Kunalika Gautam and Tanvee Sharma are third-year students of Jesus and Mary College, pursuing BA Political Science (H) and BA Sociology (H) respectively. Recently, the two along with Vidhi Uppal, Piya Uppal, Ridhima Narang and Bhavika Behal stirred up the feminist atmosphere of the esteemed college by introducing a United Nations Foundation campaign designed and formed to harness the energy and compassion of the girls in college with the aim of aiding women to world over, named Girl Up.This girl gang is heading Girl Up Sakhi along with their 120+ dedicated team members, to help young women and men develop self-confidence, creativity, moral decisiveness and a sense of responsibility as active global citizens.
I had the pleasure of meeting them after their very successful donation drive at the High Court of Delhi, where they were collecting funds to sponsor menstrual products for those who unfortunately do not have access; and the #GoYellow Campaign launched on social media to raise awareness about suicide prevention.
What follows is my interview with Kunalika Gautam.
Q : Hello! Please start by telling us how the idea for GirlUp Sakhi evolved?
A : Tanvee Sharma (Vice President, Sakhi) and I, attended the ‘Election Awareness Campaign’ hosted by Instagram, YLAC and GirlUp India on 2nd April 2019, held in the Facebook Office, Gurgaon. It was here that we met Aditi Arora, the GirlUp Campaign country representative for India. Her enthusiasm and the principles driving the global GirlUp campaign encouraged us to take up this initiative at a personal level and establish a club.
Q : Do you think if you had not attended the event, you would still be working for something equivalent of this?
A : Yes, most definitely so. Global gender equality, though an ambitious ideal, is one that we are particularly invested in. We would have contributed towards the effort in some way or the other, but what is for sure is that the platform that GirlUp provides makes our contribution much more efficient. We are grateful and proud to be a part of the campaign.
Q : What is the vision that drives GirlUp Sakhi?
A : At the beginning of the academic year, the office-bearers of Sakhi sat down to brainstorm on the themes that would drive our journey. We came up with 3 broad areas that we would want Sakhi to contribute towards.
- Hygiene: with special emphasis on women’s menstrual and reproductive health. Recently, we launched the campaign, #MensesNotOffences under which we had a fundraiser in the Delhi High Court where we were able to raise over 2lakhs to sponsor menstrual products for girls who don’t have access to them. In the second phase of this campaign, we will be preparing menstrual kits for the girls and distributing them. We will also be having workshops for them to bust certain myths about menstruation that might be overwhelming their experience.
- Defence: We want girls to be able to secure for themselves physical and mental security. On 10th October, World Mental Health Day, we collaborated with ‘Youth for Mental Health’ in support of their #GoYellow campaign to raise awareness about suicide prevention.
- Advocacy: We’ve conducted a lecture on the importance of menstrual hygiene and share regularly on issues of relevance to raise awareness. In addition, we’ve also undertaken a Research Project to study the social, psychological and economic impact of living alone on female outstation students.
Our activities commenced with the beginning of the new session in August, and in a short span of over 2 months, we’ve made significant progress towards accomplishing our goals. Currently, GirlUp Sakhi occupies the 4th position on the South Asia Clubs Leaderboard, we hope to contribute significantly in the future and touch the top position!
Q : Being in your third year, how do you manage to balance everything?
A : We believe when one is passionate about what they do, tasks don’t seem like a burden and everything functions in a smooth manner. Sakhi functions beautifully alongside our third-year schedule!
Q : Imagine you are invited to the California GirlUp Summit. What would you be wearing and why?
A : We’d wear something that represents the women in India because it is them we’d be representing if invited to participate in the GirlUp Summit!
Q : The name GirlUp Sakhi would imply working for women but we at DUExpress know that it’s much more than that. How do you work on explaining this to someone who is unaware of this fact?
A : This question is a part of the larger question on the feminist paradigm. Many would imagine that feminism means pushing for the creation of a world where women are given privilege at the cost of men but that is not what it is. The women’s movement is, has always been and will always be something that wishes to address the inequalities that prevail in society and change the world to make it a better place for everyone. This is why one will see that women’s movements become one of the safest places for marginalised groups to find liberation. That was the rationale behind the choice of our name as SAKHI – its to highlight the fact that we are willing to be a friend and create a community that supports and empowers all.
Q : What happens to the initiative once you graduate? Do you carry on working with Sakhi or do you leave a piece here?
A : GirlUp Sakhi, in addition to the 6 office bearers, has over 120 passionate members. Next year, new office bearers will take over and continue the good work being done by Sakhi.
We, on our part, will obviously leave a part of us with this little initiative in the hope that it will scale greater heights making bigger contributions and make a positive impact on society for years to come!