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Empowering Marginalised Children through Taekwondo

April 27, 2022

Shashvi Thakur is a student of ISDM's Post-Graduate Program in Development Management. During the rural immersion part of the program called 'Realising India', she visited Morena District in Madhya Pradesh where she documented the story of a dynamic instructor who trains young girls and boys from the marginalised Bedia community in Taekwondo in an attempt to help them visualise unimaginable possibilities.

On entering the Taekwondo academy during the class, the sight of two little girls practising with an unbelievable level of perfection at such a young age surprised me. It raised my curiosity to know more about their guru. Mahesh is the man behind this academy, and I found him to be a great person. Through our conversations, he opened up about his life.

He teaches at a school with minimum pay, which he said was satisfactory for his family, even though it didn't seem that way. Mahesh has travelled worldwide while competing as a Taekwondo black belt holder, which is evident from his office walls adorned with medals and certificates. Mahesh possesses a progressive and scientific attitude towards his wife, students, and children. He supports innovative teaching methods over orthodox ones, believing that the whole responsibility to understand and learn the content is not left with the child alone but also on himself. Mahesh seemed to be active enough to unlearn, relearn and redesign his teaching methods based on the children's feedback. The pedagogy used by Mahesh is similar to strategies followed by more prominent organisations, which made his efforts astounding, especially since he was a member of an orthodox community on the ground with no formal training. All that he has learned has been from sheer experience.

Empowering Marginalised Children through Taekwondo
ISDM students addressing a Mahila Shakti Workshop during the Realising India fieldwork
retreat in Morena.

The academy is a boon to the community, especially for girls from the Bedia community who would have otherwise become subject to patriarchy. They would be left to live the vicious cycle of either marriage or prostitution or, in some cases, both. His affordable service has guided these young girls by opening up their choices. He even trained his wife in this 'life saving' artform, and I could see the morals and values that he stood up for, reflected in his children's conduct. This family has frequently faced strong resistance from other families from within the community, who see their work as a threat to their culture.

On receiving an opportunity to work outside Morena, where he would be paid fair wages for his skill, Mahesh rejected the proposal. Even as his family faced challenges of social security, Mahesh chose to stay within the community and gradually bring change within. He attributes his wife for standing beside him, which was indeed brought out during the pandemic when she had to manage the house with no ration coming in for days. There have been many moments when the community has let him down or not supported him, but he never takes it out on their children and continues to do his selfless work.

Unfortunately, the community does not recognise the effort he puts in to teach his students and make himself available to them in more ways than one. It feels as though Mahesh's students are the only people aware of the change his efforts brought to their lives and the unimaginable possibilities which have opened up for the children of this community.

If you are considering a career in Social Sector, it might be worth your while to look into PGP -DM program offered by ISDM. You can find more information about the program here:

Shashvi Thakur

*All names have been changed to protect identities

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