Mr Aditya Kavia is the co-founder of Spinning Wheel Leadership Foundation (SWLF), Gandhi Fellow and a graduate from Institute of Law, Nirma University. SWLF was started with a simple mission – to empower students with the 21st century life skills and to create self-reliant and effective leaders for tomorrow. Today SWLF works with over 4000 school students across the villages in Rajasthan, empowering them with competency in digital, financial, environmental, multicultural, legal, civic, media and gender literacies in order to build the basic life skills capacities in all students. In this interview, Mr Aditya discusses about his journey from a law graduate to the co-founder of SWLF-SWIP. He has been interviewed by EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador Akshita Totla, who is currently pursuing law from ILNU
- Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I am a law graduate by qualification and a social entrepreneur by trade. I was driven by a strong commitment to make a positive change and provide quality education experiences to young people. My experience of working with education systems in tribal villages of Rajasthan during Gandhi Fellowship motivated me to launch the “Spinning Wheel Leadership Foundation”. The organisation was started with a vision to tap into the creativity and potential of young people and create a community of problem solvers in every village. Today SWLF works with over 4000 school students across villages in Rajasthan, imparting crucial life skills that are keys to success in the 21st century but out of reach for these students. The organisation aims to create effective, confident and empathetic leaders for tomorrow’s world.
- Why and how did you decide to pursue law?
While growing up, the issues of injustice and unfair treatment of masses affected me a lot. Thus, pursuing law felt a right way to support people, ensuring justice and leaving a quality impact in their lives. I believe that law as a field of study gives immense learning exposure and its multidisciplinary approach helps to develop knowledge about multiple things.
- You spent a lot of time debating in college, what did u enjoy about it, why do you feel debating is important for a law student?
Debating allowed me to engage with theoretical and empirical constructs in the world around us and forced me to expand the remit of my knowledge and worldview. As a law student, this was invaluable for me in applying the foundational and practical skills which I learnt in the classes. It also honed my skills of critical thinking, sharp argumentation, rebuttals, the skills of combining research and communicating knowledge. Personally, it helped me build confidence and exposed me to a whole new network of friends and colleagues around the country and indeed the world!
- How did you decide on going ahead with the Gandhi fellowship?
I had a deep-seated desire to work at the grass-root levels particularly in socio-economically marginalised communities. I also shared an interest to work in the education sector and understand its functioning at ground level. Gandhi Fellowship appeared like a promising experience which blended both of these interests. This Fellowship was personally challenging and difficult but it acted like a transformational experience in my life’s journey.
- Tell us about your initiative of SWLF.
Spinning Wheel Leadership Foundation (SWLF) was started in 2016 with a simple mission – to provide students with the life skills that are essential for the 21st century world. I believe that traditional education infrastructure is already overburdened by the requirements of basic scholastic education, and is therefore incapable of providing these soft skills to students. Additionally, in rural settings, students lack access to basic education opportunities and resources.
In this context, SWLF works to train students in the two core components of life skills education. First is the capacity or knowledge of basic digital, legal, environmental, financial and gender literacies, amongst others. The second is having the culture and opportunities to use these skills as collaborative, critical thinking leaders who are well-equipped problem solvers in their daily life and in their immediate environment. Also, the interns are provided with a life-long mentorship experience to build leadership skills and widen their perspective while working in the social sector.
- How your journey as a lawyer and a Gandhi Fellow helped you in your work as a co-founder of SWLF?
Both of these experiences have played a very important role in my life. My journey as a lawyer has helped me to ask and think the right questions and helped me to develop a people-centric outlook while working. My experience of performing and supervising debates has added confidence, rational way of looking and measuring things. These learnings have inadvertently helped me in my decision-making processes for SWLF at various points. I closely worked in rural communities and understood issues from other people’s lenses. Fellowship gave me a platform to work and engage with groups of diverse settings and cultures coming together to work for a cause my confidence to work in this space multi folded as well as I became accustomed working with diverse settings. The Fellowship emphasises on building self-awareness which I have tried to bring in our internship program as well.
- Often, college interns do not get grassroots level exposure in the social sector setups. So was this a factor when you started SWLF?
While I had a great experience with my internship, I was aware that students often felt dissatisfied with their internships. Prior to starting our internship program, we conducted research with over a 100 law students across years to understand their previous experiences with different NGO internships. This research revealed startling results for us – 68 per cent of the students were not assigned with a mentor during their internship and only 29 per cent had undergone an induction process before starting their internship. Moreover more than 60 per cent of all students highlighted that their first priority in a social sector internship was to gain on-ground exposure and experience, which most of their internships did not provide. Barely 15 per cent of the students said they would recommend their places of work to other students. This highlighted a dire need for a platform that allows young people to engage in a self-change and leadership journey, while also exposing them to the on-ground realities of education system. This is how the whole idea and setup of the Spinning Wheel Internship Program was born.
- What is the unique factor about Spinning Wheel internship program?
SWIP is a month-long residential internship program for the university students from cities across India. Interns live and work in tribal villages in Rajasthan for a month that involves training school students in life skills education as well as conducting a grounded and participatory research to understand and report local problems in the community. For the university students, it is an immersive rural leadership program that becomes a unique experience of social work as well as self-growth through these new leadership experiences. For the schools, it brings both new energy and new insights into the training being given to the students and facilitating the problem-solving projects. Over the last four years, we have had many students from Delhi University, Nirma University, TISS, etc. It has been a true delight to be able to see talented and committed young leaders making a real change in these communities, while also polishing their self-confidence and abilities. Further, in our quest to make this process truly unique, the intern’s association with us does not end after this internship. We also run a post-intern engagement journey, where for three years after finishing their internship, the interns receive customised leadership and capacity building support from resources and experts from around the world.
- What is one piece of advice you would like to give law students?
I would ask every student to follow their heart. If they realise law is not their calling, then they should not feel pressured to go ahead with it because in the past they thought of pursuing it. They should make the best of every opportunity during their college, learn different things, build skills and get exposure. Law as a degree provides you with the interdisciplinary and practical base to be able to really expand your horizons. The most important thing is to put your skills and abilities in use where you feel belonged and happy, it will make the end results much fruitful.