South Asians among Asia Society’s Class of 2018

Asia Society has announced the 2018 Class Members of its Asia 21 Young Leaders Program, an unparalleled network of accomplished young professionals from across the Asia Pacific region, representing the new generation of leaders in government, business, arts, media, and the nonprofit sector.

The new class adds to a dynamic pool of more than 900 influential professionals under the age of 40 (at the time of selection) from 40 nations who are engaged in thought leadership, dialogue, friendship, and meaningful collaborations for positive impact on both local and global

Rashna Imam, Managing Partner of Akhtar Imam & Associates is from Bangladesh, says, “Leadership is fueled by a passionate vision. I have chosen the arena of law to realize mine. But visionary dreams cannot be realized without courage and integrity.”

Rashna Imam is an advocate of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. Growing up in Bangladesh, she experienced first-hand the myriad issues that plague developing nations. While pursuing a successful career in law, she learned how the right legal frameworks can have a tremendous impact in ameliorating those issues. She now devotes most of her time and energy to public interest work.

Prior to her shift in focus, she gained significant expertise in company and commercial Law as a corporate associate at Baker and McKenzie’s London office, where she had the opportunity to represent global giants like Arcelor Mittal and Schneider Electric. In Bangladesh, she advised clients like Visa Worldwide, Phillip Van Heusen, British American Tobacco, Phillip Morris International, and Ernst & Young. Imam has been ranked as a leading lawyer in Chambers and Partners, Asia-Pacific 2018. She obtained a First Class LLB (honors) degree from the University of Buckingham in the U.K. and the prestigious bachelor of civil law degree from the University of Oxford

Ravi Kumar, Founder of Code for Nepal says, “Traditionally, we consider leaders as those who lead from the top …. I have realized that to enable every team member to contribute fully, a leader has to empower and support them in their analysis and decision making.”

Ravi Kumar is the founder of Code for Nepal, a non-profit working to increase digital literacy and the use of open data in Nepal. Via the nonprofit, he is opening up Nepal’s data to make it more accessible and understandable and has launched scholarship programs to help youth and women in Nepal become digitally savvy. Currently, he is leading a digital strategy team at the World Bank’s Governance Global Practice that supports 700 staff in 90 countries. He is also helping to build capacity for evidence-based policymaking in Nepal through a World Bank project. In 2009, he co-founded Grassroot Movement in Nepal, a non-profit that has rebuilt 30 schools. He serves on Buena Vista University’s President’s Advisory Council.

Kumar has been named in Forbes 30 Under 30’s list of social entrepreneurs in Asia. He holds a master’s from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree from Buena Vista University.

Pradip Pariyar, Executive Chairperson of Samata Foundation is from Nepal. He says, “Leadership for me is to serve marginalized people around the world, create a positive impact in their lives, and create opportunities for them to build their leadership to change the society.”

Pradip Pariyar is the executive chairperson at SAMATA Foundation, which conducts policy research and advocates for the rights of the Dalits, the most marginalized community in Nepal, in order to end caste-based discrimination. As the elected president of the Association of Youth Organizations Nepal (AYON), he worked closely with government of Nepal to initiate a youth-responsive budget.

He was a member of the government task force that developed Youth Vision 2025, a 10-year governmental national youth development policy plan. He has trained thousands of youths in leadership, peacebuilding, and conflict-sensitive journalism across Asia and Africa. He founded the Nepal Youth Forum to focus on policy advocacy, awareness, and youth empowerment. In 2011, Pariyar was selected as a youth fellow by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Pariyar serves as the chairperson of the Nepal Policy Center, a youth-led think tank. In 2015, he received the Youth Leadership Award from the Nepali Government’s Ministry of Youth and Sports for his decade-long contribution to youth leadership development across Nepal. He studied at Tribhuvan University.

Roshan Paul, Co-Founder and CEO of Amani Institute, India, says, “Leadership is not the charismatic visionary leading the pack, but the guide who helps the stragglers keep up. In that sense, everyone can be a leader … stepping up, and showing up even when you don’t want to, is the key to leadership.”

Roshan Paul is co-founder and CEO of Amani Institute, a new model of higher education that helps people build impactful careers. In just five years, Amani has become a $1 million financially sustainable nonprofit with offices in Kenya, Brazil, and India. Prior to Amani, he worked with Ashoka for 10 years.

