More than 260 million children are out of school around the world, according to the United Nations. Despite some progress in achieving gender equality in the world’s poorest countries, far more girls than boys still do not have access to a quality education.
Research has shown that educating girls, in particular, has a ‘multiplier effect’. Educated women are more productive at home and better paid in the workplace, and more able to participate in social, economic and political decision-making.
I had a privilege to interview a young ‘awesomesome’ hero Deeya Sharma, who is making a difference with her ‘WE Care’ organization to empower women through education. Let’s enjoy the excerpt from this interview. And please do let us know if you know someone who is making a difference in the community and can be our next awesome some hero.
Tell us a bit about yourself and about WE CARE?
My name is Deeya Sharma and I am currently a senior at Skyline high school. I am also the founder-president of WE CARE—Women Empowerment through Collaborations, Awareness, and Resources for Education (www.thewecareclub.org). WE CARE’s mission is to empower women through education by collaborating other organizations to help create educational opportunities for women by providing funding and educational resources. We do this by following our acronym: first, we collaborate with registered non-profit organizations and focus on one aspect of that organization that we think we can contribute to and make stronger. Secondly, we raise awareness in our communities about the importance of women’s education and the various projects we are working on. Lastly, we contribute to the non-profits we collaborate with by raising resources for education. This may include funds, supplies, or volunteers.
That is fantastic, what inspired you to form WE CARE?
I established WE CARE about four years ago after a trip to India. During my trip, I had gone to visit my grandmother’s house in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. When I arrived at her house, I saw a girl my age, no more than fourteen at the time, sweeping the floors. In the moment, I chose to ignore her. However, after a few days, I decided to talk to her. Her name was Priya. When I asked what grade was she in, she told me she had actually never attended school. Because her parents could not afford sending all their
children to good schools, they sent her brothers to school and made her, and her sisters work as domestic helpers to support family income. In the US, we have mandatory primary education for all children, regardless of gender, race, or economic prosperity. However, living in a privileged society, we often don’t realize that there are places where girls are not allowed to attend school, simply for being girls. WE CARE hopes to change that and promote education to work towards equality and empower women around the world.
Amazing, you are an inspiration to many. Why was it so important to you to start an organization like WE CARE?
I believe WE CARE have two main messages which are crucial to understand. The first is that WE CARE works towards a global cause that promotes equality through education—emphasizing the power and importance of an education. The second message is that anyone, no matter how young, can work towards making a difference in the world. WE CARE is currently run through high school students whose goal is to foster a better future and education for other.
WE CARE has been able to send girls to college in India through the Veerni Project, funded and continuing to fund a digital literacy program in Afghanistan through Sahar, and gotten involved locally with Girls on the Run to promote community service, and healthy choices through education in the Puget Sound. These projects are only possible because students have put in the time, energy, and support to work towards equality. In essence, it is important to start organizations like WE CARE to promote equality, community involvement and service, and global understanding.
Love your thought process here. How did you choose which countries and communities to visit? How are you envisioning the growth of WE CARE?
The first organization we collaborated with, Veerni, is actually based in my home country and my mother’s home town. It is also where I met Priya. I felt that it was important to start WE CARE from where I was inspired and where I had seen and somewhat experienced these problems first hand. I then expanded WE CARE to Sahar, an organization that my elementary school supported while I was studying there. Sahar works in Afghanistan and has grown immensely in the last few years. Lastly, when I was in the 5th grade I had been a participant of Girls on the Run and my experiences was simply amazing. I learned so much and grew as an individual. Girls on the Run made me more confident and helped me realize the importance of education, community service, and healthy habits. Because I had personally benefitted a great deal from Girls on the Run, I felt that WE CARE should get involved with it and help promote their mission. All in all, the organizations that WE CARE has collaborated with have a very special place in my heart and I truly do believe in their missions.
Awesome, are you seriously a high schooler😊… Since circumstances are different in countries and each community, what advice do you typically give to girls trying to get an education?
While circumstances are often different in each country and community, every girl we support has a drive and passion for educating herself. She recognizes that her abilities are not limited and is determined to fight against constructs to obtain an education. The main advice I give to these girls is that they should never lose their determination and to be independent and support themselves. Education is truly priceless, and I hope they continue their education regardless of what others say or societal and/or familial pressures.
You’re a passionate advocate leading an organization and a full-time student. What do you do for fun when you have time to relax? How do you balance time with so many things you do?
I am a tennis player and play for my high school JV-A team and was ranked number one doubles last year. Additionally, I am a classical Indian singer and have been for the last six years. These two activities are great stress-relievers and help relax me as well. I believe that they are also key in balancing my time. It is important to focus on mental and physical health no matter how long the “to-do list” is. Everyone should find activities that they enjoy doing so they are able to keep themselves healthy and balance their life.
You’re a role model for so many people. Who is someone you look up to and why? What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten?
As a young woman, I look up to my mother as an inspiration. My mother is one of the most important people in my life and my role model. She was born in a poor family and struggled in school as a child. However, as high school came around, she pushed herself to be one of the most successful people in her class because she wanted to be able to support her family, so they could live comfortably. She not only went to college, but she also went to grad school and got her PHD all while working 2 to 3 jobs on the side to support herself and her family. She stayed close with her loved ones and set an example for her younger sister. She never let her economic situation or personal problems get in the way for her and her education and she has instilled this value in me as well. The best piece of advice she has given me is that life is more than educating yourself to get good grades, but rather education is there to make you stronger, more knowledgeable, and more aware. She chants one mantra everyday: hard work can overcome any obstacle. To me, my mother is the definition of a strong woman. She is an advocate for working women. And above all, she is my everything.
Kudos to your mother and family. How important do you feel it is that young people are allowed to follow their own paths and make their own decisions?
I feel that this is extremely important—but I believe that youth will be able to make educated decisions, only when they are exposed to a variety of opportunities, activities, and viewpoints. In WE CARE, we see women conforming to society’s ideals. For example, some of the girls that are part of the Veerni Project (a non-profit that we support) are child brides. If they were to be educated and taught about the risks of child marriage and birth, they may be able to tear themselves away from those stereotypical ideas and start to develop opinions of their own. That is truly the power of education—it gives us confidence and helps us make educated decisions. Martin Luther King once said, “Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” With education, the youth can be empowered and aware of their surroundings, decisions, and most importantly themselves.
You are making a huge impact by elevating the lives of these individuals and families. How could readers of this channel help you?
Because WE CARE relies heavily on community support and involvement, I encourage all readers to recognize the value of their education—it is truly a privilege. Additionally, to get involved with WE CARE specifically, I encourage readers to contact us with fundraising ideas, donate to WE CARE, and volunteer for WE CARE. More information about WE CARE can be found at: www.thewecareclub.org
Thank you Deeya for talking with us and sharing your awesome thoughts and initiatives. You are truly an awesomesome! I encourage our readers to support your organization to help empower women in education. We wish you all the best!
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