Civil Society has the potential to play a fundamental role in bringing about change for a brighter future. This article features stories of individuals who have brought about change and bettered the lives of others, illustrating that each of us, in our own special way, can can help one another to build a better future.

In an interview with La Cohorte earlier this year, Mawlana Hazar Imam said, “I have always taken the view that civil society must play a fundamental role in the future of all populations. So, we have to consolidate and strengthen it. And that means taking the most important institutions of civil society and giving them support and encouragement wherever we can perhaps help them do things differently from anything we have known up till now.”

The stories highlighted below, selected from many other such examples, involve individuals offering their time and energy to contribute to wider society and the greater good.

Sonia Mackwani (Western India)

Sonia Mackwani established Touching Lives, an NGO in Dahisar, Mumbai, that works towards education and empowerment of slum children in Mumbai. We know that children are the future, and Sonia believes that when we serve, we gain as much — if not more — as those we serve. She regards her role as a calling, a spiritual journey of aligning her life’s work with a wider vision of what she should achieve in this lifetime. Her NGO’s three centres focus on inculcating the core value systems of ethical and correct behaviour, the capacity to embrace life’s future challenges, and the confidence to succeed in later life. Sonia’s work has positively impacted over 250 students over the last 15 years.

Munira Sen (Southern India)

Munira Sen’s contribution to civil society began with voicing the need for change. She began her career as a social activist and evolved into a transformer and change agent. In her 17-year tenure at Madhyam, a development communications organisation, Munira was involved in setting up a Public Service Advertising Cell that designed helpline campaigns on various social issues. She also helped set up Kala Madhyam a social entrepreneurship venture that marketed folk arts and crafts for artisans. Over time the company has set up Kala Madhyam Tribal Art Gallery. 

Today, Munira is based at Common Purpose, India, and helped set up the Bengaluru Chapter. She works with large audiences and acknowledges that each of the platforms she has worked on has prepared her for the future. Learning by doing has also been a great practice for her personal and professional growth.

Amirbhai Lalani: (Northern Saurashtra)

Amirbhai Lalani, aged 80 and from Mahuva in North Saurashtra, is a fine example of a self appointed impact worker. Passion defines him. He is dedicated to the betterment of society and helps to build a sustainable future.

Amirbhai started his career as a primary school teacher, and upon retirement decided to contribute to the civil society sector. He set up the Shree Allah Ram Sahita charitable trust in 2006 with a vision to positively impact the community in Mahuva. His Trust has the name Allah Ram as it is designed to help all communities, regardless of faith background. He started with a vision to help 20 families in 2006, and in 2015 the number had increased to 400 families. His target is to reach 500. Amirbhai helps to provide meals and sustenance to these families. He also works tirelessly to obtain sponsorship for them, so as to help them to build a happy and sustainable future. 

Dr Salim Hirani: (North Eastern Gujarat)

Dr Salim Hirani’s project “Parenting for Peace,” fondly referred to as the Parent Ki Patshala delivers programmes in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Karnataka, Delhi, and even Dubai. Dr Hirani resides in Surat, and believes that a happy childhood helps to form confident adults and a peaceful society.

The project’s curriculum is scientifically developed and is delivered in English, Hindi, and Gujarati, and the group has created a platform of learning by introducing sessions where facilitators from all regions of India share their learnings.

Dr Hirani has also been a part of the Business Development Service of the Aga Khan Economic Planning Board. The programme is designed to improve the quality of life of members of the Jamat by equipping them with business skills. The groundwork of the volunteers in identifying families, training them, holding workshops for upgrading of knowledge and renewal of learning has been a very gratifying experience.

In India, everyone has a story to share. Through these examples, each one is believes that a passionate and caring civil society will make the country’s future better, and are working hard to realise this vision.