Vandinika Shukla, India’s representative at G(irls)20 summit in Sydney, shares her leadership experience in community development projects.
My quest to learn and engage with what it means to create ‘impact’ led me to participate in and lead multiple community development and social entrepreneurial projects since high school. My keen interest in the role of the Right to Education Act (RTE) — landmark legislation for accessible education in India, encouraged me to join a youth led organisation —‘Becoming I foundation’ — to conceptualise and execute a novel project called ‘Enable’.
Project Enable is a social entrepreneurship project aimed at empowering school children to implement the RTE Act. Over the past two years, this project has reached out to over 200 students and ten of Delhi’s premier schools. In the light of the 25-per-cent reservation for the EWS (Economically Weaker Section) students in private schools and the subsequent possibility of a prejudiced classroom dynamic, Project Enable seeks to challenge high-school students to develop a sustainable model for making their schools more accessible and equal-opportunity driven. This is coupled with rigorous workshops, mentoring sessions and community visits on issues of social justice, prejudice, entrepreneurship and project management. We end each phase with a summit wherein we give these students the opportunity to interact with educationists, social entrepreneurs and teachers for guidance before they present their models to a panel of judges.
A path to strength: This project allowed me to encourage the youth to take ownership of legislation rather than passively observe its imposition. Through my interaction with 14-16-year-olds, I saw the influential role that mentorship and access to information can play in breaking stereotypes and challenging traditional socio-economic, cultural and gender structures. I strongly believe such agency of influencing a country’s decision-making — economic, political or social — needs to be specifically extended to girls and young women. Being chosen as a delegate for the first Women in Public Service Project in Delhi, conducted by my college, Lady Shri Ram College, and the Woodrow Wilson Center, significantly shaped and affirmed this belief. Interacting with women leaders from governance, politics, business and the U.N. across South Asia and hearing their stories of success and struggle was inspiring as well as served as a route to how I can be stronger, wiser and more connected to issues affecting the society as an aspiring leader.
Today as I look forward to the incredible opportunity and honour of representing my country at the G(irls)20 Summit in Sydney this year, I feel I am entering a powerful space where I can truly learn the tools to influence positive change.
Activism: I am excited to share my experiences from my projects such as ‘Enable’ and ‘The Indian Voter’— a social media campaign to increase voter awareness, provide a platform for youth opinion and bring a focus on policy issues (example: Education, Women & Child Development) in electoral debates. Designed according to the G20 Architecture, G(irls)20 will bring together one delegate from each G20 country to discuss, debate and design solutions that will economically advance girls and women around the world. I believe the summit through its dynamic network of mentors and fellow delegates will help me learn more about my own capacity to encourage girls and women in my community to embrace positions of leadership in politics and entrepreneurship.
The writer will be the India representative for the G(irls) 20 Summit 2014.