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Our Speakers

We are happy to introduce a great set of speakers who come from a diverse background.

Does Sewage Hold the Secret to City’s Health?

Dr. Farah Ishtiaq

Principal Scientist | Tata Institute for Genetics and Society, Bengaluru

Dr. Farah Ishtiaq is an evolutionary ecologist who works at the interface of ecology and the evolution of emerging infectious diseases. With a PhD in avian ecology, her research career spans over 25 years and includes bird conservation projects such as those focused on the endangered Forest owlet and the Important Bird Areas Program in India. Since 2019, Dr. Ishtiaq has been a scientist at the Tata Institute for Genetics and Society, where she leads research on the disease ecology and population genomics of key mosquito species involved in malaria and dengue transmission in India. In 2021, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, she established a wastewater-based epidemiology program to study SARS-CoV-2 and other infectious diseases in and around Bengaluru city as part of a multi-stakeholder partnership. She has also been actively involved in several working groups focused on environmental surveillance and One Health.

Using Indigenous Knowledge for Biodiversity Conservation

Dr. Madegowda C

Post Doctoral fellow and Coordinator | Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) | Adivasi leader, B.R. Hills, Karnataka

Dr. Madegowda C is a social scientist and Adivasi leader from B.R. Hills, Karnataka, India. He is currently working in the field station of ATREE in B. R. Hills as a post doctoral fellow and coordinator. He is also the secretary of the community-based organization Zilla Budakattu Girijan Abhivrudhi Sangha, Chamarajanagar. He has 24 years of experience in working with indigenous tribal people and biodiversity conservation in Karnataka. His work includes participatory resource monitoring (PRM), sustainable harvesting of non-timber forest produce, mapping of culturally sacred sites, community-based conservation, enforcing Forest Rights Act 2006 and empowering indigenous communities' movements. He also works in Non-Timber Forest Products value addition and marketing of Adavi products. His research areas include tribal development, traditional knowledge, policy, political ecology, education, socio-economic, health, culture, biodiversity conservation, and indigenous languages.

Empowering Voices, Transforming Lives: Community-Led Solutions in Public Health Interventions

Dr. Satyanarayana Ramanaik

Thematic Lead for Adolescent Health | Karnataka Health Promotion Trust

Dr. Satyanarayana Ramanaik is a social scientist with over 20 years of impactful work in public health and developmental issues in India. His extensive engagement with marginalized communities spans a range of critical areas, including HIV/AIDS, gender-based violence (GBV), intimate partner violence (IPV), migration, child marriage, school dropout, and adolescent health. He has been a pivotal force behind large-scale public health interventions and collaborative research initiatives in partnership with esteemed donors and academic institutions such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID, WHO, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), University of Manitoba, the Government of Karnataka, and the Government of India. A highly prolific author with multiple publications to his credit, Dr. Ramanaik’s research has been funded by prestigious, international agencies. At KHPT, he spearheads efforts in gender-based violence, nutrition, menstrual hygiene, and mental health for adolescent girls in rural India.

Community Engagement for Cultural Preservation

Ishita Shah

Designer, Historian and Curator | Curating for Culture

Ishita Shah is trained as an interior designer and an architectural historian. Over the last few years, she has been developing a community-based curatorial practice, which focuses on cultural preservation and creative collaborations across individuals, families, and organizations invested in building a culture for archiving in India and across South Asia. Her work is situated under the aegis of a self-founded collective, Curating for Culture.

Ishita has worked with Biome Environmental Solutions Pvt. Ltd. to curate their recent publication, Biome Diaries: Ecological Architecture from India, as well as collaborated with organizations like the National Centre for Biological Sciences, INTACH Bengaluru, Arthshila Ahmedabad, the Ministry of Culture India; to curate and develop a wide range of public interpretation projects. Before this, she was an educator and the coordinator to the UNESCO Chair in Culture, Habitat, and Sustainable Development at the Srishti Institute of Art, Design, and Technology. She has also been the founding archivist and oral historian at CEPT Archives and worked with the Royal Institute of British Architects (UK), INSITE Magazine, SPADE India Research Cell, and Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre.

Ishita is also a Graham Foundation Grant recipient (2020), Khoj CISA Fellow (2021), and a fellowship student at The Alternative Art School (2022)."

Into the Newness: Navigating Mental Health in India

Paras Sharma

Co-founder, Director | The Alternative Story

Paras is the co-founder and director of The Alternative Story – a mental health startup based out of Bengaluru. In a career spanning over 12 years, he has worked in hospitals, helplines, corporate mental health organisations and academic institutions. He has helped set up India’s largest counselling helpline run by trained mental health professionals and has also aided in setting up and training government helplines to address violence against women in states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh. He has worked with government and non-government organisations at the grassroots in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu to enhance community mental health. He holds a Master’s Degree in Counselling and is soon to complete a Doctorate in Counselling Psychology. Paras lives with mental and chronic illnesses and is currently engaged in researching and creating awareness on the same.

From Local to Global: The Untapped Potential of Dakhni Hip-Hop

Pasha Bhai

Dakhni Rapper

Mohammed Affan Pasha, known as Pasha Bhai, is both rapper and a skilled linguist proficient in Dakhni, Hindi, Urdu, and English. Hailing from Neelasandra, Bangalore, this 25-year-old artist co-founded Wanandaf, a growing hip-hop community, and leads Clan Bokka Phod, his own musical rebellion. His 2020 debut, "Eid ka Chand," broke through mainstream barriers for Dakhni rap, earning critical acclaim and sparking cultural discussions.

