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5 Indian Fellowships That Enable & Empower Young India To Create Change in Rural Areas

5 Indian Fellowships That Enable & Empower Young India To Create Change in Rural Areas

Always wanted to take up a project and create lasting impact in rural India? Here’s your chance.


This article has been published in partnership with SBI Youth for India Fellowship.


“India lives in villages” — these words by Mahatma Gandhi many decades ago still hold true today. More than 60 per cent of Indians continue to live in rural India where they lack access to basic infrastructure, primary healthcare, education and organised banking, as compared to their urban counterparts. To bridge this inequity that rural communities face, young Indians need to look beyond classrooms and cubicles and work with the communities on the ground to create a real impact.

Several fellowships in India provide such opportunities and resources for the youth to join hands with rural communities to facilitate change.

Here’s a list of five such fellowships that are empowering rural communities while creating young change-makers.

1. SBI Youth for India Fellowship

The SBI Youth For India Fellowship, which started in 2011, is a 13-month-long fellowship for educated urban youth between the ages of 21 to 32 years. The fellowship aims to ensure that every village has the necessary capacities to develop itself sustainably.

Fellows work with local NGOs on an ongoing project or create a new community project to address rural struggles. The projects cover 12 broad thematic areas such as healthcare, women empowerment, water conversation, self-governance, and education.

The fellowship starts with a week-long orientation where the fellows are introduced to the concepts of rural development. The placement of the fellows will be decided based on a combination of their interests, skill-sets, and the needs of the partner NGOs. The fellows then need to move to the village to spend the following nine months implementing their projects.

During the fellowship, fellows are provided a monthly allowance of Rs 15,000 and mentorship by experienced professionals in the field. The last few months are spent identifying a local community member who could take over the project.

So far, more than 350 SBI fellows have made a difference at more than 150 rural villages across 25 states of India.

You can apply for the SBI Youth for India Fellowship here.

2. AIF Banyan Impact Fellowship

Started by the American India Foundation (AIF) in 2001, this is a one-year fellowship programme for individuals aged between 21 and 35 years from India and the US.

As a part of the fellowship, the fellows will work with various developmental organisations in India on a range of projects such as education, health and livelihoods. The fellowship aims to advance social and economic development of local communities through collaboration and capacity-building. Through their projects, the fellows work with local communities to create sustainable solutions.

Since 2001, AIF has trained and supported 490 fellows and partnered with 214 organisations across the country.

3. Gandhi Fellowship

The Gandhi Fellowship is an intensive, two-year residential professional program that helps young people learn necessary leadership skills while reforming public education. The fellowship is for individuals in the age group of 18 to 26 years and has three programs: School Leadership Development Program, District Transformation Program and State Transformation Program.

Each fellow is assigned five schools. Within each school, they are expected to transform the school development plan, such as increasing school enrollment, community participation and improving mid-day meal systems. The fellows get a first-hand experience of the education system as they consult with the headmasters, teachers and other government officials to overcome challenges.

By 2020, the fellowship has expanded across the 14 states with over 500 fellows.

4. India Fellowship

Started in 2009 as the ICICI Fellowship and later renamed to India Fellowship, this is an 18-month full-time social leadership program. As part of the fellowship, 17 months are spent working with a partner organization in a rural or a peri-urban region in India to bring about social change.

Apart from working alongside local communities to create change, the fellows are provided with training, mentorship and take part in fundraising activities. The fellows work on diverse assignments ranging from migration, education, healthcare to livelihoods.

The fellowship has nearly 70 partner organisations and 194 fellows working across Rajasthan, Haryana, Karnataka, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

5. Azim Premji Foundation Fellowship

This fellowship is a one-year programme where fellows work at government schools in rural India to improve public education.

Fellows have to work at the block level of a district in one of the five states; Chhattisgarh Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand or Karnataka. They spend a minimum of 150 days of the programme in a government school classroom where they engage with children, teachers and the community.

At present the fellowship has reached 46 districts across six states in India.

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