I feel like most of us have a mental image of what we think poverty looks like, or what tragedy looks like. When Ladki Love was first created, we moved forward with that preconceived image in mind.
Around a week ago, I visited one of the shelters that an organization that Ladki Love is donating to, "Homes of Hope," helped to build. In the days leading up to the visit, I began to feel inexplicably nervous. It wasn't until I was met with a room full of girls sitting in neat rows and over a minute of silence, that I realized why. I felt like I needed to say something profound and prophetic to these girls–– but I didn't know what. As the girls gestured to the row of plastic chairs lined up in front of them, I began to come to terms with the fact that nothing that I could say to these girls could make their situation any less unfortunate. Rather I sat on the floor and began to ask them some questions, eventually asking them who their first friend at the shelter was, and what they talked about. One girl raised her hand and pointed at the girl sitting beside her. She told me that the night she arrived at the shelter, her new friend asked her two questions: what her name was, and why she was crying. "I only told her my name," she told me.
Regardless of the fact that these girls had likely gone through more than most could ever fathom, that answer was the first and only time during my visit that anything of low-spirit was discussed. Even the former was not necessarily negative. It was heartwarming to hear that the girl did not want to dwell in the past; rather she wanted to move forward with nothing more than her name and hope for a better future. We then began to talk about their hopes and dreams, and their talents. Many of the girls aimed to be teachers and nurses, while others told me about their goals to become a police officer, a social worker, and even a fashion designer. What's incredible about organizations like Homes of Hope and these shelters is that they allow for these hopes and dreams to become very plausible; two of the girls I spoke to were already well on their way to becoming nurses. I asked one of these girls if she knew how to sing or dance. She excitedly told me that everyone in the shelter knew how to, and that they could show us.
The rest of the visit consisted of almost every girl in the shelter dancing. Each time a new song came on they'd yell as if they were at a party and it was New Years Eve. As they tried to teach my uncoordinated self to dance, I noticed how incorrect my preexisting image of tragedy had been. While I'm sure it was accurate in different settings, it wasn't universal. With each minute that we danced, I further began to appreciate this experience, the new friends that I had made, and the closing gap between us Indian girls like myself, and those that were not as fortunate.
Ladki Love is a non-profit organization focused on selling meaningful chokers and stickers, and donating all proceeds to support underprivileged girls in India, in their pursuits for a prosperous, enriching education. The word ladki translates to “girl” in English, so the club name is essentially “Girl Love”.
A common question raised by students not affiliated with the club is: Why is your organization only helping Indian girls, and not Indian boys? Shouldn’t all underprivileged children living in developing countries such as India receive an education?
Well, of course all children deserve an education. In India, the fundamental concept of education is considered sacred and mandatory for all boys, who are thought to be the primary breadwinners for the family. Parents from even the lowest castes slog day in and day out as servants in the slums of India, sharing a small 10x10 sq. ft room with five other families, in hopes of saving every bit of money that is necessary for their children’s education. However, these servant families may have numerous children to support.
If impoverished Indian parents give birth to two children, one being a son, and one being a daughter, they will only be able to support the education of one of these children. Since the patriarchal society signifies that the daughter is naturally inferior to the son, the parents will choose to educate the son.
What becomes of the daughter? If she is lucky, she will be permitted to stay at home to help her mother. Otherwise, she shall be sent to an orphanage, accompanied by other beautiful, insightful, curious young girls who have been stripped of the opportunity to procure a basic necessity we take for granted in the United States: education.
Another reason that girls are not permitted to attend school in India is the parents’ fear that their daughter will be subject to potentially harmful eve-teasing (violent catcalling, sexual slurs, molestation, rape) either while walking/riding the bus to school, or when coming back home. If there are episodes of sexual harassment or violence performed to a young Indian girl, she must remain silent, and not tell her family. If she tells her family, she will be banned from attending school, and blamed for somehow promoting or encouraging men to act in such a manner to her. She will be shamed for her choice in clothing, mannerisms, or weight.
It is our mission to sell chokers with empowering symbols (Venus charm, Lotus Flower charm) and stickers showcasing the Venus symbol merged with the globe, in order to empower Indian women to not only have the financial means to acquire an education, but to also empower them to embrace their own beauty and grace.
It is to bring awareness to the problems unique to girls in impoverished parts of India that our club is specifically named “Ladki Love” instead of “Children Love.” It's a cultural issue, but it is also a gender issue- we must never undermine the latter.
