Being empowered and choosing to empower others is Kirthi Jayakumar's mission. The Presidential Service Award from the U.S. is a reflection of her hard work and dedication.
There seems to be no end to Kirthi Jayakumar’s achievements. Just in her 20s, this lawyer from Chennai has worked with The World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) as a translator from Spanish to English for awareness-based documentation drives with the UNESCO on World Heritage Sites; with the UNFPA on gender-based violence; with the UNOCHA on crisis mapping for Libya during the peak of the civil war last year and with UNV Kyrgyzstan on drafting a strategic plan towards the implementation of Human Rights. Her current project is with the UNDP. However, what she is understandably thrilled about is her award from the President of the U.S. for her work with the NGO Delta Women. Here’s what she had to say about her latest achievement:
Tell us something about Delta Women and the work they do.
Delta Women is a transnational NGO that works for alleviation of women’s problems in general through awareness campaigns. Though its initial spectrum of work has largely been online and international, Delta Women is slowly beginning on-field work in Nigeria through awareness drives and education projects for women. It was founded by Elsie Ijorogu-Reed in 2010 and is largely engaged in proactive activities that have global reach — such as blogging, magazines, podcasts and newsletters, each of which emphasises women’s rights — through articles, real life stories and experiences. I have been a part of Delta Women since August 2011.
What kind of voluntary work do you do exactly and how does it serve the community?
I started off as a blogger and contributor for the monthly e-zine, and was made the manager of the blogger and the blogging team. I initiated the podcast project and later the Digital Media Education Project which I am assisting now. I am also involved in managing and editing the monthly newsletter. Besides this, I have represented Delta Women in multiple forums online such as IQ4 News, Gender Across Borders and even the United Nations in its Stop Violence campaign forum.
What is the main objective of Delta Women?
Empowerment of Women. This lies in being aware, being educated, and being able to take things into one’s own hands. Educating a woman is the equivalent of educating a family. No matter what the nature of a society, it is the woman’s effort that keeps a family together, and helps it run.
What inspired you to work for this organisation?
A major prerequisite was to see results. I wanted to be part of a movement that would help people and see that I was helping people. Delta Women gave me the chance to do that. I believed in the vision and mission that the organisation projected. Though I elected to volunteer as a blogger, and I was able to write about women across the world, I slowly evolved into many roles in the organisation.
Tell us something about your award and what it means to you.
I won the Presidential Service Award given by the President of the United States of America. I won the bronze, silver and gold awards, which are presented based on the number of hours put in. In truth, the award for me only means one thing: there is a lot left to do and I cannot sit back until that’s done. I want to remain a part of the system that can use my efforts, consolidate it with those of others, and channelise it to benefit someone.
Do you feel that the women of the 21st century are really empowered and to what extent?
I realised that as much as the world was “ahead”, it was also terribly backward. In the same world where women are in charge of making peace, the bodies of women are also battlegrounds where war would be waged ceaselessly. So to answer your question: girls like you and I, are empowered. But we are a minority, a very tiny minority.
Do you think that Delta Women has made a radical difference?
Definitely. Today, Delta Women’s efforts have successfully culminated in pushing for the opening of a Nigerian village’s first school. Many girls come to us and tell us how their lives have become much better all because they took strength from our words. That is really heart-warming.
What is your definition of women empowerment?
Actually pretty simple. A woman is empowered if she is educated AND has the freedom to decide what’s best for her. An empowered woman is sovereign over her body and mind.