Hillary Clinton once very famously said, “Despite all the challenges we face, I remain convinced that yes, the future is female.”
From taking lead in India's citizenship protests at Shaheen Bagh to demanding religious equality at the Sabrimala temple, the sisterhood is leading by example and showing how the world can become a better place.
More and more young women, especially young minds, are becoming agents of change, and are using their voice to talk about climate change, address taboos, break gender stereotypes and even push for equality. Yet, the pivotal role that many of these young girls play is often ignored. At LF, we believe that these voices need to be heard, so we drew up a list of young female achievers, the causes they're fighting for, and how they inspire us:
1. How Licypriya Kangujam is trying to save the planet
“Don’t celebrate me if you are not going to listen,” tweeted the Manipuri child climate activist Licypriya Kangujam as she turned down PM Narendra Modi's #SheInspiresUs campaign. For years now, the 8-year-old has been pushing for a law to regulate carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases, and for the inclusion of climate change as a compulsory subject in school curriculums. The young girl has taken it upon herself to educate people about climate change, the plastic burden on the environment, and the dangers to our planet.
Despite being awarded Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Children Award, and multiple peace prizes, her activism is yet to make the impact she desires. World leaders according to Kangujam “just gather here every year at COPs (Conference of Parties) and do nothing concrete for our future…. Why should I come here? Why I should speak here? I have to go to my school. I have to play. But our leaders all have ruined my childhood life and my beautiful future. This is not fair!” she further said.
2. How Kamali Moorthy is ushering a new ‘skate’ of mind
When Kamali Moorthy isn’t attending school or helping her mom with her lime-soda stall, you’ll find her flying over a flight of stairs with her skateboard as a magic carpet equivalent—flipping and summersaulting in air till she masters a skateboarding trick. “It's fun, it's feels like flying,” she says. Her skateboarding skills have gotten her a fair share of fans, both in India as well as abroad. Even skateboarding legend Tony Hawk took her notice, and shared a photo of her flying across the ramp. As fate would have it, when New Zealand director Sasha Rainbow came to India to shoot Moorthy and other skateboarding girls for the video of a song 'Alpha Female', she ended up making a documentary on the then seven-year-old.
In 2017, Moorthy’s story was turned mainstream with the 24-minute eponymous film, Kamali, which since then has picked up many accolades and awards across the globe. Winner of the Best Documentary Short at the Atlanta Film Festival and a qualifier for the Oscars 2020 shortlist, Moorthy not only managed getting her story out, but also at kick-flipping skateboarding’s patriarchy.
3. How Avantika Khanna is helping you explore India
The thirst to preserve India’s rich history, culture and heritage-led 17-year-old Avantika Khanna to develop an app, India Story, that offers GPS-powered audio tours. A guided tour to the Fort of Edinburgh in the UK made her question why Indian historical monuments are not preserved the same way and hence the seeds for India Story were sown. This student-run app offers tourists detailed and curated guides thereby chronicling the story of India, one monument at a time.
Khanna worked together with a team of 30 young history lovers and students who are experts in fields such as content, marketing, photography, and programming. Since its launch, India Story has partnered with organisers of cultural walks and certified tour guides, users can directly get in touch with them through the app’s website. Since its launch on both iOS and Android platforms in 2019, Khanna’s app serves as a good resource for accessing cheap and simple sightseeing tours.
4. How Apoorvi Bharatram is rallying for mental health
Growing up with a sister who was battling clinical depression, Apoorvi Bharatram, from a young age, understood the importance of mental health and the role that professionals play. She started rallying for quality mental healthcare. Bharatram got together with her friend, Nakksh Kohli, to start the ‘Happiness Project’, a three-step model that measures the happiness quotient of students in government schools, and uses that data to train their teachers in becoming what’s called para-counsellors, who despite not having formal training could offer support and guidance. The aim is to equip school teachers and administrators with the right tools to tackle mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, body-image and more. Bharatram is thus on a road to changing the discourse on mental health and the way people seek help.
5. How Meaidaibahun Majaw is fighting back against bullies
Meaidaibahun Majaw was recently appreciated by the Union Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ and Meghalaya’s Education Minister Lahkmen Rymbui. What did this nine-year-old do to make such a splash?
A victim of bullying herself, Majaw, a class 4 student, realised she had enough and that it was time to fight back. To stay away from her bullies, she enrolled herself in an app-development course, which eventually led her to develop an anti-bullying mobile app. A personal cause led to a permanent solution for those suffering from bullying—Majaw’s anti-bullying app, yet to be available on Google Play, allows victims to anonymously report their bullies to teachers, guardians, and even friends.
