Learning through playing: Thoughtshop Foundation is sparking life-changing conversations in India

Thoughtshop Foundation — a longtime AJWS grantee based in Kolkata — uses a unique approach to expand what’s possible for girls and women within India’s deeply patriarchal, restrictive society. They call it “design thinking,” and for a growing collective of young people across the state of West Bengal, it has proven life-changing.

Thoughtshop developed beautifully designed games, cards and illustrated books as tools to facilitate conversations about gender equality, sexual violence, early marriage and more. “Games help break the ice in a non-threatening way — so we can address these deeply taboo topics,” says Thoughtshop Foundation director Himalini Varma.

With AJWS’s support, since 2015, Thoughtshop has built a huge network of young mentors using these tools to engage and empower young people in their own communities. They’ve mobilized over 2,500 kids and young people learning to stand up for their rights and break cycles of early marriage and violence.

Below, hear from Himalini herself — speaking about her life’s work and Thoughtshop’s impactful Gender Toolkit!