Prior to being in India this summer I was in Costa Rica for 6 weeks studying Spanish and living with a host family. This summer has been a summer like no other for myself. This summer, I have been the minority. Back in Pinckney and Ann Arbor, Michigan white people make up the majority. Now, the script is flipped, and as a white person in Costa Rica and India I was and am now part of the minority population. I think traveling and working in different parts of the world is very beneficial for this reason. In a way, it “bursts your bubble,” it lets you know how big the world is and how little you truly know; but most importantly this summer has taught me more about my connection to people. After I finish my undergraduate degree I plan on attending graduate school and getting a Masters in Social Work. I know I want to work within the realm of social justice. Reflecting back, my motivation to do this initially was a type of moral crusade of sorts. I acknowledge and recognize my privilege and thought that since I am in the position to become educated at the university level that it is my civic duty to do this type of work. This implies that the type of work I will be doing in the future is more of reaching down and “pulling” people who are under-served or disadvantaged “up.” After thinking more on this, I came to realize that this is incorrect. This insinuates that I am “above” other people and that I need to reach down and pull them to where I am at. If this summer has taught me anything, it is that we are all people, our humanity is connected, no single life is more important than another. I do not want to reach down and “pull” people up, I simply want to reach out, reach across, and support humanity. Not because I am more privileged than another person or because it is my moral obligation to do so, but because it is what I want to do, what I’m meant to do. Diversity is humanity; and this summer has helped show me the interconnectedness of it all and reaffirmed the work I wish to dedicate my life to.
I am currently interning for an organization called Ankuri. Ankuri’s mission is to economically empower local women in India, which is still a very patriarchal society. Prior to leaving for this internship, a family friend asked about what I will be doing in India. I explained the organization and its mission to him, and he quickly retorted, “what, are you a feminist?” I quickly responded with a simple, “yes.” He asked, “well, why?” I consider myself a feminist because I am against prejudice and discrimination, whether that’s dealing with gender, race, class, ethnicity or whatever else. Being someone who has worked a lot with youth, I believe every little girl should be able to choose who she wants to become, and to be empowered with who she is. And to be instilled with the mindset that the only thing stopping her from becoming who she wants is herself and the amount of work she is willing to put in, not because she is a girl. Being in India is both saddening and uplifting when it comes to this topic. It is saddening, coming from the U.S., to see such a clear and defined patriarchy, but it is also uplifting knowing people like Rachna, the founder of Ankuri, who passionately works in the battle of empowering these women.