Young, confident and raring to go, Aanya Wig is on a mission to create an ideal world where no woman has to fight to make her voice heard. From being raised by a single mother to navigating the existing stereotypes and bias around women, she credits her experiences and education for shaping up her ideologies. All of 23, she is a co-founder of Her Haq, a youth led not-for-profit organisation that promotes gender equality and women empowerment.
As a social entrepreneur, Aanya currently works on three core areas: menstrual hygiene management, financial literacy and legal literacy. Apart from her own initiative, she is also associated with The Udaiti Foundation, is on the Young People’s Action Team for Unicef and a SUSI scholar with the US Department of State. She recently finished PG Diploma in International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights Law and Refugee Law.
An alumna of the Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Delhi University, Aanya says she has grown up wanting to be in different professions – lawyer, journalist, police officer, all of which impact change. But she realised that she could still drive change without being in those lines of work.
“I was born and brought up by a single mother who is a teacher. I lost my father when I was really young. At home, it was me, my sister and my mother. For me, women did everything. My mother is a teacher. She would go to work, lead things at home, file taxes, pay the bills and everything else. But while growing up, I realised that the world doesn’t look at women the same way that I do – as leaders or as people who can manage responsibilities beyond the home. So, I decided that the only thing I want to do is to make sure the world looks at women the same way I do. That’s how Her Haq started,” shares Aanya.
All the spaces that Aanya currently works in, stem from either her personal experiences, or of women around her.
Her interest in early intervention for menstrual hygiene management and awareness developed after experiencing the lack of education and sensitisation around it. Period poverty, Aanya believes, is not just lack of access to period products, but also lack of awareness. She believes teachers need to stop sending boys out of the room when they talk about menstruation during a reproductive health class, and also apprise women about issues such as PCOS and endometriosis instead of just telling girls that they can use a pad.
When it comes to financial literacy, Aanya wants women to be in greater control of their earnings and future planning. “I started earning when I was 18. I ended up realising that I couldn’t manage my finances. Nobody told me how to file taxes or what to invest in, what is a fixed deposit or how to plan the future. Mostly, women are dependent on the man of the house to do these things.”
As far as legal literacy is concerned, she stresses on the need for women to know their rights and fight for it when needed.
Age has never been a barrier for Aanya when it comes to pursuing her vision for change. Growing up in an environment where education was prioritised and being surrounded by intellectually stimulating people in college rubbed off well on her too.
She says, “For me, age was never the criteria. I realised that because of the work that I do, I might have got invites or space on some platforms, but my thinking changed from ‘Oh wow, I am getting to speak at platforms, I am such a young person…’ to realising that it is a token representation. Many youth-led organisations have come up and are doing good work, but the acceptance towards counting that as quality change or social impact is still very low. That’s because we don’t consider the work that young organisations or youth organisations do as work that matters.
That is a roadblock. The TEDx speaker and LinkedIn Top Voice for Social Impact says people conveniently dismiss her efforts as a “side hobby” as it goes against the set pattern of turning to the social sector once the future is financially secure.
“If people look at the social sector as people who don’t get paid, the funding cycle also becomes such. They want to fund change but they don’t want to fund the people who are creating the change. It becomes hard to make your voice heard, but harder to make people do something about it,” shares Aanya.
This is not the only bias she has faced.
“When I was in school, I was an overperformer. I was good in studies, but I was also active in extracurriculars and public speaking. But instead of merit, it all boiled down to how it was because of good looks or my social circle,” recounts Aanya.
As someone who got her hair coloured at a young age, or wore short skirts or had access to a phone early on in life, she was also caught in the trap of stereotypes like most girls do. But her work changed it all.
“People never crack a sexist joke in front of me now. A lot of people ask me, ‘What happens by advocating on social media?’ But I feel that if a post I create makes someone pause the next time they make a sexist remark, for me, that’s change. Change isn’t measured by the number of people I reach out to or size of impact, it is even one conversation or person thinking twice before doing or saying something!”
To women of all age groups, Aanya has a simple message: “Don’t let the world tell you what you can or cannot do. Drive the change you wish to see.”
(Aanya Wig is nominated for the Health Shots She Slays Awards in the Social Cause Champion category. To vote for her or to review our other nominees, please check out the She Slays Awards nominations.)
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