Twenty global leaders from some of the world’s most powerful nations will meet this November at the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Brisbane, Australia. But before that happens, 20 girls from the same G20 nations will meet in Sydney on August 25 and 26 to set the agenda for the leaders in terms of “expanding economic opportunities for women in the G20 economies”.
Twenty-year-old Vandinika Shukla, who just graduated from Lady Shri Ram College in Delhi with an honours degree in History, will represent India at the Summit.
Her’s is not a story of destiny, but of sheer will and hard work. A studious kid at school which she still is, she confirms Vandinika always wanted to contribute to her community. And because of her inclination towards promoting education as a tool for change, she conceptualised and headed a project called “Enable” while in college.
“I worked on Right to Education Act and towards sensitising high school kids about inclusive education and practices in classrooms through interactive workshops and training. And in that process, we also trained them on social entrepreneurship so they went on to create a model for their school to be more inclusive and accessible to economically weaker students,” she says.
In the run-up to the G(irls) 20, Vandinika was also one of the delegates of the recently held conference by The Shift Series and tGELF (The Global Education and Leadership Foundation) in New Delhi where she shared about her other venture called “The Indian Voter” through which, she, along with her team, reached around 400,000 young voters in the run up to Indian elections.
“The idea is to try to change the discourse of politics over time and make it more policy-oriented rather than focusing on things that are not backed by information and evidence, but just blanket assertions. So, I have been involved in such things that, in turn, have given me the drive to keep doing things for my community where I can make an impact,” she adds.
Vandinika is also a trained Odissi dancer and a piano player. She firmly believes that being a dancer and a musician is what shaped the skills and values she has today. She says,
“Classical dance requires a lot of dedication and discipline to pursue it; and also a lot of grace and balance too. I was a student of Dr Sonal Mansingh and she lays a great deal of focus on the guru-shisya parampara, and understanding your roots and respecting them. I feel that’s what I learned from dance, along with the dance form itself. For me, it’s a lot more than a repertoire or a piece, it’s a way of living. Similar is the case with piano. I love it whether I am playing or listening. I think when you pursue something that belongs to the classical genre, it brings a lot of discipline in life, and encourages scope for creativity and flexibility.”
If there’s one thing that is strikingly unique about Vandinika is that no matter what she does, she takes it beyond just an action. So, when she liked Indian classical dance, or playing the piano, she did not just want to play it, but use it as a tool for change. A simple act of playing the piano made the social entrepreneur in her see an opportunity for a broader impact. She founded an organisation called Ensemble to take classical music to more and more people.
“I am really passionate about Western classical music and I wanted to share it as music is best when it’s enjoyed together. I feel that in India, there’s a huge scope to explore a new genre and appreciate it. So, I started this organisation and began conducting interactive workshops on music appreciation. We also had a couple of concerts by Swedish guitarist Johannes Moller and a Spanish guitarist Jose Manuel Dapena. We’re bringing classical music to the centre of attention.”
So, how does her team, that includes young students, manage to bring these artistes to perform in India? “We just write to them and these days most people are supportive of youth taking initiatives. We make all the arrangements, and they come and perform,” she adds.
Vandinika is going to do her Masters in international relations from London School of Economics and Political Science and has a deep interest in international politics. “I have an inclination towards joining politics but that’s not something I can decide now. I am going to acquire the skills for it and let’s see where it goes,” she says.