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Meet Suhani Jalota – The Only Indian Nominated For The Cisco Youth Leader Award

Posted: November 23, 2020
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A finalist for the Cisco Youth Leader Award, Suhani Jalota has impacted the lives of 550,000 women with Myna Mahila Foundation. 

Founded by Suhani Jalota in 2014, Myna Mahila Foundation is a social enterprise that doesn’t just provide safe employment for women but spreads awareness about menstrual hygiene in urban slums. The organisation trains and employs women to make low-cost, eco-friendly menstrual pads. 

In 2017, Suhani Jalota was the recipient of the Queen’s Young Leader Awards and had a chance to meet Queen Elizabeth II. This year, Suhani is the only Indian to be nominated for the Cisco Youth Leadership Award.

We had a chance to speak to Suhani about Myna Mahila Foundation, her work and the nomination for the award. Here’s what she had to say.

How has creating and growing Myna Mahila impacted you as a leader and person? 

Myna Mahila has had so many ups and downs, and these constant challenges humble you constantly. Every time I feel like we’ve achieved something, a new fire comes up that we have to tackle.

Working with my incredible team also helps me learn so much from each person. How to be a better listener, how to remain calm in the most stressful situations, and how to speak to different types of audiences to really be heard.

Her learnings from Myna Mahila

From the women whose lives your work impacts, what is your biggest learning?

That no impact is too small, and no impact is big enough. Every little help is incredibly impactful for them, and yet there is always so much more to do! Each of our girls teaches me something new every time. They have such big dreams, and we realise how much more there is to do to support them achieve their dreams.

There is never any scope to get complacent. With every new girl reached, there are 10 more to support and so many other ways in which the existing women can be further empowered.

I believe that women in India have as much potential as women around the world, but it is unrealised. What we need to do first, is bring these women with incredible potential at par with others in their generation around the world. We need to support them to be at a fair game – that is first providing them with the basic amenities they need to grow. This is the power that Myna brings.

Period poverty in India

When we talk about ‘period poverty,’ what are India’s biggest challenges today and how do you see Myna Mahila in that context?

Firstly, access is an extremely important aspect of “period poverty” in India. However, the most difficult challenge is not how to get sanitary napkins into rural and low-income households, it is around the usage of menstrual health products. And the stigma and taboo surrounding it, menstrual hygiene education, management and awareness.

This is where Myna comes in. Our overall vision is to spread health awareness, education and provide affordable hygiene products back into the community made by the community women.

We generate youth employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for women living in informal settlements and urban slums, so they are able to afford menstrual healthcare. And also so they can become financially independent.

What does being nominated for the Cisco youth leader award mean to you, and how do you see this nomination or potential win help you go farther in your work? 

The Global Citizen is a platform where our girls’ voices can be really recognised and will help us directly impact 250,000 women in need. This is more important than ever during and after this pandemic.

We need more scaled-up programs helping millions of girls, which Myna Launchpad, our program for scale, is really equipped to do! For our organisation, it represents a path to take menstrual hygiene from Mumbai to the rest of India, and from there to the whole world.

If we win here, it will help impact the lives of so many women and I would appreciate the support from Women’s Web readers who can vote for me right here.

If you want more information about Myna Mahila, you can check their website out here.

Picture credits: Provided by Myna Mahila Foundation

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