Post written by guest writer Mridini Vijay
In today’s society we are flooded with dystopian novels that characterize the persona of a strong female lead: Hunger Games, Divergent, Wonder Woman, the list goes on. Minds are filled with stories of heroines, creating a microcosm of the prevalent issues in which active voices of fierce women are vocalized on a global level in times of upheaval. The popular media and entertainment culture reflects the increasing desire for women to speak and act with courage. It’s alarming that just a few decades ago, a man would be filled with bewilderment and disdain if a woman were outspoken, as if being an assertive female is something undesirable. The number of women who have displayed courage and spoken up for themselves and for others is definitely increasing, but it is nonetheless overdue. It is the result of an ache for change, and a longing for equity. It’s foundation is built with the bricks of oppression and stereotypical expectations. Movements such as #metoo are empowering many to raise awareness. However being a strong, outspoken woman is not a hashtag, and it is not a trend of our modern society. In any instance of injustice, rights must be verbalized through a catalyst who is willing to run against the current and fight for change. That catalyst can mobilize and rally many to stand together.
We need to take a closer look at areas with a large gender disparity and campaign for changes at the youth level. Young women need to be better supported in pursuing a career in STEM fields, sports, and obtaining leadership positions. All facets of life (work, relationships, society, politics) must demonstrate gender equality on a global level in order for women to truly be respected for their contributions and treated as powerful individuals. Then only will our fictional heroines be replaced by the real life characters who inspire all and move us toward change.
Post written by guest writer Sejal Govindarao
Sexism is heavily ingrained into the English language, whether we notice it or not. On the daily I hear people say, “Hey, guys!” to a group of girls. While this isn’t outwardly offensive or demeaning, it shows that we have a long way to go and how important it is to be conscious of our word choice.
Firstly, I want differentiate between those who are ignorant versus those who are clueless. People who are inherently sexist understand the effects of their words and believe in supremacy. Those who are clueless simply do not realize that their words have power and those are the people who can be educated. We shouldn’t yell at these people for their mistakes, but calmly point out the impact of their words. Shaming someone for their potential misunderstanding will only make them embarrassed, angry, or frustrated and make them less likely to listen. I believe cluelessness is a result of sheltering or a lack of exposure. Many people have a hard time understanding things that they have never experienced.
On another note, a common word thrown around by people is p*ssy. In English, calling someone a p*ssy is synonymous to calling someone weak. This is problematic because it implies that female genitalia is “weak” and therefore women are weak. The usage of a vulgar term that pries on supremacy is and can be offensive towards women as it reduces women to being incapable.
So, how do we combat this issue of “innate sexism”? In simply being aware of the words we use, we can start the conversation. It’s okay to trip up, we all do it, but acknowledgement is a step in the right direction.
Post written by guest writer Rianna Mukherjee
Fast fashion. The exact definition is an approach to design, creation, and marketing of clothing that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers. Industries like Forever 21 and H&M are notorious for trendy clothing at an affordable price. This approach to the industry is not only harming the environment with over 15.1 million tons of textile waste created in 2013 alone, but it is also creating an unhealthy “disposable” culture within the fashion industry. How do companies like the aforementioned manage to churn out so many garments at such a low price? One word: Sweatshops. These factories function under inhumane working conditions with hundreds of workers, a majority of them women, making barely livable wages. These industries continue to keep women in developing countries oppressed and dependent on these jobs, which keeps all the stores around the world affordable and in business. Cheap labor jobs is something that continues to plague women in struggling economies and causes a lack of growth and opportunities within their own communities. It is an industry that thrives by taking advantage of women who are at a financial disadvantage and in need of work. Our current fashion industry is built on the backs of women across the world who barely make ten cents a garment. Fortunately, there are many ways to dismantle the fast fashion industry and continue to support these women who are struggling to survive in their economic states. The most frustrating part of this major issue is how simple the solutions are. Buying second-hand, quality clothing lessens the strain on the environment and also creates less of a demand for cheaply made clothing. Donating unwanted clothing, recycling damaged ones, and buying from fair-trade, locally-sourced companies will not only support local business owners, but also help end the ways of cheap fashion and help create a dialogue to defend these women’s rights to a safe, fair, and rewarding work environment.
