This institute in T'puram is training people from socially challenged backgrounds to empower others just like them

Kanthari is an institute that trains individuals with social, physical or economic challenges to set up platforms that can empower others like them through a comprehensive programme
The kanthari curriculum is a journey in five acts
The kanthari curriculum is a journey in five acts

The Kanthari grows in a thousand backyards in Kerala. The small pepper chilly that is indigenous to the state has a spicy bite to it and a thousand medicinal properties. In Malayali culture, the term has come to represent a symbol for those who have the guts to challenge blind tradition and the status quo.  For its namesake, kanthari Institute of Leadership, the word points to a new type of leader who emerges from the margins of society. And if you are wondering with the ‘k’ isn’t capitalised, it’s because it represents the flat hierarchy of the organisation.

Founded in Thiruvananthapuram by Sabriye Tenberken, a German national and Paul Kronenberg from the Netherlands in 2009, the major intention behind kanthari was for people who have been neglected by society to reclaim their power by training them in leadership qualities. The 2-month experiential programme includes 7 months on campus and 5 months mentorship support. The participants are trained to set up their own platforms/organisations/social ventures where they can help others like them overcome adversity.

Founders Paul Kronenberg and Sabriye Tenberken

Administrator of the institute, Ajith Kumar explains the idea, “Our doors are open to anyone who has survived social, physical and economic challenge, wish for change and have the courage to work towards it. But when you come from a section of society that has been neglected over decades, you don’t get many opportunities to realise your dreams. We work towards helping these people by teaching them to build their own luck.”

“At kanthari, we are not looking for education qualifications, what is more important is the commitment and passion to get a project of their own started. We accept all from a 4th standard dropout to a PhD scholar. What matters is an intrinsic commitment to society,” says Ajith. Everyone from the physically challenged, to environmentally conscious, to women who have been victims of abuse/domestic violence, HIV positive people, and/or orphans received training at kanthari, so they were enabled to prevent societal injustice from happening as it happened to them.

TRAIN GAIN: An ongoing training session

Over the years, 226 participants from 48 countries have been trained. This has resulted in135+ organisations and initiatives that were brought to life and continue to run successfully reaching thousands of people who are situated on the margins of society, every day. Due to the Coronavirus, it was not possible to hold a course last year. However, on April 5th, they are reopening their classes online and hope to transition back into physical classrooms by May 25.

The kanthari curriculum is a journey in five acts which takes participants through a series of activities which include vocational training and a six months diploma course in Entrepreneurship Skills Development which is affiliated to Bharat Sevak Samaj, a national development agency, promoted by the Indian government.

Ajith says, “It is about empowering the trainees to make change in their communities. We don’t tell them what to do, they come here with a clear idea to make a difference and our job is to help them realise that ambition and to work towards it. We help them give structure to that idea, provide tools and skills that are required to create a solid foundation for their own organisations. ”

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