6. How Ayesha Aziz is the piloting her future into the sky
Ayesha Aziz made headlines in 2019 when she became the youngest commercial pilot. She even took to Instagram to share her new pilot's stripes. This young gun has flown a MIG-29 fighter jet at Russia's Sokul airbase in January 2012, and also a Cessna 172R aircraft. Currently, a member of the Indian Women Pilots' Association (IWPA) and pilots single-engine Cessna 152 and Cessna 172 aircraft, Aziz is exploring her career in aviation.
Aziz has trained with the Bombay Flying Club, undertaken a two-month space training course at NASA which involved training in Space Shuttle Mission, micro-gravity, manned maneuvering unit, multi-axis training and Extra-Vehicular Activity. Despite flying high and carving a niche for herself, Aziz faced backlash from trolls who ridiculed her for not wearing a hijab. However, Aziz took them down: “If the Prophet’s wife Hazrat Ayesha could ride a camel in a battle, why can’t I fly an aircraft? We have to change our attitude,” she said in one of her Instagram comments.
7. How Malavath Poorna is scaling new heights
Malavath Poorna was just 13-years-old when she unfurled India’s national flag atop Mount Everest, making her the youngest female to do so. The astonishing feat was achieved by Poorna after training for merely nine months post her selection for a rock-climbing camp near Hyderabad.
Just as the climb to the peak wasn’t an easy one, Poorna, now 19, had her own fair share of struggles to overcome. Coming from a family of agricultural labourers in Nizamabad district of Telangana, she was one among the 150 children selected for adventure sports by the Andhra Pradesh Social Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society. Out of the twenty that were selected for the training programme at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling, only two took part in the Everest expedition, Poorna was one of them. The movie Poorna is actor-director Rahul Bose’s ode to the young mountaineer who continues smashing stereotypes with her mountaineering feats.
8. How Upasha Talukdar is flexing it to the top
Upasha Talukdar is only 12, and yet when she performs to the arduous routines of gymnastics, dance and calisthenics, she does so with élan, leaving fans mesmerized. No wonder why, in a first for Assam, she won a bronze in gymnastics at the third edition of Khelo India Youth Games.
However, success didn’t come easy. With no certified coach or training centers, and a sport such as rhythmic gymnastics being almost non-existent in India, young Talukdar had to rely on the internet. Her father surfed through a number of YouTube videos, helping the then eight-year-old to chase her passion. It was through the internet, that she was able to connect with Russian rhythmic gymnast, Olesya Soldatova, who was in awe of Talukdar’s talents and decided to coach her further via Skype.
9. How Gayatri Nadar is Iccyy Fire-ing her way into the hip-hop world
If you need proof on how male-dominated and machismo the genre of hip-hop is,
turn to The Dharavi Project, is a multimedia project in the heart of Asia’s
largest slum, which only has one female rapper and beatboxer, Gayatri Nadar, to
take pride in. In several interviews, Nadar has spoken about how it took a
while for her parents to adjust to the unconventional path that their daughter had
taken, and to convince them that girls too can be rappers.
On account of being one of the few female hip hop artists, the 17-year-old Nadar uses her craft to throw light on pertinent issues such as the negative connotations attached to rap and dearth of female rappers. With not many female rappers to look up to, Nadar seeks inspiration from 7BantaiZ, one of the youngest rap groups in Mumbai and Dopeadelicz, another musical crew that found its roots in Dharavi.
10. How Ishita Katyal is educating us for the future
Now 14, Pune-based Ishita Katyal was only 10 years of age when she organised the first TEDx event in her school in 2015. As the youngest organiser of a TEDxYouth event in the Asia-Pacific region, Katyal has since been using her voice, to talk about issues ranging from the right to education to encouraging people to “be whoever you want at any age.” Katyal’s message is powerful: “I dream of a future where… people think 100x before going to war with another country, 1000x before wasting food and water and 10,000x before letting their child’s childhood go away.” The teenager’s mission is to change the paradigm that children are incapable of making decisions that can alter the future. In hopes of empowering and securing India’s youth with a bright future, she also conducts weekly workshops with children at a local Balewadi school.
Apart from being a medium of change, Katyal has already penned her first book Simran's Diary, a 25-page book that offers the reader a perspective of the world through the eyes of an eight-year-old.
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