Illustration – Meroo Seth
Girls’ rights and their violations have captured global headlines, leading to campaigns, slogans and advocacy across countries. Yet, the loudest and boldest voices bringing the world’s attention to these issues are those of firebrand teenage crusaders. With #GirlsMatters, we aim to shed a spotlight on crucial facets that have defined the lives of girls for generations, and continue to dictate the next steps for them. Here, however, we celebrate a ray of hope with 5 girls who are leading the world with their actions and efforts, all driven towards a better and brighter world for girls.
Taboo around menstruation has done more damage to girls’ education than it is talked about. This report by Dasra states that 23 million girls drop out of school annually due to the barriers posed by poor menstrual hygiene facilities. This shocking statistic urged a 15-year-old in Bengaluru to take the mantle and work towards improving the sorry state of affairs.
Ananya Malde founded Pragati, a program that aims to raise awareness about menstrual health and among girls in rural regions across India. Fueled by the mission to reduce the dropout rates of girls, Ananya has developed a comprehensive curriculum that captures the basics of menstrual health in multiple languages.
Having reached out to Sarpanchs, or village heads, across the three villages in Gujarat, Ananya also got the opportunity to present her program at the United Nations with the help of 1 Million for 1 Billion.
Sixteen-year-old Namya Joshi’s introduction on her website begins with the regular “student in Grade X in Sat Paul Mittal School.” This is followed swiftly by the title of “official Minecraft Student Ambassador by Microsoft.” While this introduction captures her spectacular achievements, it is an understatement for her mission and the impact of her efforts.
Implementing her motto of #EachOneTeachTen, Namya routinely conducts free-of-cost coding workshops, explaining complex concepts of STEM and cyber security, all with the help of Minecraft. Having geared her efforts towards social and environmental issues, developing solutions for these and training close to 15,000 teachers and scores of students, Namya has been honored with countless accolades, which include the likes of the prestigious Pradhanmantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar 2021, Global Child Prodigy Award 2022 and the Global Impactor Student IMPACT Award 2021.
Rajasthan is notorious for the recurring cases of child marriages reported in the state. However, from one of the many remote villages of the state, 18-year-old Payal Jangid decided to do more than mope about the situation and joined hands with the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation. She began by rebelling against the unlawful and forceful child marriage that her parents were arranging for her.
Her crusade gained traction over time and over a dozen girls getting rescued in her early days of activism itself. From going on to becoming the sarpanch of the Bal Panchayat to her meeting with the former US President Barrack Obama, Payal has left a mark with her exceptional efforts and revolutionary measures in curbing the menace of child marriage and promoting education for girls.
Spotting construction workers walking barefoot may not be an unusual sight for many. For 16-year-old Sia Godika, however, this one sight was a call to action, especially when the hard-hitting fact about 1.5 billion people walking barefoot on fiery concrete every day in India, came to the fore.
Finding it difficult to erase the sight of bleeding feet of young children and elderly workers alike, Sia dug deeper and unearthed heart-wrenching statistics about countless diseases, allergies, and infections hurting the underprivileged, while close to 350 million pairs of shoes are being discarded annually. Thus began Sole Warriors, a program that collects shoes as donations, refurbishes them and distributes them among those in need.
The efforts of Sia and countless volunteers who joined hands with her were recognized with the Legacy Award.
Environmental Science is a common subject taught across boards. 18-year-old Tisya Dewan along with her peer, however, spotted the lack of true climate literacy in this subject. Having collaborated with local organizations for a while, Tisya co-founded Nitara—an initiative that develops a comprehensive curriculum for state school boards.
The duo has also kickstarted Green Column, a monthly newsletter, which provides a platform for young guns to voice their thoughts and solutions on growing climate issues.