Published: 02nd August 2021
This 23-year-old LSE graduate won the Diana Award, along with two other awards in a week. Here's her story
Palak Sharma co-founded the Green Governance Initiative, a programme to train young people to work on Sustainable Development Goals and connect them with lawmakers to implement their ideas
It has been almost 24 years since a car accident killed Diana, Princess of Wales. Palak Sharma was born in the same year. "I'd have loved to have been part of a world where Princess Diana was still alive," she tells us. So, last week when she got to know that she was one of the recipients of the Diana Award, one of the highest honours in the world for young humanitarians, her happiness knew no bounds. But the honour doesn't end with that. Believe it or not, in the very same week, this young woman from Kota, Rajasthan, also won the Plan India Impact Award and the Bangladesh Digital Social Innovation Award for her work on period poverty, rural sanitation & sustainable development during COVID-19
So, what exactly does she do? A graduate of the London School of Economics, Palak is the co-founder of the Green Governance Initiative (GGI), a programme that trains young people to work on Sustainable Development Goals and connects them with lawmakers to implement their ideas. "I co-founded GGI in August 2019, right before I went to London to pursue my master's," says Palak, "Here, we try to bridge the gap between people of our age and lesser, who have stellar ideas, and connect them with Members of Parliament. We also train these young people on the UN's Sustainable Development Goals and put them through a one-month workshop where they interact with people working on the ground, to generate their own ideas. If that idea appeals to any MP, they will work along with these youngsters to make it a reality."
She tells us how the idea came up. "When I was in the final year of my undergraduate degree in the University of Delhi, I had no opportunities to interact with lawmakers. I had several policy ideas and I wanted to interact with lawmakers to be able to implement them. While I thought this was going to be q difficult, I got in touch with Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, the MP who represents Jodhpur. This helped me understand how the system works and I was able to execute my idea on sanitation," she says. GGI currently has ten MPs on board. They have also trained around 3,500 youngsters. "Currently, we have people being trained by the MPs of Durg (in Chhattisgarh) and Churu (in Rajasthan)," she says.
Palak also goes on to add that the politicians in India are actually quite receptive to the ideas of the youth. "I realised, much later on, that I was more than welcome. So, through GGI, I am trying to bridge the whole communication gap," she says. She recalls how the training process was taken completely virtual even before the pandemic struck, as Palak had left for London right after she kickstarted the initiative. She says that she would set a timetable, trying to strike a balance between the time zones of both countries. "The only time when the participants met was in February 2020. That was the only offline workshop that we conducted," she says.