge of poverty, hunger, rejection, loneliness and depression, he dedicated his life to support deprived people on the street.
More info at: http://snehan.org/

Peter Adeeko (Nigeria)

"If you rotate Africa's map 180 degrees clockwise, you can see a pistol with Nigeria at the trigger. What does this mean? It means if nothing is done now, my children and children of the common man in Nigeria will have to fight a battle that we could have prevented. My organisation Soulace Africa will prevent the next generation of Nigeria from pulling this trigger.
Statistics show that Boko Haram insurgency, caused about 100,000 war widows and orphans in the past six years in the north eastern part of Nigeria alone. But I can tell you that the real number is much higher. There is a huge environmental concern going on the north eastern part of Nigeria. Lake Chad is drying up, many people have lost their means of livelihood. United Nations raised an outcry and said that there is a huge humanitarian crisis in the north eastern part of Nigeria. I see this as a crime of war and nothing has been done."
- Peter Adeeko, Soulace Africa, Nigeria

Peter's childhood dream was to adopt many orphans and build a big house for them. Little did he know that he would end up becoming an orphan himself. Peter was a child affected by war whom was raised by his teenage brother. Violence and increased armed conflicts in Nigeria, made him to act to work on interventions for war affected families and the establishment of a peace academy.
Website: http://soulaceafrica.org/

Gumbo Majubwa (Tanzania)

"In my childhood I never heard the sound of a chainsaw; But then deforestation in Tansania started. 33 years ago I was living in Bagamoyo district in Tanzania. Our house was surrounded with green forest on one side and Indian Ocean on other side. I still remember the days when i and my friends went to the forest and collected fruits, as many as we wanted. But later everything started to change, all the area was sold to build residences and tourist hotels and slowly we started to lose our forest. Latest statistics show that every year we lose app 400,000 hectares of our valuable forest. This must stop!"
- Gumbo Majubwa, founder of Ambakofi, Tanzania

When Gumbo was 24 years old, the forest of his happy childhood in Bagamoyo, east coast of Tanzania started to be cut down. Every time when Gumbo sees trees being cut, anger haunts him and he admits to often cry. Gumbo studied environmental management and now he is working on establishing an eco-friendly community surrounded by agroforestry which will be a source of livelihood for many people and will be a start to revive his forest land.
Website: https://ambakofi.org/

Phorntip Limpichaisopon (Thailand)

"Most people don't see the poverty and neglected semi urban parts of Bangkok. Although the government changed the terminology slum into Chumchon but the situation remains the same. Thailand is known as the land of smiles but in Chumchon you cannot see many smiles because of social inequality.
When I passed the slum on the way to school, I used to see many small houses packed together. There were no proper sanitation facilities or good infrastructure. The canal was full of trash with a lot of plastic bags and contaminated water. At that time I thought it was normal as Thailand is a developing country. This however is still the same at Chumchons (slums) around Bangkok. Presently in Bangkok 2 million people live in 267 Chumchons (slums). Some of these Chumchons are situated along the canal. There are inadequate health services, poor waste management and insufficient public transportation. Hospitals, day care center, good roads and also play grounds are not enough."
- Phorntip Limpichaisopon (Im), Happy Hub, Thailand
On her way to school Im had to pass several Chumchoms (the underdeveloped semi urban areas of Bangkok). There she could observe inequality and social disparity: Children are neglected by their parents, elderly have no social security, open drainages are congested with trash. Im quit her job and started the organization “Happy Hub” that is dedicated to transform Chumchoms to Happy Hubs.
More info at: http://thaihappyhub.org/

Tony Joy (Nigeria)

"What comes to your mind when you hear the word rural? Is it poverty? Or under-developed? Nigeria has a population of over 180 million people and of this population 51.4% live in rural communities.
But the saddest part is 80% live below 1.25 dollars a day. It means a lot of people live in extreme poverty. But something interesting I found about these communities, they have a lot of resources that are often perceived as waste and can be used as their means of livelihood. But that is not being utilized.
At Durian, we empower rural communities to become self-sufficient to transform their local waste into value. For example, we teach them to transform bamboo to bicycle, the coco pots to soaps, the coconut shells into beautiful jewelries."
- Tony Joy, founder of Durian, Nigeria

Tony was 13, when she tried killing herself by jumping in front of a taxi. The driver was skilled, and just hit her foot.
Throughout her childhood, Tony often was told "You are waste!". At age 17, she left home, experiencing poverty, and low self-esteem, until she discovered her love for music and people who, like her, are seen as "waste". Tony's dream is to see empowered marginalized communities that turn waste into value.
More details about Tony’s project can be found at http://durian.org.ng/