When Central Bucks West sophomore Esha Gadi read the instructions for the 2022 India Philanthropy Alliance Youth Essay Competition about addressing a problem besetting India, her mind immediately went to her mom.
Growing up in India, Gadi’s mother wanted to be a veterinarian, wanted to have the type of opportunities as a teenager that her daughter had already been afforded.
“I chose women’s rights, gender discrimination and gender violence,’’ says Gadi, who was recently named as this year’s award winner in the high school division. “In order to become a veterinarian, you have to go into medical school. But my mom was born in 1979, so that was not a place of welcome for her. Back then it was, ‘you’ve got to get married; you’ve got to have children.’’’
“She was never given the full opportunity to showcase her talents. She’s a pharmacist now, which I think is great, but I also think, and she does too, that she could have been so much more.
“That’s probably why she’s pushing me to be involved. She’s told me that she kind of sees herself in me sometimes.’’
The India Philanthropy Alliance is a union of 14 India-oriented organizations. Their collective mission is to enhance collaboration, advance the development of India and, over time, increase the scale and impact of philanthropy benefiting the country.
The Youth Essay Competition was launched in the spring of 2020 as a vehicle for encouraging philanthropic thought and action among Indian-American youth. The competition has brought together dedicated and talented youth and leading philanthropic organizations that are working to advance development and poverty reduction programs in India.
For Gadi, the essay became a vehicle for learning more about the place where her parents were born, a place she has only visited to see relatives. This informed her essay, which deals with the broader challenges and hardships faced by the women of India today. The title is “A Woman’s Strife: Transfiguring the Sexual Assault Justice System and Rape Culture in India.”
“Women make up almost half of the population there,’’ Gadi says. “And for a group that big to not be able to walk alone in the night without being assaulted or attacked. I thought, ‘I really need to do something about this because this affects more people than we think.’’’
It also became a vehicle to learn about herself and overcome her own self-doubt. Before she wrote, she read, she researched and she gathered evidence on her topic. “I was like, ‘Can I really pull this off? Can I create an essay that I’m proud of?’ Honestly, I didn’t really think I was going to win. I honestly just wanted to do it for myself, and for the people in my life who have gone through some of those experiences.’’
Her mother did not believe that she had won until Esha showed her the congratulatory letter. Then, “She started screaming. She told me I was doing so many things that she wished she could have done. I’ve never seen her that happy. Ever.’’
Back in India, Esha also notices slight changes. Her grandfather even told her that he wanted her to become a doctor, even though her mother was blocked from becoming one.
“I definitely think I did this for my family as well. Their minds are expanding. They’re evolving too.’’