The Power of One Experience

I was seven-years-old when I stood in front of two hundred people in Bangalore, India, dressed in a red sari embroidered with golden thread. I held a cardboard-and-tinfoil sword in my right hand. My hair was done in a tight braid with a flower in it, and my flushed cheeks complemented the red lipstick I was wearing. It was a poetry recitation competition, and I was excited to share a poem about Jhansi Ki Rani, the former queen of Jhansi and one of the leading figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857. I won first place, but my greatest victory was that I became an accidental feminist that day.

Since then, I’ve carried with me an unwavering sense of duty to empower today’s young girls, much like the bold women of yesterday who paved the way for girls like me.

Upon reflection, that one childhood experience — a poetry recitation competition — is my first memory of feeling like I had found a passion. In a way, it empowered my seven-year-old self.

Whether it is working with students through a local STEM Club I established while I was in high school, or meeting face-to-face with the four Indian girls I’ve helped to garner access to high-quality education in association with an Indian non-profit, I am a feminist. And it isn’t by accident anymore.

And over the years, instead of just reciting, I have written poems on the topics of women’s empowerment and the international refugee crisis. I am motivated by the fact that when I was in eighth grade, sitting in a well-heated classroom, a girl only two years older than me was boarding a school bus seven thousand miles away. Two minutes later, a gunman put a bullet through her head, neck, and shoulders. When I heard that Malala Yousafzai had been shot, I was livid. While I traveled to school each day without worrying that my gender could put me in danger, sixty-two million girls around the world could not.

Over the years, I have realized that belief in a cause, coupled with resilience, can turn a spark into an initiative. And each initiative I have undertaken has helped me evolve from a seven-year-old accidental feminist into a feminist who has made it her personal mission to raise awareness about women’s empowerment, whether it be in the field of technology or in the fight for women’s education.