Sussex MBA student and social entrepreneur launches venture boosting education and youth empowerment in rural India

Alinery Lianhlawng, the inaugural scholar from the University of Sussex Business School’s ‘International Female Leaders’ scholarship for MBA students, recently attended the Mizoram Youth Commission (MYC) Youth Summit in Lunglei, Mizoram, India, where she launched ‘Rochun: Pay It Forward’, a new social venture aimed at providing access to educational resources and boosting the leadership skills of young people in Mizoram.

Alinery grew up in the rural town of Sangau in Mizoram, a state in northeastern India sandwiched between Bangladesh and Myanmar. With rural poverty significantly higher in Mizoram than the Reserve Bank of India’s national average, limited resources have meant that students like Alinery have traditionally inherited textbooks passed down over generations and had limited access to information within the community.

Motivated by her own experiences, and determined to make a difference, Alinery returned to Mizoram recently to address the first MYC Youth Summit, where she met many local students and visited a number of local youth institutions and coaching centres.

At the summit, Alinery launched a new social venture called ‘Rochun: Pay It Forward’, an initiative with two distinct, but linked, elements aimed at empowering the young people of rural Mizoram to escape poverty:

  • The first element is a programme of establishing libraries in high schools and rural communities across Mizoram, giving aspiring students of all ages the means to access basic education and supporting resources.
  • The second element is a leadership academy and consultation programme, providing young people in Mizoram with opportunities to connect with mentors, participate in international conferences and pursue further and higher education.

Alinery, who is also a ‘Rising Star’ and mentor for Wedu, a leadership development organisation supporting aspirational women in Asia, is clearly passionate about changing lives and helping young people to achieve their potential.

She says: “It pains me to see how frustrated and desperate we in Mizoram are as a state because of the structural constraints in our educational, economic, and political systems. As a social entrepreneur, I am therefore beyond excited, humbled and overjoyed with the positive response and interest shown in ‘Rochun: Pay It Forward’ as a vehicle for tackling some of these upsetting problems. We’ve built a strong foundation to start our collaboration and I hope that this ignites positive movement for the young people of Mizoram.”

Alinery has been invited to speak at the Asia-Pacific Youth Symposium at Hanyang University in Seoul, South Korea this August. She has secured full funding for students from Mizoram to attend the symposium with her and is hopeful that the experience and hearing her story, including reflections from her time at Sussex, will inspire and empower the youth of Mizoram to follow in her footsteps.

Isabel Fischer, Director of Internationalisation for the University of Sussex Business School and Course Director for the Sussex MBA, commented: “As part of our international UN Global Compact and PRME (Principles for Responsible Management Education) memberships and in recognition of our thriving MBA course, we introduced an ‘International Female Leaders’ scholarship.

“Alinery is the first scholar to benefit from the International Female Leaders programme so I was delighted to hear that she was invited to address the MYC Youth Summit in India and also the Asia Pacific Youth Symposium in Seoul. Alinery’s work as a social entrepreneur is exemplary and I am impressed by her drive to set up libraries and empower young people in rural zones in India.”

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