Apart from his musical endeavours, Pasha Bhai contributed to India's first protest rap album, "Yeh Hai Baghawat," and performed alongside hip-hop icons like Raftaar, Divine, and MC Stan. In 2022, his debut album, "Bangalore Ka Potta," reflected street life. Currently, he releases singles and is preparing for his next album, "Ek," with a commitment to pushing boundaries in Indian hip-hop. Pasha Bhai is recognised as a cultural pioneer, bridging languages, amplifying voices, and embodying a rhythmic revolution in the heart of the Deccan.

Exploring New Social Frontiers With Games

Poornima Seetharaman

Associate General Manager | Zynga (Take-Two)

Poornima has been part of the gaming industry for over 16 years and essayed roles varying from Game Designer to Producer to Studio head and Entrepreneur. She has been part of companies like Indiagames (Disney India), Jumpstart, GSN Games etc. She is currently an Associate General Manager at Zynga (a wholly-owned label of Take-Two Interactive Software). She has worked on franchises like BioShock Mobile, How to Train your Dragons, Neopets, and FarmVille 2: Country Escape to name a few. She is a Women in Games Ambassador at WIGJ and the founder of Women in Games India (WIGIN) and also a Hall of Fame Inductee at the Global WIG Awards 2020, making her the first Indian game developer to receive such an honour. She is also featured in Rebel Girls: Level Up Edition.

Who Owns Folk Music?

Shilpa Mudbi Kothakota

Performance Artist | Social Activist | Artistic Researcher

Shilpa Mudbi Kothakota is a performance artist, social activist, and artistic researcher. As a first-generation urbanite, she strongly identifies with her ancestral roots. Having dedicated several years to working in the hinterlands of Karnataka as a filmmaker, she has documented women’s movements, agrarian lifestyles and cultural politics. Motivated by the search for counter-narratives and consciousness of gender, class, and caste dynamics, Shilpa's artistic research focuses on the human voice. She employs the voice as a lens to understand and challenge hierarchies in society. Currently based in Gulbarga, she is furthering her research in the folk music forms of the region and establishing a space for experiential learning of folk knowledge systems. In addition to her research, Shilpa runs an English medium school in Gulbarga, catering specifically to children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Her endeavours reflect a holistic commitment to both artistic exploration and social activism, addressing the complexities of culture, identity, and education in contemporary society.

Inclusion 360 Degrees

Summaiya Khan

Content Creator, Inclusion 360 Degrees | Knowledge Management Officer, Karnataka Health Promotion Trust

Summaiya Khan works as an officer of knowledge management in KHPT. As someone interested in social sciences, Summaiya is passionate about the inclusion of various cultural identities. With the objective of giving back to society, she has started a YouTube channel, Inclusion 360 Degrees, where she creates creative and informative videos which gives the sighted an idea about the inclusion of people with vision impairment in all spheres of life. Summaiya has a Masters in Political Science and International Relations and has worked as a political research consultant, and as a research associate at Centre for Budget and Policy Studies (CBPS) and Synergia Foundation, a strategic think tank. Summaiya has also taught courses on international relations theory, public policy, political theory and the Indian constitution and has published articles relating to foreign policy, strategy and security and international law.

Break Your Biases

Swathi Shyam Sunder

Head, Applied AI Research and Development Group | Siemens Technology

Swathi Shyam Sunder is currently heading an applied AI research and development group at Siemens Technology in Bengaluru. Over 12+ years, she has transitioned through varied roles in multiple organisations, adding to her experience as a technical leader alongside numerous publications and patents. Swathi was recognised with the Siemens Inventor of the Year 2023 award for her excellent contribution to innovation in the fields of data analytics and artificial intelligence. Swathi identifies herself with causes such as diversity in tech and enablement of underrepresented groups. She has been contributing to related global programs as a volunteer and mentor. Swathi is fluent in more than 6 languages and also passionately engages in arts and crafts. Having travelled across 20 countries, she believes that such worldwide exposure has vastly broadened her perspectives.

Silk Route to Wound Care

Vivek Mishra

Founder and CEO | Fibroheal Woundcare

Vivek Mishra is a techno-commercial management professional with a diverse background spanning various industries, including medical devices, pharmaceuticals, food and nutrition, and agri-business. He started his current venture Fibroheal Woundcare in 2017 which is based on silk protein derived wound management solutions. Fibroheal works to address various types and stages of wounds, aiming to become a comprehensive wound management company from India. It focuses on addressing various types of acute, chronic, traumatic, and post-operative wounds through IP protected technology and has more than half a dozen patents to their name. Fibroheal is the first company in India to have commercialized silk proteins to heal different types of wounds. Beyond his role at Fibroheal, Vivek Mishra is actively involved in fostering innovation within the biotech and life sciences sector. He serves as a panelist on various committees, including BIRAC, IIT Guwahati, and several BioNest and life sciences incubators. His commitment to nurturing groundbreaking ideas is evident in his efforts to help these concepts materialize and enter the market.

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