The Azadi Project

Agra, a city pulsating with history and culture, became the backdrop for a transformative retreat organized by The Azadi Project. The itinerary for the Azadi Leaders Retreat promised a profound exploration of values, with visits to the iconic Taj Mahal, an elephant conservatory, a café courageously run by acid attack survivors, a captivating historical storytelling session at the Taj Hotel, and an enlightening workshop by artisans who inherited the legacy of Taj’s engravings. Every minute of our retreat was designed to inspire, uplift, and empower! 

“One of the most invaluable aspects of the retreat was connecting with like-minded Azadi leaders through the long hours of travel and forming enduring friendships through fun little activities and group conversations.”

At the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservatory, we witnessed the unshakable spirit of these majestic creatures. Through documentaries, interactive sessions, and personal encounters, we learned about their past trials, struggles, and the pain inflicted upon them by humans who exploited them for profit or entertainment. Bijli’s (one of the resident elephants)  resilience deeply resonated with me, reminding me of the strength within us, waiting to be discovered during challenging times. The conservatory is a haven for the elephants. No longer burdened by heavy loads or subjected to harsh conditions, these magnificent animals now enjoy a happier life, complete with regular baths, a nutritious diet, and attentive veterinary care. 

Sheroes Hangout is a cafe run by acid attack survivors. Interacting with acid attack survivors and witnessing their optimism toward life reminded us of the power of courage. Their stories of survival and determination inspired us to embrace bravery in the face of adversity and to advocate for justice, equality, and positive change. These remarkable women taught us that love and support can triumph over misfortune, inspiring us to be more empathetic and inclusive in our own lives. I had the privilege of listening to the stories of Geeta, Rukkiya, and others. Witnessing their strength and empathy taught me the extraordinary power of compassion and the importance of supporting one another on our journey to healing. 

Noor-e-Taj, the historical storytelling session at the Taj Hotel transported us to bygone eras. These narratives sparked reflections on our own lives and the legacies we aspire to create. We listened to the descriptions of heroes who had shaped history. As we stood before the Taj Mahal, it seemed to call us to infuse love and dedication into everything we do, knowing that our actions have the potential to create a ripple effect of change. In the evening, we attended a workshop led by the artisans, descendants of those who intricately engraved the Taj. I learned that true mastery lies in the skill itself and the passion and reverence one has for their craft. Witnessing their artistry reaffirmed my belief in the power of preserving traditions and ensuring the continuity of cultural legacies. 

Finally, one of the most invaluable aspects of the retreat was connecting with like-minded Azadi leaders through the long hours of travel and forming enduring friendships through fun little activities and group conversations. Each of us brought unique perspectives, dreams, and experiences, sharing diverse stories and shared aspirations. We cultivated bonds through meaningful conversations, shared laughter, and moments of vulnerability. The forged friendships will be the pillars of support and inspiration as we continue to work towards our shared goals.

This day-long retreat in Agra allowed us to step back from our daily lives and immerse ourselves in a profound journey of self-discovery that replenished the desire to contribute to a better world, guided by the values we discovered and the friendships we forged. As we return to our respective missions, let us carry the spirit of Agra within us.

The Azadi Leadership Program was launched in early 2023 by The Azadi Project in partnership with Libra Group Social Responsibility. The Program aims to provide employability and leadership skills to women and youth from refugee and marginalized communities who face intersectional biases and be a career springboard by providing them with internship/employment opportunities in the industry of their choice. Over the years, the program hopes to contribute to having a higher representation of women in the global workforce while nurturing them to become community leaders who inspire and encourage more participation of marginalized women and youth in the skilled labor workforce in India. 

The Azadi Leadership Program has three focus areas – employability skills, Leadership skills, and Internship opportunities. The Azadi Leaders are being trained by experts and industry leaders. Currently, they’re working on individual social projects as part of the program to create a sustainable impact in their communities. Towards the end of the program, each leader will get to work on a professional affiliation/internship with corporate, non for profit, and public sector organizations. The on-the-job experience provides training, mentorship, and support to each participant including a stipend.