I remember when I was 16 years old, coming home from the Minerva 2010 Learning to Lead program – inspired, excited, and thrilled that I had met amazing girls my age who were passionate leaders with advice to share. A year later, stepping back into the same atmosphere among young smiling faces at the 2011 event to receive Minerva’s Lis Welch award was a full circle for me.
After this, I went on a whirlwind of adventures. It started with being selected as one of Canada’s Top 20 Under 20, then being invited to Rideau Hall by the Prime Minister and Governor General for the celebration of exceptional Canadian youth. I was chosen to present a gift to Prince William and Kate!
I’ve had life changing experiences, from speaking at women’s events to living in Sub-Saharan Africa as an 18 year old female. In Zambia, I was going for a business internship and faced the challenges of living in a significantly male dominated society. I was able to create gender equality workshops and women empowering presentations for the Zambian youth. I’m not going to lie, those three months weren’t a walk in the park, but it was so worth it. It was so worth it to fight back tears and stand up for injustice and let girls know that they are special and that they can change the world. It meant the world to me to hear these girls and boys tell me that I was a confident young woman who made them think differently about how to treat women. Simply asking “why” at presentations provoked thoughts and encouraged open discussion. Why are women less powerful then men? Why do women believe and follow the quote “if a man doesn’t beat you, a man doesn’t love you”? The heated debates between the Zambian youth and myself and our personal reflective moments were needed to shed light on the issue of gender inequality. Coming back to Canada made me appreciate the Minerva Foundation in a whole new way.
Minerva’s incredible support during my early ages made me realize my full potential. Recognition from Minerva of my leadership skills helped me realize my strengths and helped me have this uplifting amount of encouragement and empowerment towards my projects in my community and abroad. The amazing staff and what Minerva stands for has inspired me deeply. I could not thank Minerva enough for their acknowledgment and for allowing me to be one of their Ambassadors. Their first recognitions of my passion for helping people ignited something inside of me that has fuelled everything that I have worked hard for and will continue working for.
What’s next? I’ll be going to the Just Peace Summit in New York City in March as I have been chosen as a 2013 Three Dot Dash Global Teen Leader. Then, I’ll be leaving for India to continue what I started in Zambia. My next chapter is Project L.O.V.E (Letting Our Voices Empower), to spread the importance of gender equality by empowering girls, building schools, and much more!
To keep up with my journey, visit my website www.anoopvirk.com and follow me on twitter, @anoopvirk.