During the production of Gods in Shackles film, Sangita Iyer was deeply saddened by the plight of Kerala’s festival elephants. She realized that there was a significant lack of awareness and empathy for elephants, and used the documentary as an educational tool to empower the people of India, particularly students, who hold the key to the future of Planet Earth.
She felt it was not only necessary to address the nexus of culture and commerce, but also find safe havens for the endangered Asian elephants that were elevated to the status of Heritage Animal in 2010. She conceived and founded the Voice for Asian Elephants Society (VFAES) in her efforts to empower the people of India to end elephant slavery, especially in religious places that are designed to practice AHIMSA, and not cruelty.
Sangita Iyer was born and raised in a little village near the District of Palakkad in Kerala, southern India, where she frequently participated in festivities that glorified elephants. By the age of four she moved to Mumbai, where she did her schooling and university, but she missed interacting with her soul animals.
After obtaining an undergrad degree in B. Sc., Sangita taught in a primary school in Mumbai for a while. She eventually moved to Toronto, Canada, where she went back to school and did journalism hoping to educate the masses about nature and wildlife.
Sangita began her journalism career as a news desk assistant at CTV Toronto, then as a video journalist and host at Rogers’ OMNI Television in Toronto, followed by a stint at Bermuda’s ABC/ CBS affiliate, where she reported and read the evening news.
In 2008 she co-founded Bermuda Environmental Alliance (BEA), a non-profit organization aimed at educating the public on nature and wildlife issues, and providing practical solutions aligned with earth stewardship. Over the years Sangita transitioned into producing nature and wildlife documentaries harnessing the power of sounds and images to communicate in a manner that resonated with people.
Sangita produced a four-part miniseries, Bermuda – Nature’s Jewel for the Discovery Channel Canada’s Daily Planet. She also hosted, executive directed and produced a six-part series that is currently being used as an educational aid in Bermuda’s schools.
In September 2012 Sangita was one of the few Canadians selected for The Climate Reality Project training by the former US Vice President Al Gore. She has given several lectures on climate change in Canadian schools and universities
- March 2017 - Nari Shakti Puraskar – the highest award for women making a difference in India – from the Honorable President of India
- December 2015 – November 2016 – Gods in Shackles documentary received 10 international film festival awards
- March 2016 – Gods in Shackles nominated at the United Nations General Assembly by the International Elephant Film Festival & CITES (a UN wing for wildlife protection)
- September 2012 - Bermuda National Trust award for Bermuda – Nature’s Jewel
- October 2013 - Royal Roads University’s (MA) “Founder’s Award for Leadership, Sustainability, and Personal Development”
- December 2013 - “Award of Excellence” for M.A. thesis documentary, Connecting the Dots: television news media and climate change
- In 2008 Sangita was named the “Best Broadcast Journalist” by the popular Bermudian magazine
- In 2007, Sangita received the inaugural DeForest Trimingham Award – top environmental awareness award from Bermuda National Trust for her 13-part series Enviro Shorts.
- The prestigious Social Sciences and Humanity’s Research Council scholarship from the Government of Canada
- CanWest Global Communications Award
- The George and Marjorie New Memorial Award for waste reduction initiatives
SANGITA’S ACADEMIC QUALIFICATIONS AND OTHER TRAINING:
- Masters’ – Environmental Education and Communication, Royal Roads University, Victoria, B.C. (Canada)
- B. Sc. in Biology from the University of Bombay, India
- Post-graduate Diploma in Broadcast Journalism (Dean’s Honorary Role), Humber College, Toronto, ON (Canada)
Creating sustainable communities through caring for, and protecting endangered captive and wild Asian elephants.
Abolish elephant slavery by educating and enlightening people about the plight of captive and wild Asian elephants, protect them by mitigating human elephant conflicts in captivity and in the wild, and rehabilitate the captive ones in elephant havens where they can roam freely.
VFAES will adhere to core principles grounded in Systems Biology and ahimsa (non-violence) and implement these actions to achieve its mission:
- Through awareness and education programs, we will cultivate empathy for elephants, and reverence for our sacred earth, creating shifts in public perception regarding the intrinsic values of elephants and the natural world
- Using non-conventional means such as films and experiential learning, empower the youth with knowledge and information on elephant science, existing animal welfare laws and ethical dilemmas of captivity and exploitation of the natural resources
- Conduct research on the intersection of human cultures and conservation, and simultaneously build awareness of the role of elephants--known as “the gardeners of the earth”--in mitigating global air pollution
- Advocate legislative changes to tackle wildlife crime by organizing sensitization workshops for law enforcement authorities, religious institutions, as well as decision and policy makers
- Create elephant havens where rescued elephants can enjoy freedom, respect, and dignity for the rest of their lives
- Mitigate human elephant conflicts near the forest fringes by using alert systems, GPS collars, beehives, and other means to prevent elephants from entering into human dwellings
VFAES will utilize as an essential educational tool “Gods in Shackles”, a multiple award-winning and United Nations nominated documentary produced by VFAES Founding Executive Director, Sangita Iyer. This epic film will cultivate empathy and foster mind shifts, as it reveals the truth behind the glamorous festivals in which elephants are exploited for profit in the name of culture.