Vinitika is a psychologist by training and is currently part of the Resource Mobilization and Communications team in PRADAN.
She was born in Lucknow, India and is the youngest of 5 siblings. Her father being a public servant, the family moved around the country every couple of years through school years. She has a master’s in Applied Psychology from the University of Delhi, South Campus with specialisation in Social Psychology. She has a B.A. in Psychology from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, University of Delhi.
Having grown up in different towns across the country, Vinitika values diversity and change. As the daughter of a police official, her experiences with conflict and violence at different levels have inspired a commitment to addressing conflict and violence and bringing healing and inner peace by working with individuals and communities.
During her M.A, she joined Pravah, a start-up non-profit, working with young people on issues of discrimination and violence to create a more just and peaceful society. She continued to work with them for the next 8 years. During her time with Pravah she developed and facilitated a 62 hour curriculum for young people between the ages of 14-18 years that took them on a journey from ‘Self to Society’. It facilitated conversations and discussions on inner–awareness and leadership, challenged prejudices and stereotypes towards inspiring a deeper connection with oneself and the world. Over a period of 8 years, the team had grown to 15 facilitators working with approximately 400 young people annually across diverse schools.
Vinitika also led the first international youth exchange programme with VSO, UK. She lived and worked with rural communities in India and UK along with a team of 18 young people from both the countries. In the UK, the team worked on building awareness and harmony on the issue of racial discrimination.
In 2006, she moved to the U.S for a short period of time. There she volunteered with a non-profit focused on anti-oppression work with young people from the African American and Hispanic communities.
She joined PRADAN in 2007. PRADAN works with very poor, marginalised rural communities with a mission to end poverty and challenge inequalities at multiple levels.
At PRADAN , her work involves creating different avenues for educated young people to engage with issues of disparity and poverty. The initiative aims at cultivating an empathetic understanding amongst young people through hands- on exposure to very poor communities. The internships and apprenticeship programmes help to build a perspective on inequalities, poverty and development by living and working with very poor, marginalised rural communities in India.
Her portfolio includes bringing issues of rural poverty, sustainability to the educated urban young people as well as institutes of higher education. PRADAN believes that university education in India has a long way to go in terms of creating socially conscious and empathetic citizens with a sense of agency towards bringing transformation in society. Vinitika leads an initiative which aims to trigger conversations that question status quo; reflect on our understanding of structures that perpetuate power asymmetries, inequality, exclusion and discrimination. The programme equips young people with skills and knowledge that help them address gaps that prevent India from truly delivering the vision of equality and democracy as laid out in the constitution of the country.
She is passionate about building a world which is more inclusive and non-violent. As such, she volunteers for the India chapter for Creators of Peace (CoP), an international women’s initiative empowering women to be radical peace builders by:
- building networks of friendship and forgiveness across racial, religious and social divides
- sharing responsibility for their part in the perpetration of conflict and its resolution
- breaking the chains of hate and revenge.
Growing up in India it is almost impossible to go through life without witnessing disparity and inequalities at various levels. I grew up as the youngest of 5 siblings. My father worked with the Indian Police Service while my mother worked outside the home as and when child rearing responsibilities allowed for it. As a child, I witnessed numerous situations that involved my father working with poor people who came looking for police interventions, looking for justice because their voices were not being heard in the ‘system’. Most times, it was because they were extremely poor, illiterate and belonged to socially disadvantaged communities because of their caste, gender and religion.
I remember one of the earliest conversations with my father about why some people were poorer than others when I was 5 years old. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t given an answer right away but instead, was asked to look around and think more about it. That’s how I learnt that it was important to ask the question ‘why?’ when we tried to make sense of the world around us. I think this is where the journey and constant attempt to ask questions and seek answers started and still continues.
PRADAN has visualised a just and equitable society to sustain the transformation of the human condition (in terms of physical, social, political, psychological and transcendental) that it wants to bring about. Instigating and sustaining such a change requires deliberate attention to the beliefs, values, norms and practices prevailing in society. My work with PRADAN has strengthened my belief that poverty and exclusion in India continue to perpetuate as a result of unequal power distribution.
Our team’s research project is focused on inequalities, especially intersecting inequalities and their relationship with absolute poverty. It is located in Bastar district in Chattisgarh, central India. The Adivasi communities in this region are at the bottom of the pyramid when we talk about access, opportunity, participation and choice. I believe this research project on how Adivasi (tribal) Gond women experience and negotiate gender inequalities will contribute to the larger body of knowledge and understanding in the global community by bringing a different perspective and experience from this part of the world. This would be valuable to the larger discourse on absolute poverty and inequality especially in the arena of influencing policy and further research on the issue of intersecting inequalities.
Inequality exists in all forms and at various levels. When we speak of structural inequality, poverty is only one of the many outcomes though a very hard hitting one. In India, we have been dealing with the challenge of addressing chronic and absolute poverty for many years now. The growing apathy to the human conditions as it exists today is very disturbing.
I hope to widen my perspective on Inequalities around the world and the different ways in which the Atlantic Fellows are working on the subject.