From Malala Yousafzai to Greta Thunberg, teen girls have proved they have the strength and determination to move the world. Here are a few more doing their bit.
How old do you have to be to set up a social enterprise that organises interactive, educational activities for children and promotes experiential learning? Seventeen is just about right if you go by Mahira Jain’s experience.
A student of class 12 at Delhi Public School RK Puram, Mahira has already organised several events, excursions and activities with her startup FunWagon, which caters to children aged six to 16.
“There are limited options for enriching recreational activities for kids; either they’re unsafe, inaccessible, or simply not there!” says Mahira, who wants to share her love for the social sciences with students from all socio-economic classes.
“I believe that children learn life’s most important skills such as leadership, time management, discipline, teamwork, conflict resolution, and problem-solving outside the walls of a classroom setting. Having participated in different fields of social activities throughout my childhood and teenage years, I am confident that stepping outside their comfort zone helps children truly apply their skills and then find ways to improve themselves,” she says.
Initially, Mahira targeted schools run by NGOs, but soon, she realised she had a chance to bridge the gap between students of all backgrounds, and to increase opportunities for all.
FunWagon curates and organises full-day events for students, including tours to the National Museum, India Gate, Gandhi Smriti, and Lodhi Art District. They have conducted several educational workshops with their six NGO partners, virtual tours, and virtual walkthroughs on YouTube.
In December 2019, FunWagon organised their first CulturALL Education Conference at PHD Chamber in Delhi with a panel of five and an audience of over 80 educators and NGO workers.
“The aim was to illustrate the importance of cultural and innovative education on the overall growth of a student,” says Mahira. She quotes motivational speaker Mirza Yawar Baig: “Teaching is not about answering questions but about raising questions – opening doors for them in places that they could not imagine.”
Jahnavi Gupta, Mahika Heda & Mehak Garg
The Girl Up campaign, an initiative by the United Nations Foundation, encourages girls and young women to advocate for the health, safety and education of girls around the world. Inspired by the cause, three teenage students from Delhi decided to come together and set up a new chapter in their city.
They called it Girl Up Inaayat, which means kindness or grace. Their aim: weeding out patriarchy, misogyny and other systems of oppression that women face in India, and spreading a little bit of goodness and kindness.
Launched during the pandemic-induced worldwide lockdown this May, the group was founded by Jahnavi Gupta, 18, originally from Chandigarh, who is now pursuing her Bachelor’s in economics. She was joined by her course-mate Mahika Heda, 18, who is originally from Bhilwara, Rajasthan, and Mehak Garg, 19, who is doing her B.Com and is also from Chandigarh.
All three founders are students of Hansraj College. Their group now has eight members, and they expect many more to join once colleges reopen post-lockdown.
Their group is primarily based in the north campus of University of Delhi but frequently engages in inter-state and even international collaborations. Following Girl UP’s global pattern, they raise awareness about women’s rights and feminism through events, fundraisers, interviews and informative campaigns online and offline.
They recently collaborated with SNEHA, a leading Mumbai-based NGO working in the sphere of women’s development, and helped raise over Rs 35,000 for their maternal health campaign.
Girl Up Inaayat is part of the larger Girl Up India, which in turn is linked to the worldwide Girl Up campaign. All groups have their individual social-media handles and conduct their own events and activities.
Their biggest event of the year – the Girl Up Global Leadership Summit – was held virtually from July 13–16, 2020, and featured speakers like Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Meghan Markle, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and executive director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
First published as part of a series ‘Young Leaders’ in eShe’s August 2020 issue