The Obama Foundation Scholars Program June 18 announced its second annual cohort of Obama Foundation Scholars, with an Indian, Pakistani and Nepali among the 32-member class.

The scholar program seeks to support dynamic, collaborative, rising leaders from around the world in an innovative one-year academic and leadership experience.

Among the group is Sowmya Karun of India, Haneen Khalid of Pakistan and Dipak Bishwokarma of Nepal.

The cohort, which will bring individuals from 28 countries around the world for the 2019-2020 academic year for programs at the University of Chicago and Columbia University in New York, will give rising young leaders around the world who are already making a difference in their communities the opportunity to take their work to the next level through a newly designed curriculum that brings together academic, skills-based, and hands-on learning.

“The inaugural class of scholars emerged more energized and capable of creating lasting change in their communities,” said foundation CEO David Simas.“They are one of the backbones of the Obama Foundation’s global ecosystem of young leaders, and we are inspired by the connections they have made and the work they will go on to do. We are eager to grow this international network of changemakers with our second cohort of scholars.”

Karun was named a scholar for the University of Chicago program for the 2019-2020 academic year, working at the intersection of development and data and technology innovation.

Most recently, she worked with SocialCops, a start-up, where she advised a spectrum of public and development stakeholders ranging from political representatives to government officials, to philanthropic leaders and field officers from around the world on implementing data and tech solutions in their fields, her bio notes.

Her work involves understanding their programs to advise on how analytics and technology can solve on-the-ground issues and amplify their impact, by conceptualizing bespoke data-driven technological solutions, it added.

Prior to SocialCops, Karun was a legal and policy researcher on information and data policies and worked with the Election Commission of India to convene a diverse set of government, political and civil society stakeholders to recommend reforms on political finance, it said.

Khalid, a National Assembly of Pakistan research associate, was named a scholar for the University of Chicago program for the next academic year.

She works with over 80 women parliamentarians on issues of social justice, peace and security, and climate change, providing briefings to help inform new policy and legislation, her bio notes.

Previously, she was the South Asia representative for Global Zero, the international movement to eliminate nuclear weapons.

She worked with more than 4,000 young people across India and Pakistan to mobilize grassroots activism against nuclear weapons and developed a first-of-its-kind campaign strategy for South Asia on the nuclear weapons issue, and a volunteer recruitment, leadership and training program that supported hundreds of volunteers to bring the movement to their local communities, it said.

Bishwokarma, a project manager at Practical Action, was named a scholar for the University of Chicago program. Bishwokarma works to support government initiatives that aim to reduce the risks of climate change on vulnerable communities, develop effective governance systems in the changing context of federalization in Nepal, and facilitate the creation of inclusive public policy especially on environmental issues, disaster risk reduction, and community resilience, his bio notes.

He provides technical support to local communities as they take on local level management of forests and trains these community members on enterprise development and non-timber forest product management.

After completing the program, Obama Foundation Scholars will return to their communities and continue the work they started in the program by implementing their own personalized action plan.

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