Wednesday, April 30, 2014

My Live It! Experience

Talking to the kids about their experiences growing up in their communities
Global citizenship is a keystone of Macalester education and I, like many students here, strive to connect this idea of global citizenship to my academic endeavors and other engagements on campus. When I graduate, one thing is for certain: I want to leave a lasting impact on the global community and make the world a better place for those who are marginalized in our world. I hope to work in the area of global health in the future and am particularly interested in pursuing a career exploring the intersection between global health and women’s empowerment. I’ve been passionate about women’s empowerment for a very long time, and growing up partly in India only stoked that fervor.

When I discovered the Live It! Fund at Macalester, I was thrilled. The Live It! Fund, which is part of the college’s Institute of Global Citizenship, funds student-led projects that fulfill our personal ideals of global citizenship. My project, “In Praise of a Goddess,” was a great way for me to channel some of the frustrations I had growing up as a girl in India. Those frustrations included not being able to talk openly and proudly to anyone beyond my immediate family about the challenges I was facing during the arduous task of growing up.When I pitched my project to the IGC student council, I hoped my project would empower young women from my community to openly discuss sensitive topics like menstruation and empowerment. I believed that having healthy conversations about these critical issues would expose the multitude of prejudices and misinformation these girls are faced with, and allow us to together propose applicable solutions to correct those misperceptions.

Outside the Ramagondanahalli Government School, Bangalore, India

L: Inside the classroom; R: the hallway

On the last day, the kids showed me a small dance they had been practicing
The principal idea behind my project was that with more information and awareness comes empowerment. I believed that by opening up a rich dialogue about the nascent changes occurring in their bodies and their lives, they could consequently become more clear-headed and confident. The aim of the project was to finally leave them with a supportive community of girls who could share concerns and ask questions in an unprejudiced and non-judgmental environment.

L: Dream Day - Vidyashree shares that she wants to be a doctor; R: In conversation with our translator

L: Teaching the girls how to sing 'I am Woman'; R: A note in a journal that I gave the girls
For these girls, who didn’t have any strong role models in their communities, it soon become apparent that I was becoming the role model they never had. I felt a deep connection with these girls and was continually shaped by their love every single day. I was very satisfied with the progress we made during the project: getting the girls to think about things that were happening around them, and learning how to think on their own were among the things we accomplished in the project. The most significant accomplishment of the project, however, was the effectiveness of peer mentorship. The strong relationships that the girls and I built during the project drove it forward.

The class I worked with!
I left with a bigger and better understanding of how intricately connected empowerment is to aspects of life I often take for granted. Working closely with these kids, it was obvious how bright and unique each of of them was. These kids were so impressionable, receptive, and loving, and I grew very fond of them. It was hard for us to say goodbye. I plan to visit all of them when I go home for two weeks this summer.

Drinking some cold coconut water on a hot Indian day!
I got a lot of help from the student council, and really appreciated the honest advice they gave me before I implemented the project. During the project, I kept referring back to the lessons I had learned in these meetings. One of the lessons that stuck with me was a quote: “Perfect is the enemy of the good.” That lesson has been very applicable both to my time with girls in India and to my time at Mac. I’m lucky to have been a part of this program. Live It! has opened a lot of doors for me at Macalester, and I’m grateful to have been part of such a rewarding program.

Shruthi Kamisetty ’16