Ten years ago, Grade 10 student Aarya was invited to speak at the launch of Dasra’s Adolescent Girls’ initiative (Dasra) at the Rockefeller Centre in New York City. This March, Aarya was invited by Dasra to join their conference in New Delhi, India. The initiative has expanded into an adolescent collaborative where philanthropists, government and grassroots organizations work together to empower girls. The adolescent collaborative aims to end child marriage; increase the years a girl is in school; stem early childbirth; and increase teen girls’ agency. Aarya explains, “Dasra sees that these problems are complex because there are entire societal systems that have to change and the only way to make that happen is to create a platform for all stakeholders such as the government, donors, and recipients to collaborate and effect change.”
While in India, Aarya had the opportunity to meet several girls that have come through extremely disenfranchised backgrounds but who have found the strength to fight back and struggle through their situations to become not only outspoken agents of change but leaders in their communities. “The experience was extremely inspiring. It was incredible to meet fellow girls who have found the strength to fight back despite their disenfranchised backgrounds to become leaders in their communities,” Aarya shares.
In Bombay, Aarya supported Dasra as they hosted their annual Philanthropy Forum where funders, donor agencies and non-government organizations collaborated on how to better the outcomes they are targeting and better enable philanthropy so that change is effected for those who need it. “I was able to learn how philanthropic change is structured and how various NGOs work to create this change. I saw firsthand how effective change-making can be through collaboration,” Aarya shares.
“This trip opened my eyes to other issues that are prevalent in India and how they interact with each other,” she continues. “It has strengthened my desire to go into human rights and has made me realize that defending human rights is also about making systemic changes.”
Aarya’s experience with the Dasra Adolescent Collaborative has led to developing her Visual Arts ISU around child marriage, specifically in India. “During my trip, I was able to meet and speak with women who had been child brides. This opened my eyes to the deep-rooted issue of child marriage and allowed me to see the issue from the perspective of someone who has experienced what it means to be a child bride. I think that by meeting these women, I have a much better understanding of the sense of loss and deprivation of childhood that comes with being married as a child,” Aarya explains.
Seema, Aarya’s mother and Trafalgar alumna shares, “It was inspiring to see the change that an organized collective can drive and also to see and understand how deeply rooted these changes have to be. It definitely strengthened the desire to support human rights through advocacy in art, public speaking and potentially the law.”