This Delhi-based 23-year-old represented India at G(irls)20, Japan

After making her voice heard at the G20 Summit, Delhi girl Richa Shivangi Gupta is re-energised in her efforts to make space for Social and Emotional Learning in the Indian education system

Updated - July 16, 2019 01:25 pm IST

Published - July 15, 2019 11:59 am IST

The G(irls)20 2019 delegates, with Richa Gupta (in black, centre)

The G(irls)20 2019 delegates, with Richa Gupta (in black, centre)

A little ahead of this year’s G20 Summit held in Japan, 24 young women delegates from different parts of the world gathered together in a room. As they sat there, Heather Barnabe, a rights activist asked them to close their eyes for a minute: could those who thought they had no chance of making it to this gathering put their hand up?

They did, and when 24 girls opened their eyes, they looked around and saw that each one of them had a hand in the air.

This was at one of the opening sessions of the G(irls)20 programme this year, and Barnabe, the programme’s CEO. The gathering takes place annually in the lead up to the G20, an international summit for 19 countries and the European Union to address issues concerning the global economy. Launched in 2009 by the Clinton Global Initiative, its purpose is to hear the voices of and get inputs from 18-23 year-olds from across the world, making space for their suggestions in the G20’s decisions for the year.

None of the delegates were there by chance. They’d arrived in Japan after an intense six-month selection process — each of them had also worked for community change, through activism or entrepreneurship. And yet for these leaders, impostor syndrome was real.

“This session was one of the most interesting ones for me,” says Richa Shivangi Gupta, a Delhi-based 23-year-old, the Indian who made it for this year’s edition. “This and the workshop on negotiation was super useful for me,” she adds.

Two years ago, and right out of college, Gupta had started a non-profit called the Labhya Foundation, which introduces Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) into mainstream education. They had a rocky start. Gupta remembers going from school to school with a proposal to address the “moral crisis” in children today. It was shot down by 79 schools. Learning and sharpening her proposal along the way, Gupta finally landed an opportunity with the 80th attempt, at the Om Foundation School in Noida.

Today, Labhya is one of the few organisations to be partnering with the Delhi Government to formulate and implement the “Happiness Curriculum”. The curriculum, which launched in July last year, aims to also add on the concepts of emotional intelligence, critical thinking, self-awareness, and mindfulness in mainstream school education.

At the G(irls)20, Gupta met with Farah Mohamed, founder of the summit and now CEO of the Malala Fund. They shared their backgrounds in the field of education interventions, and also of their growing up years in Africa.

“We had very good conversations in terms of what kind of vision I want to develop for my organisation, and I could connect with,” recalls Gupta. Other G(irls)20 alumna from France are also now helping her articulate Labhya’s programme, look at her grant applications and give her feedback from their experiences.

Gupta might’ve learnt a great deal from women around the world with a similar purpose; but she can proudly claim contribution too: in the months leading up to their meet in Japan, the delegates participated on calls, and worked on areas in which they could make policy recommendations. They then sharpened this in their six days in Japan, putting together their official communique.

When the G20 Summit ended, and the leaders put out their declaration, the delegates found that one of the recommendations from their communique, around women in STEM fields, was included.

“That was a good thing, we were heard,” says Gupta, who was one of the three delegates chosen to present the group’s communique to Japan’s G20 Sherpa, Ambassador Koji Tomita.

Back home, Gupta says she is also in talks with Dr. Vikas Mahatme, an MP in the Rajya Sabha for introducing a private member bill on SEL. Mahatme has been an advocate for social and emotional awareness in academic education. In parallel, she is also expanding her work with Labhya to schools in other states like Uttarakhand as well.

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