Empowering the Marginalized
Shruti Nagvanshi, a social worker and human rights activist based in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, has devoted her life to reaching out to the ultra-poor and marginalized communities in India. Born in Dashashwmedh, Varanasi on 2 January 1974, she married Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi on 22 February 1992 and has a son, Kabeer Karunik, a Business management Graduate who is also a national level snooker player.
Shruti Nagvanshi has been actively working in the field of human rights and social justice for over two decades. She is a strong advocate for the rights of Dalit and Adivasi communities and has been involved in several campaigns and movements aimed at fighting discrimination and injustice. Her work has not only helped in the upliftment of marginalized communities but also helped in creating awareness about the issues faced by these communities.
Shruti’s passion for social work began in her early years, when she was part of several local programs aimed at empowering and uplifting underprivileged communities. She later became involved in the Uttar Pradesh chapter of the United Nations Youth Organization, which further solidified her commitment to making a difference in the lives of those in need.
She has faced many challenges in her career, including lack of support and understanding from society. “Perpetuity of patriarchy and mind of hegemonic masculinity are the biggest challenges for participation and development of leadership of a woman,” says Shruti. However, her mother’s encouragement towards education helped her overcome obstacles and complete her studies. It was during her college years that she realized the lack of opportunities available to marginalized communities, and it was this realization that gave her the courage to participate in social work and learn more about the world around her.
Shruti is the founder of the Savitri Bai Phule Mahila Panchayat, a women’s forum that works towards empowering religious minorities in the framework of the rule of law. She is also a co-founder of the Jan Mitra Nyas and People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (JMN/PVCHR), an organization that works towards creating a world with dignity for all by breaking the culture of silence and impunity of marginalized communities through active listening, empathy, and changing knowledge, attitude and practices (KAP).
One of the biggest challenges that Shruti has faced in start of her career is the lack of support and understanding from her family and friends. “Marrying into an orthodox hierarchy-conforming family had its own challenges but in course of time helped me understand the nature and consequences of the mind of caste on others from a close proximity,” she says. Despite initial hesitation from her parents-in-law, who were not comfortable with the fact that she and her husband worked for the “untouchables,” they eventually became her strongest supporters.
When asked about balancing her personal and professional life, Shruti says, “Passion and commitment are ways to overcome short-term obstacles and long-term challenges in life. False implications, intimidation, and corrupt bureaucracy became part of life which demanded courage, patience, and continuous non-violence resistance.”
When it comes to the current organizational culture for working women, Shruti believes that there is a shift happening in the business world towards a more democratic and inclusive approach. “There is a saying, ‘Democracy prefers market but market does not prefer democracy’. However, the ‘Gharana’ culture of business is giving way to a more business ecology with value innovation. Democratization of business and wealth distribution at the grassroots level is the need of the hour,” she says.
Shruti Nagvanshi has received several awards for her work in social justice and human rights. She has been recognized for her contributions to uplifting marginalized communities and her tireless efforts to create a more inclusive and just society. Some of the notable awards she has received include the warded the Top 100 Women Achievers of India in 2016 by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) and Facebook jointly in the category of ‘Access to Justice Protecting Women and their rights’ and Public Peace prize from Canada. Her work has been acknowledged by film actor Amir Khan and she has been invited to participate in Satymev Jayate, a TV show hosted by Aamir Khan that discussed issue of rape that went on air in 2014. Her latest book with academic Dr. Archana Kaushik is Margins to Centre Stage: Empowering Dalits in India described work of JMN in 50 villages and some slums in the most marginalised communities in four blocks of the Varanasi district to work on the issue of children’s health with the support of Child Rights and You (CRY). Maternal, neonatal, and malnourished death declined in these communities.
Despite the challenges she has faced in her career, Shruti remains committed to her work and continues to inspire others to make a difference in the world. Through her tireless efforts, she has shown that with passion, commitment, and a willingness to learn and adapt, it is possible to make a real impact in the lives of marginalized communities.