Post was written by guest writer Sofia Hughes
My first day of second grade, was the day I walked away with something more than just homework. I had just moved to San Ramon and was beyond excited to make new friends as well as see all my new teachers. I walked into class and sat next to a girl who I thought seemed sweet and gentle. I was wearing a green princess Jasmine T-shirt, it was my most favorite one, I thought everyone would love it. Then suddenly, the girl who was sitting next to me turned to meet my face and said, “Why are you wearing that shirt, what are you, a baby? It’s so ugly, just go sit somewhere else.” I was devastated. Did everybody feel this way, was I just some loser? I was 7, and like most 7 year olds I did not know how to react or how to feel about the opinionated comment that was made. When I went home that day, I pondered about if everyday at my new school would be like this, people talking and judging me. I then came to a conclusion, why does it matter?
This moment was one that really did shape me into the person I am today, regarding the moral of self love. No person should have to take away the happiness that you get by wearing a shirt, or have an interest in something you find appealing. Today everyone is torn between what they think is exceptional and what they think others will find acceptable. Loving yourself, loving music, clothes, and who you are should not be jeopardized by anyone’s opinions or expectations. Furthermore, a person’s opinion should not change yours, or your amazing personality. Shattering a person’s self love is the quickest way to lower a person’s self esteem as well as tear them down. Instead of letting those punches get to you, fight back by loving yourself and embracing every ounce of unique qualities you have. As long as you walk out the door with a smile, a deep breath of confidence and a big helping of self love, no one can take happiness away from you.
Post was written by guest writer Nina Shenoy
You can’t say you understand because you’ve never experienced the kinds of things that we have. The slurs, the jokes, the appropriation, and the erasure. As an Asian American I’ve never seen myself properly represented the way that white people have - in school, movies, books, on TV, and social media. We make up six percent of the population in America, which is a total of nineteen million people whose heritage is ignored and overlooked in our society today.
Now, it’s wrong to say that Asian Americans are the only ones who face this silent oppression. All minorities shoulder a burden as well, regardless of whatever race they are. But I speak of my own experiences; the experiences of my brothers and sisters, and what all of us have been forced to endure throughout our lives. Our cultures have a long history and are not to be mocked and degraded. We value them as much as you value your own, and they deserve nothing from you but respect.
There are many stereotypes surrounding Asian culture, most of which are rude and insulting toward the people they’re aimed at. I’m sure that not a single one of us has gone through their lives without hearing some variation of these things that people say.
“Of course you got an A on that test. You’re Asian. All Asians are smart.”
“Are you sure you should be driving? Asians are terrible drivers.”
“It’s so Asian of you to do what your parents say all the time.”
And of course, my personal favorite: when you pull out the corners of your eyes, laughing hysterically as you do your best impression of a broken bell tower- “ching chong, ching chong!”
You have no idea just how much damage one small action, one short phrase, can do. Racist comments like these are extremely offensive to such a large group of people. When these stereotypes are enforced, it not only creates a negative depiction of Asian people, but makes them feel as if they’ll never be “normal” in the eyes of the American people. As long as this discrimination continues, it will always set us apart from everyone else. Wouldn’t it be better to live as a united, accepting community rather than groups separated by bigotry? And just imagine what it feels like to the people who have to hear these things themselves. It’s so indecent of you to make fun of someone based on their ethnicity. They’ve earned good grades because they have a good work ethic, not because they’re Asian. They make mistakes on the road because they were distracted by something, not because they’re Asian. And maybe the reason they listen to their parents is because they actually value respect, not because they're Asian. We need to dispel these harmful stereotypes so that everyone can be treated with equality and respect.
On a much larger scale, your discrimination toward Asian people is augmented through their portrayal in the media. Asian Americans make up a mere five percent of total speaking or named roles in movies and only one percent of lead roles. These characters, if there are any at all, are almost always of an East Asian background or origin. You reduce them to a stereotypical archetype such as the nerd, the dragon lady, the karate master, or the submissive love interest. You may not even notice this because there is so little representation on screen. But when there is, it’s so wildly inaccurate that millions are led to believe in this warped depiction of what Asian culture really is.
