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Anya Thakur: GirlUp shines a spotlight on the need to empower and educate girls

Through GirlUp, a UN Women foundation dedicated to ensuring and promoting health, safety, and leadership for girls, I've made friends, I've met sisters, and I've become a voice for underrepresented women and girls.

Image courtesy of Anya Thakur.

Through GirlUp, a UN Women foundation dedicated to ensuring and promoting health, safety, and leadership for girls, I’ve made friends, I’ve met sisters, and I’ve become a voice for underrepresented women and girls. I am a passionate women’s advocate and proud to be a feminist and activist, spotlighting female activists and public figures to celebrate their contributions in media and create diverse programming for and about women, particularly underrepresented minorities such as South and East Asian women. And I aspire to push for change through furthering my leadership efforts and sharing my voice by advancing the work of the Myna Mahila Foundation in rural India and slums, providing arts and academic tutoring to girls and young women in city shelters, and creating and curating content celebrating female storytelling. GirlUp has been a tremendous experience – of learning, of leading, of being challenged and discovering my capabilities and bringing out the potential in my sisters as they’ve done for me. And for that I am forever grateful.

By convening with leaders and change-makers with GirlUp, I have had access to resources to continue my advocacy, be a voice of change, and empower women and young girls in my community and globally, whether through access to education and sanitary products in impoverished and isolated parts of India or through art and enrichment for young women in need in Plano and Frisco. I have been to spark discussions for and about girls and teens, empower them to recognize and take pride in their worth as women, and forge connections and friendships with fellow leaders. We together have worked to stand for representation and equality for women, lobbying for important issues and elevating and uplifting ourselves and women everywhere.

Women and girls are an essential part of the conversation and by empowering women and girls, we together empower the community. By seeing women as leaders and improving my own leadership potential along with that of my peers and amazing GirlUp friends and sisters, I hope to further advocate for women in my community as well as in developing countries such as rural India in Delhi and Mumbai to see their worth as women and change-makers. Convening with powerful women who are changing the world, inspiring friends and peers, and sharing and exchanging ideas has been vital to my work as a women’s advocate and this incredible opportunity as part of GirlUp has allowed and enabled me to be a voice for change for my sisters.

As a young Indian American girl and the daughter of immigrants, I am the first in my family to receive a public high school education in the United States and am incredibly grateful for this opportunity. I use my platform as a teen journalist to advocate for the increased visibility and positive representation of women in media and my work has led me to the convene with women’s advocates in leadership and empowerment conferences. From the red carpets of the Golden Globes during the iconic #MeToo movement, to the premiere of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ and other powerful films, and the work of incredible women from Malala Yousafzai, Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling, Priyanka Chopra, to Emma Watson among an incredible array of world-changing activists, actors, and artists, we are witnessing change. Diversity in entertainment and media as well as among activists and leaders is key to representation and hearing valuable, game-changing perspectives by allowing everyone a seat at the table. By advocating for Asian-American representation, South and East Asian I am proud to raise my voice for women and represent GirlUp and diverse women everywhere.

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