Anya Thakur: As servant leaders, let’s work to develop a global perspective that encompasses the experiences of those in need and make an impact for social good.
I’m celebrating the holidays with my UN Women family and turning my wishes and aspirations into real-world change!
As a MetoWe and We Movement partner, I’m planning to support homeless women in my community through collecting sanitary napkins, blankets and other products to help them feel more comfortable this winter.
As servant leaders, let’s work to develop a global perspective that encompasses the experiences of those in need and make an impact for social good.
I achieved something near and dear to my heart — helping to empower and create opportunities for not only women and girls, but people and finding my voice. Now I’m shining a light on women feeling empowered to use their voices.
When we empower and uplift women and girls, we empower communities globally. I’m honored to support the work of community organizations such as Halton Women’s Place and Halton Women’s Centre and was originally drawn to the area because my aunt and uncle live in Canada. I chose to partner with community organizations because I wanted to be as hands on as possible and go on the ground to further my work as a UN Women advocate and connect on an individual level. These women are part of an incredibly diverse community and striving to make a better life for themselves.
hrough ShePower, I was motivated to disseminate health and hygiene products and over five thousand sanitary pads to underserved communities and to women and girls in need in Dallas, Vancouver Ontario and many parts of India. Faced with homelessness and other challenges, women are unable to afford these products and often resort to using abrasive materials such as newspaper or paper bags which can cause abrasions or infections. Funded by United Nations foundations and the Jane Goodall Foundation and donations from outreach efforts I led, I connected with and was able to empower or uplift women and girls in their time of need. By allowing them to focus on their education, careers and maximizing their potential, they can in turn contribute to their families, communities and achieve their personal goals. By empowering women, we are empowering communities, whether mine in Dallas or globally as I continue to do in Canada and India.
My mom and I carefully assembled care packages for distribution of sanitary products, also adding makeup and cosmetics so that women could to take pride in themselves and present themselves how they chose and be confident. And as we disseminated these, along with health information and opportunities for community engagement, the words we exchanged left an indelible impact on me and continue to fuel me.
A woman told me she has a daughter my age and shared how she had come from India to build a better life for herself and give her daughter opportunities she did not have. “I’m not giving up, I’m making the most out of this,” the woman said as we embraced. “I want my daughter to know that, too.”
I thought of my grandma then, who smells like the almond oils from her braids and sweet incense that seeps through her shawls and into her milky skin, speckled with sunspots and light discoloration and whose diaspora will be recounted for generations. As a girl, she fled Pakistan in a crammed bus full of bodies, her heart pounding violently against its cage, during the Partition. Just like the women I spoke with, she had to overcome immense hardships to become the strong woman she is today and raise my dad.
A girl there, just ten years old, who introduced herself to me, was already dreaming of the future and working hard towards an education and had goals to earn a degree to uplift her family. She had moved from Los Angeles, loved chocolate ice cream and I saw parts of myself reflected in her. I’ll never forget how she reminded me of so many of so many of my friends and shared so many of the same dreams.
I’m immensely proud of how my work has resonated with so many who have reached out to me, from interns at UN Women to young leaders such as Stanford University’s sophomore class president. But I want to reflect on the moments that left me breathless and exultant all because of young girls in rural India. I’m honored to advocate for UN Women and turn my dreams, and those of leaders and luminaries, into a reality and make an impact in the lives of young women and girls.
And as a new advocate for UN Women, it is an honor to join the ranks of luminaries like Emma Watson and Angelina Jolie, known for both their body of work and their activism, and continue to create a lasting legacy for this generation. The ideas of Gen-Z and the ideas and talents we are using to organize together and transform our world are reflected in the indelible impact we are having.
Instagram: Anya Thakur @anyaathakur