The degradation of our cultures isn’t something to be brushed off. Before anything else, we’re people who don’t deserve to be objectified. There are Asian countries that exist outside of the East - sixty-two percent of Asians are from South, Southeast, Central, or West Asia. It’s an extremely diverse region with so many different kinds of people, and yet we receive such a poor characterization in the media. You throw symbols of value to the ground when you use traditional clothing as costumes or “exotic” fashion. Cultural appropriation isn’t in style and never will be. This twisting of values includes having white people play Asian characters, more infamously known as whitewashing. With this action, there are even less Asian Americans in film and more inaccuracy and erasure. You have so many opportunities for representation in so many ways; it’s unfair for us to give up what little we have left. We deserve just as much diverse, inspiring, and positive publicity as you do.
I want to live in a world with equality for all. I wish for you to understand and accept our people. I hope to take pride in myself and my family for who we are without having to face your laughs and insults. I know this dream is near impossible with the way things are now, but every little effort has a great effect for someone. Don’t make fun of the boy with broken English; the girl wearing a hijab; the people who work to style your nails. Learn about the different kinds of people in the world and what can be done to support them. We’re all facing the same obstacle together, and we’d love to have you standing by our side, facing and fighting it with us.
Post was written by guest writer Lauren Sabater
I think that too many people walk through life with a preconceived notion that there is really no such thing as “mental health”. Over the years I've come across so many people who overlook the facts that a condition like depression is not something someone makes up. Depression is a very real and serious condition and when it comes to the impact it has on your health it does differently than diabetes or heart disease. When I was younger I associated depression with the way we saw it in the movies. I believed that it’s only a real problem when you’re sad all the time, you never come out of your room, or you stop communicating with people around you. As I grew older and had my own experiences I realized that it’s different for everyone. For me, it comes in waves but that may not be the case for others. After struggling with depression for well well over a year I've learned to be more open about my everyday struggles. I’ve learned that my “bad” days may be the ones that hurt but they are the ones who taught me that there is hurt around us that cannot be fixed by band-aids and sappy poetry. My bad days taught me to apologize to myself every time I felt like I hated myself. We are at a time in this country where every issue has left us all so deeply divided. There is no better time for all of us to come together and remind ourselves that we are all fighting our own battles.
My name is Neeharika. I deal with depression every day but I am NOT my illness.
Post written by guest writer Neeharika Chenna
I think that we all go on with our lives ignoring the fact that 1 in 4 female college students are sexually harassed at least once on campus. Or the fact that 30% of children are molested between the ages of 14-17. And now even the most popular, successful hollywood actors are being accused of sexual harassment/molestation. As much as we don’t want to admit it, rape culture has become so prevalent in our society that even the stars that many of us idolize, are apart of it.
For example, Kevin Spacey who has starred in House of Cards for the past couple years, has recently been accused of sexual harassment. And George Takei, has been slammed with cases of molestation and sexual assault. Not only have multiple victims claimed to be hurt by these men, but their perverted personalities have been publicized many times. The main question is, why aren’t they in jail?
Out of a thousand rapists, almost 994 perpetrators walk free. This statistic surprisingly doesn’t shock me. These numbers are easily believable in the context of our society. As much as we think that we are safe, living in a first world country compared to a third world country, we really aren’t. Our own president has been videotaped during his so called “locker room” conversation only to reveal that our society has just another “outstanding” and “brilliant” figure that supports sexual harassment. So why aren’t these criminals in jail?
Well, our society seems to do a great job blaming the victim and releasing the perpetrators unharmed from these situations. And until we force these rapists and molesters to take responsibility for their actions, our society will still be stuck in its primal stages.
We need to stop blaming the women and children who are being molested and raped. We need to start providing them the proper medical and psychological care that they need. We need to start blaming the real criminals like Kevin Spacey and George Takei who still bask in the rays of wealth and popularity instead of taking responsibility for their horrible actions. And most importantly, we need to put them behind bars. How can we be considered one of the most developed countries if we can’t even properly bring justice to women and children?
Post written by guest writer Medha Dandamudi
Ever since the 7th grade, not a day goes by for me where I don’t hear someone, girl or boy, say something along the lines of “Why am I so dumb?” or “Haha look at his shoes..what is he wearing?” Recently I’ve begun to wonder why we constantly make remarks similar to these. Why do we constantly put ourselves down, and drag others with us in the process? I’ve come to realize that there is a growing lack of self-confidence in teens, especially females. Self-confidence is a feeling of trust and belief in your judgement, decisions, and abilities. It is important in virtually every aspect of our lives, yet saddeningly, a large majority struggle to find it within them.
