In conflict, there is an opportunity to make a change. This sentiment is Rashi Paliwal’s mantra, as she sees first-hand how deeply conflicts can take root, especially in India. But this intractability has not stopped her from working to help people resolve their conflicts. “I need to know that I’m making a difference. I feel like I’m accountable to my own self for my time on earth… But why India? And why mediation. Because I feel like wherever I look there’s conflict. Between nations, neighbors, marriages, children and parents, etc”
An Unconventional Background
Rashi Paliwal has a decade of experience in negotiation while working to change the dialogue around social conflict, and she’s ready to bring that knowledge to MBBI and to her future as a mediator in her home country of India. She has already attended meetings with the Resource Development Committee and the UN Multi-Lateral Working Group but is still looking to find her niche within MBBI where she can truly throw herself into.
Rashi’s background and education is in finance and after graduating from the London School of Economics she worked for a financial organization for over a year but knew fairly soon this was not the field for her – finally, she found meaningful work with an NGO in India that aimed to help people with disabilities find jobs; in finding work, the organization aimed to shift the dialogue and narrative around those with disabilities more generally, as well as allow those people to participate in a society that they were often excluded from. In this work, she discovered that with patience and perseverance, conflicts within society could be used to make positive changes. When it comes to people with disabilities, there are pervasive and deep-rooted societal stigmas. But when a major fashion institute specifically began to request hearing-impaired people because of the high quality of their work, this shift away from common prejudices was in part due to Rashi’s ongoing discussions and negotiations, and perseverance for a just cause.
A Certified Mediator
From there, she went on to work for the US State Department for seven years as a transition coach and facilitator for spouses of employees in South Central Asia. Every aspect of this work involved negotiation, mediation, excellent people skills, and engaging with networks of people. For her, a key win was helping a woman who had been a stay-at-home mom for a long time find placement as a teacher in a school for autistic children. This was no easy feat and was only achieved through continuous conversations and negotiations, but ultimately ended up being extremely rewarding for all those involved.
During her time at the State Department, Rashi became certified as an IMI Young Mediator and did her mediation training with the Texas State Bar. Knowing the court system and the form that conflict takes in India is a big motivator for Rashi to work in mediation in her home country; she wants to use mediation, patience, and education to change mindsets about conflict and social issues in India. The concept of the practice of mediation is virtually unheard of in most of India. Rashi simply looks to provide access to an opportunity to settle out of court and the choice to change the narrative of the conflict.
She is motivated by her personal beliefs in the inherent goodness of human nature. “I believe that human beings are inherently peace-loving. Why do we all do anything? It is because we want to be happy.”
Bringing ADR to India
Due to the format of the Indian court system and the nature of conflicts in many parts of India, it is not uncommon for conflicts (divorces, business conflicts, familial disputes) to last over a decade – or sometimes for generations. Rashi has unofficially mediated a divorce for someone in her family that had been going on for eleven years, starting by meeting with the couple separately over weeks. As she says, “For me, mediation is what happens before the people even get in the room. In India, it is important to work with the existing mindsets and prejudices and win trust before even getting into the room; especially with small communities and villages in India. The often deeply embedded and ingrained nature of the conflicts means winning the trust of those involved – patience and determination.” She hopes to one day work to help community leaders learn alternative dispute resolution and problem-solving so that villages in India can find more peace and decrease the level of long-term conflicts within and between families.
When asked what her advice would be to young people who want to work for good in the world, Rashi emulated her own patience and strength of will. She advised just to take one step at a time, working to find your own meaning and purpose in this world. “Climb the mountain, one step at a time. I think for all peacebuilders, we may have aspirations and visions that are really high – but they can be very overwhelming and can burden you. Just make one small step, don’t be greedy, the universe will take care of us, no matter what.”
Rashi also emphasizes the importance of meditation in her own life. No matter your situation or stress and problems will always exist – meditation has become “a part of who I am… sometimes you just need a little shift in perspective. You can only pass the light that you have.” Rashi has already spent her life passing this light to others and has a bright future ahead in mediation.
Written by Lizzy Nestor: MBBI Writer