Ford fellowships: Opportunities for Minorities and Other Marginalised Communities
By Azim A. Khan Sherwani
Milli Gazette Online
12 February 2006
The Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program (IFP) seeks to build a new generation of social justice leaders worldwide. “To ensure that Fellows are drawn from more diverse backgrounds than before, IFP recruits candidates from social groups and communities that lack systematic access to higher education” says Vivek Mansukhani, Director, IFP India. Ford Foundation International Fellows come from groups and communities that have traditionally lacked access to higher education and are selected on the strength of their academic achievement, leadership skills and social commitment. These include groups such as women, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, other backward classes, physically disadvantaged and those with other kinds of socio-economic deprivation.
Promoting leadership for social justice is a central goal of the IFP. Building on the Fellows’ familiarity with grass roots problems, IFP seeks to raise their capacity — through knowledge, skills and networks — to become effective leaders in the struggle to improve lives in their communities, countries and regions.
IFP provides support for up to three years of formal post-graduate study in a university in any part of the world. A maximum of 47 fellowships are available for India every year. Fellows are chosen on the basis of their academic achievement as well as for their leadership potential and commitment to community or national service. Fellows may enroll in a Master’s or Doctoral level program and may pursue any academic discipline or field of study once selected. IFP provides university placement assistance. IFP supports Fellows to undertake appropriate short-term language study and training in research and computer skills prior to enrolment.
The International Fellowships Program is the largest single program ever supported by the Ford Foundation. By investing $280 million over the next ten years, the Foundation expects to build on a half century of support for higher education. In the past Foundation programs have maintained the highest educational standards. Ford fellowship recipients have gone on to become leaders in institutions around the world and have helped build global knowledge in fields ranging across the natural and social sciences as well as the humanities and the arts. The International Fellowships Program draws on this tradition and underscores the Foundation’s belief that education enables people to improve their own lives as well as to assist others in the common pursuit of more equitable and just societies.
After several years as an NGO activist promoting the rights of disabled people, Meenu Bhambhani, herself physically challenged, took a Master’s degree in community development from United States as a Ford International Fellow. She says, “I have learned in the USA how a friendly and inclusive society has been created for people with disabilities, and to understand the legal system that has brought about changes at policy level." After her course in US she got the opportunity to work for as consultant with World Bank.
Like Meenu, Anisa Draboo a recipient of the Ford Foundation International Fellowship, has successfully completed a Master’s degree in International Development from Cornell University. She is a dedicated social worker trying to make the most troubled areas of the world more livable. Concerned with the marginalization of women in India and especially in Kashmir, Draboo is interested in gender issues and human rights as they pertain to community planning. At present, she is working with Oxfam in Kashmir.
Minorities and other marginalised groups are better represented under the Fellowship program as compared to other similar programmes. In the last five years, for instance, almost ten per cent of the Fellows have been Muslims. Without a fellowship, it would have been a distant dream for many of them to afford a graduate degree from a school in the United States or the United Kingdom. But the IFP fellowship, designed for the most promising individuals from the most under-represented communities, made it possible.
"Of our alumni, about 80 percent are in their home countries," says global IFP executive director Joan Dassin. "Ninety percent are first-generation college students. They are the pioneer generation—people who have overcome enormous obstacles. We're very proud of these people."
"My purpose is to serve my people and my country, I want to initiate a mass movement to make people aware of their right to health” says Tej Ram Jat, a Fellow Alumni and MSc (Public Health), a graduate from London School of Economics and Political Science .
IFP is an initiative to prepare a new generation of future leaders for the challenges of the 21st century. “Societies around the world face the challenges of globalization, advancing technology, peace and security, and the widening gap between rich and poor”, says Susan V. Berresford, President of the Ford Foundation. “To tackle these challenges successfully we need people from all sectors of society who can bring fresh vision, expert knowledge and strong leadership skills”.
IFP is an extraordinary opportunity at this point in history to foster freedom, democracy, human rights and overall better lives for millions of people around the world. The Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program will play a major role in training new leaders.
The program builds on the Ford Foundations longtime commitment to provide educational opportunities to talented people around the world. Since the 1950s Ford has granted an estimated $365 million to enable some 30,000 individuals from more than 70 countries to pursue graduate education. Over the years, Ford fellowship recipients have helped advance knowledge in the social sciences, the humanities and the arts. Many former Ford Fellows have become leaders in their country’s governments and in major institutions around the world.
The program is managed by national, regional and international organizations working in close collaboration with a Secretariat based at the Ford Foundations headquarters in New York. These organizations convene panels of scholars, practitioners, and other experts to assess applications and make the final selection.
Eligibility criteria for the fellowship program in India are that the applicants should be:
1. Indian nationals or permanent residents, currently residing in the states of Bihar, Chhatisgarh, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh or Uttaranchal.
2. Candidates should have at least two year’s full-time work experience in any of the above mentioned states.
3. Candidates should have a Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree from a recognized Indian university with at least 55% marks for an MA program, and 60% for a PhD program.
4. Candidates should have experience in leadership and community service or development related activities.
The Ford Foundation currently works in twelve program or grant-making areas to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international co-operation and advance human achievement. Foundation program or grant-making areas are Arts & Culture, Civil Society, Community Development, Development Finance & Economic Security, Education Reform & Scholarship, Environment & Development, Governance, Human Rights, Media, Religion, Society & Culture, Sexuality & Reproductive Health and Workforce Development.
Interested candidates should request the IFP office to send them a Pre-Application form. Complete Pre-Application Forms should reach the IFP office in New Delhi as soon as possible but not later than 28 February 2006.
International Fellowships Program
12 Hailey Road,
Ph 011-23358893/ 94, 23328944
(The writer is a recipient of Ford International Fellowship, he may contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org)