The leading cause of this decline in self confidence is unrealistic social norms. We all get lost in the nuances of what we’re “supposed” to be, and what we’re “supposed” to be doing, and once we come to the realization that we’re not all of those things, the weight comes crashing down on us. We start to deprecate ourselves, telling ourselves we’re not enough. At anything. That we’re not trying hard enough, we’re not smart enough, we’re not pretty enough. Everyone in our society gets so caught up in these “expectations” for ourselves, that we start to lose grip on what really matters. Especially in a society like ours, we let every tiny mishap affect us significantly. Getting a B in one class will not cause your death, and don’t let anyone tell you it will. 10 years in the future, it won’t matter if we took 10 AP classes or if we took 8 AP classes. It won’t matter if we wore Brandy Melville jeans or if we wore Children’s Place jeans. Will it affect us? Likely. But what will matter, is if we are happy. And how do we become happy? We become satisfied. Satisfied with our choices, our life-style, our looks, and all in all, we become satisfied with our lives. We need to start to tell ourselves, whether it be every hour, or everyday, that it simply does not matter what others think. Rather than doing us any good, it only forces us to carry an unnecessary burden on our shoulders.
By saying this, I am not implying that you should not try hard at school or that you shouldn’t care about your appearance. I am a teenager in high school. I hear all the things people say about others. Gossip and dirty insults being thrown at everyone, staining everyone's reputations. I understand that it is hard to feel love for yourself when people are constantly trying to bring you down. I understand that it causes you to question things about yourself and you wonder why people say such nasty things. I too wonder the same thing. If someone is talking about you behind your back, it is likely to make up for their own lack of self-confidence. It’s a vicious cycle, really. People who struggle to find self-love try to acquire it by destroying others’ confidence, and then that person goes on to do the same thing. But go on and be the one to break the cycle. If someone comments on the way you look, be the one to tell them off, and walk away with your confidence levels steady, if not even higher than they were before. And more importantly, don’t be the one to tear others down. If you think another boy or girl looks better than you today or is better than you at a subject at school, don’t worry about it! Tell the person how amazing they are and maybe even make a friend out of it, rather than throwing disrespectful comments at them to better your own self-esteem. You do NOT have to be #1 at everything, nor anything, to be considered amazing, beautiful, and inspiring.
There was one incident in which the importance of self confidence really shined for me. My friends and I are all a fairly close-knit group. We took a fun trip to Great America over the summer, and it just so happened that day, that the sun was scorching hot. One of my friends had on a pretty short romper and we all seemed to notice it. Another friend pointed it out to her, and said, “Hey, why is your romper so short, you’re showing off too much.” Most people would be discomforted by the comment and pull their clothing item over to cover up, however my friend responded, “It’s hot outside, so I will wear something short. I feel confident in it, so it’s none of your business, and if it makes you uncomfortable, don’t look.” We were all taken aback by her response, but my level of respect for her increased exponentially throughout that day. I believe that this is the level of self confidence that we should all strive to achieve.
Self confidence has so many benefits to our lifestyles aside from pure happiness. The more confident you are, the more risks you’re willing to take in life. Taking risks may lead to some of the most memorable moments of our lives, and opens up a whole new world of opportunity awaiting us. Additionally, the more confident you are, the less anxious you will be. Anxiety is usually caused by disbelief in our abilities to do something right. Having that confidence will, for lack of better wording, melt the heck out of your anxiety. And of course, most importantly, self-confidence is directly linked to happiness. For a majority, our happiness is based off of how good we feel about ourselves. Having confidence in yourself will lead you down the path to a better, more joy-filled life.
Lastly, there will always be people who say things about us. Just remember, as cliché as it sounds, that their words will only hurt you if you let them. The message here is to try your hardest to succeed. It doesn’t matter if others tell you that you’re not “trying hard enough” if you know that you are. Take the number of AP classes that you are comfortable with. Look the way you want to look. Dress the way you feel confident. You can express yourself how you want to. Whether it be through your clothing, your makeup/lack of makeup, your social media, your talents, or anything else you’d like it to be. For god’s sake, wear a bright orange jumpsuit to school if you feel confident in it! Whatever you may do in life, do not let others take away your confidence and individuality, because that in and of itself, is the key to happiness and success.
Post written by guest writer Sanjita Pamidimukkala
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