The Universal Girl

by Neya Krishnan, LiveGirl Mentor

My name is Neya Krishnan. I’m 14 years old and proud to share that my parents are Indian immigrants. This country was built by dreamers like my parents. While I was born and reared in the US, I have visited family in India many times growing up. These visits have helped me appreciate the rights I have in the US. And also reflect on some of the continued challenges to women’s rights. I have been fortunate in that my parents have given me nothing but opportunities to grow as a person and the confidence to succeed. They’ve allowed me to dream the wildest of dreams, and never once doubted my ability to fulfill them. But most of all they have never made me feel incapable because I’m a girl. Thanks to the environment I’ve been raised in, I have never doubted my worth. But not all girls are as fortunate. It’s important to note that where you’re born and the thoughts and opportunities you are fed by the people who surround you can make you feel like Wonder Woman or as small as an ant.

What’s it like being a female in India?

No matter what country you’re in, there are highs and lows.

The low lows- In India, especially in poverty stricken areas, young girls work like slaves in their houses. They do all the household chores, keeping the house tidy and feeding their families so that their brothers can go to school. They are denied an education. Taught that they are taught that they’re unworthy. In other parts of India girls are killed at birth because they are regarded as a burden. They are uneducated and oppressed, and yet, so many of them know no different, because this is their norm, and they don’t understand or even recognize that it’s possible to lead a life of so much more. That they are just as amazing and strong and brilliant as any boy.

The high highs- India is so complex, because the lows above exist in a country where women are thriving at every political and social level. The percentage of female CEOS in India is greater than that of the United states. Indian women have served as their nation’s Presidents, Prime Ministers, and National Party leaders. Several Indian states have been led by women for decades at a time. Have you ever seen a female pilot on a US flight? In India I’ve gone on many planes with female pilots (wom)anning the aircraft, making me have the utmost respect for a country which celebrates and allows its women to defy job norms. In fact, India has embraced equality in many ways even before America. When India received its independence from Britain in 1947, no one questioned if women could vote or not. In sharp contrast, The United States was granted independence in 1776. Women suffragists in the US had to fight for over 100 years to get the basic right to vote. In fact, Mississippi ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, women’s right to vote only in 1984.

What’s universal about being a woman or girl no matter where you are in the world?

Women are tied together by their universal suffering. We’ve been doubted and oppressed and harrased and denied the ability to be independent. We’ve been taught to feel 'less than' and useless. We’ve been taught to “cover up” up because men can’t control themselves, and to remain silent when we suffer through the worst types of hell. But what I think is so incredible about women is that after being doubted and pushed hundreds of feet underground, we rise. We become pilots and engineers and writers and incredible moms.We love completely and wholly and the nightmares we’ve faced make us stronger than the toughest bodybuilder. We give our everything to those we love and we work our butts off in the hopes for a better future. Like we say at LiveGirl, we are smart, strong, and special.