Kirthi Jayakumar, an activist, author, and founder of Red Elephant Foundation, was recently invited to be a part of the United State of Women Summit at the White House, by First Lady Michelle Obama. The Chennaiite will be lending her voice to the event virtually today, among other well-known women activists. The honour comes at a time when violence against women and empowerment are necessary discussions, making it an even more prestigious event.
“I was nominated to attend the United State of Women 2016, which is a global summit called for by FLOTUS, Michelle Obama. I believe that the nominator mentioned that I was also survivor of gender-based violence. I was also a recipient of the Presidential Services Medal in 2012 and the UN Online Volunteer Award in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and work with the Red Elephant Foundation. One of those qualifications must have clinched the selection in my favour,” Kirthi tells us. She adds, “There’s a lot that’s been done by, and for women and girls, but there’s still plenty to do. Convened by the White House, this summit will celebrate what we’ve achieved, and how we’re going to take action moving forward.
Covering key gender equality issues, we’ll make a powerful difference in our collective future. The summit focuses on empowerment, health, education, violence against women, entrepreneurship and leadership. The key participants include the likes of Meryl Streep, Tina Fey and Oprah Winfrey. It feels amazing and I’m incredibly grateful.”
Kirthi is also one of the few attendees whose blog post was selected to be featured on the official website. She explains, “The attendees were invited to submit a blog post for the USOW blog, and select ones were to be published. My blog post addresses the issue of gender equality, and talks about the need to shift mindsets to effect change. It’s titled ‘When will change happen?’ and addresses the wrong we do in looking at gender as a binary.”
Unfortunately, Kirthi will only be present virtually at the event, since the invitation came at short notice. But, she does have something to say about how the work can be taken further, “One of the more important things in the big picture in any activist’s attempt is that if we want change, we must collaborate, and not compete,” she adds, “It’s not about how many people follow my initiative or subscribe to my ideas versus yours; it is about how much we can do together and how effectively we can make change happen. I get to network with a brilliant bunch of women throughout the global community, and learn from them, while also sharing what I’ve learned so far in my journey. Together, the combined energy is capable of creating sustainable change. That’s just what I hope to be able to give back to this.”