He is a member of the World Economic Forum Global Future Council on Behavioral Science. He has lectured at over 40 universities globally, including Harvard, Georgetown, and Johns Hopkins. He gave the commencement speech at the University of San Diego in 2015 and a TEDx talk at TEDxAmsterdamEd and TEDx Bangalore Salon. His writing has been published in Forbes, Stanford Social Innovation Review, MIT’s innovations journal, and more. He has also written two books: Such a Lot of World, a novel, and Your Work Begins at No, a collection of essays on social impact education.

Paul holds a master’s in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School, a bachelor’s from Davidson College, and a certificate in creative leadership as a founding participant of THNK: The Amsterdam School for Creative Leadership.

Roopam Sharma, FRSA at Research Scientist and Innovator Eyeluminati is from India. He says,

“Leadership to me is applying practical, innovative, and sustainable approaches to benefit society in general, with an emphasis on those who belong to the bottom billion of the socio-economic pyramid … and helping people live a better life.”

Roopam Sharma, FRSA is an Indian scientist and innovator, creating social impact through disruptive technological inventions to solve perennial problems. He is best known for his work on Manovue, the world’s first intelligent personal assistance system for the visually impaired. Manovue combines vision intelligence and the internet of things in the form of an inexpensive wearable device, delivering a technology that replaces Braille and empowering more than 94 percent of visually impaired people.

Sharma is the youngest person ever to be recognized as one of the top innovators under 35 by MIT Technology Review (2016) and was awarded the Gifted Citizen Prize in 2016, an international prize that honors the best social entrepreneur with an ability to benefit 10 million people over the next six years. He recently received the National Youth Award, the highest youth honor in the country given by the president of India for his contribution to the field of national development and social service through research and innovation. He earned a bachelor’s of technology in computer science

Anam Zakaria, an Independent Oral Historian, Researcher, Author & Cultural Facilitator in
Pakistan, says, “I want people around me to be able to freely share their ideas and empower them to execute those ideas without fear of failing. Because this is how they will learn. This is how I learned and is what brought me where I am.”

Anam Zakaria is an independent oral historian, researcher, author, and cultural facilitator. She previously led The Citizens Archive of Pakistan’s (CAP) Oral History program, conducting hundreds of oral histories with Partition survivors and religious minorities. She frequently writes on issues of conflict and peace in South Asia for various news outlets and peacebuilding platforms.

Her first book, The Footprints of Partition: Narratives of Four Generations of Pakistanis and Indians (2015) won the KLF-German Peace Prize 2017. Her second book, Between the Great Divide: A Journey into Pakistan-administered Kashmir (2018), employs oral histories to explore the human impact of Kashmir conflict. She also served as director of Exchange for Change at CAP, connecting thousands of schoolchildren in India, Pakistan, and the U.S. through letters, postcards, and a physical exchange. She continues this line of work as an independent cultural facilitator and is currently connecting children in India and Pakistan through virtual exchanges with the goal of inclusive dialogue, tolerance, and peacebuilding.

Zakaria has a degree in international development from McGill University and a certification in psychotherapy and counseling with a special interest in trauma and healing in conflict zones.

Namgay Zam is an Independent Multimedia Journalist and Activist from Bhutan, says, “Leadership is empathetic service guided by the belief that all humans are inherently good and deserve a fair chance at a decent and fulfilled life.”

Namgay Zam is an independent multimedia journalist, a media and communications trainer, and an activist. She was the producer and host of Bhutan’s first and only mental health show: Mind Over Matter Bhutan. She has been a journalist for the last 10 years, beginning her career with the country’s first national youth radio station, then moving to the national broadcaster as a producer, news editor, and anchor in English. She is also the only Bhutanese journalist to have covered the World Cup. As an activist, Zam works for social justice, gender equity, and mental well-being.

She often works pro bono with several NGOs that align with her activist learnings. Zam also works closely with the Bhutan Network for Empowering Women to push for more women leadership, and with Bhutanese youth to help them find and build drug-free creative spaces in Bhutan. One such project is called “Gokab,” which is now the country’s biggest street-dance competition.

Zam was a Humphrey Fellow at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She has a bachelor’s degree from the Lady Shriram College for Women, Delhi University.

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