Fabulous Females Interview – Suhani Jalota

Fabulous Females Interview – Suhani Jalota

There are some people in this world born to make a difference and my next Fabulous Females interviewee  is one of them.  At the tender age of 23, Suhani Jalota, the founder and CEO of the Myna Mahila Foundation has already achieved more than most do in a lifetime.

Living in the Western world there are many things as women we take for granted that others in less developed countries are denied.  One such item is the humble sanitary pad.

Menstruation is an unavoidable part of female life, but in India it is a taboo topic and girls and women are considered  impure, polluted and dirty during their periods.  As a result of the stigma and shame associated with menstruation, 320 million women in India do not have access to sanitary pads and this has far reaching hygiene complications.  For many of us worldwide not only is this scenario unbelievable but it is quite frankly untenable.

For the last six years, alongside schooling, Suhani has been working hands-on with women in Mumbai’s slums and in India’s rural communities to turn this situation around. The foundation provides access to menstrual hygiene information and products to more than 10,000 women every month at their doorstep.

This has brought Suhani worldwide acclaim and awards aplenty.  Notably but not exclusively, she is a Queen’s Young Leader 2017 representing India and the Myna Mahila Foundation is one of only seven charities chosen to benefit from donations marking the wedding between Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle.

 

Suhani Jalota, CEO, Myna Manila Foundation & Queen Elizabeth II

Suhani is an inspirational role model for our teens and young adults and sharing her story with my own teens provoked a period of stunned silence that comes from teens being in awe and an interesting debate.

It is difficult not to feel humbled by Suhani’s achievements to date and there is little doubt that she is a young woman to watch in the future. I hope you enjoy her story.

  • Who is your role model?

I owe a lot of what I have learnt, the way I think and approach challenges, and what I have done with Myna Mahila Foundation to my inspiration, idol, and mentor, Dr. Jockin Arputham. I met the women through him for the first time a couple years ago, and since then have observed, learnt and followed a lot of his ways of mobilizing communities and being able to get work done in the most unlikely situations. He has singlehandedly improved the lives of millions worldwide, and dreams of creating a world with less poverty and more beauty. I am here to complete this mission.

  • What motivates you?

Women’s potential. Women have so much potential that goes untouched, which could change the world. It shows how much can be done and what there is left to do!

  • What are the values you hold dearest in life?

Be happy, nice and humble. Treat others the way you want to be treated!

  • What has been your biggest challenge so far & how did you overcome it?

Too many challenges – we don’t have an experienced team and the issue isn’t obvious to tackle. It took us a while to understand how to go about breaking down the problems to select the biggest pain point to tackle. These pain points also differ between communities. Where access to products was a problem, we started delivering at the door-step, but where affordability was a problem we started to incentivize saving schemes that could help them save for pads and invest in their own health.

  • What is your proudest moment?

On Women’s Day this year we launched our Sponsor A Girl campaign and invited 16 girls and their families to a workshop we were leading for the first time. It was a gamble for us, but we had been surveying girls for four months and had a list of 1,200 needy girls who needed support. After years of planning the survey, months of executing it, we saw the first pilot work at the event with the first cohort of girls to be given free menstrual hygiene kits. It was a special time for the whole team who saw their efforts in practice.

  • What motto do you live by?

No one motto. There are many I can resonate with, but won’t be married to them every day.

  • What advice would you give to your teenage self?

Open yourself emotionally and let yourself be vulnerable! Its okay, things will work out, but you need to have some fun.

  • Who gave you the best advice and what was it?

My mother gives me the best advice. When nothing seems to work out and I am disappointed or dejected, she never consoles me. That was the time I needed to pull myself together and be stronger than ever before. She always said that life is all about responding to challenges, not the challenges themselves. And the power to decide how to respond is yours only.

  • How would your friends describe you?

Passionate, hyper, impatient, gullible, talkative, determined.

  • What makes you laugh out loud?

Talking Tom! (app)

  • What does being a modern woman mean to you?

Being modern connotes with confidence and defiance, although many women in the past shared those attributes as well. The only difference is that now more women are able to come out and speak their hearts out and show their true personalities. Still, millions of women face oppression to speak up, but had they been given the opportunity and the standing to speak up, they would have symbolized what an image of a modern woman stands for. A balanced woman who works at home and outside.

  • What would be your desert island essential?

Chocolate!

  • What makes you feel fabulous?

Being around my parents and grandparents. They bring out the best in me and make me feel like the only princess in the world.

  • In your own words –  “A fabulous female is…..

…one who can inspire other women and men to change something in their world.”

 

If like me you are inspired by Suhani’s ambition and would like to follow her story further you can find her here:

Business: Myna Mahila Foundation

Twitter : @MynaMahila

 

Suhani’s Accolades & Achievements: She is compelled by women’s stories and has given a TEDx talk at Duke University, titled “How to repurpose activist energy to govern” about the women who stood up to take charge of their own lives. Most recently, she was involved in evaluation projects with IDinsight, an independent research organization, UNICEF and Department of Education in the Philippines for sanitation programs. In the past few years, Suhani has worked in the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, and several cities in India. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Global Health from Duke University, Durham, USA. Her Economics Honors Thesis topic was looking at the effect of slum redevelopment on child health outcomes, particularly stunting, as rapid urbanization calls for policies that keep people healthy and safe.

At Duke University, she was a Baldwin Scholar, a women’s four year leadership program, and a Melissa and Doug Entrepreneurship Fellow 2016 to start the Myna Mahila Foundation. She was the Commencement Speaker at the Global Health Graduation Ceremony and has won and participated in several social entrepreneurship competitions, such as the mHealth @ Duke Shark tank competition, STEAM Challenge, Hult Prize Competition, and the Mass Accelerator Challenge. Her work with Myna has been featured in Glamour Magazine, TIME Magazine, Huffington Post, Vogue and BBC, among others.

 

Editor’s Note :  Are you a Fabulous Female with a story to tell or do you know someone who is?  If so I am always on the lookout for more females and would love to hear from you.  Please get in touch via the contact form or email me direct at jo@motherofteenagers.com

 

 

 

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17 Comments

  1. June 12, 2018 / 8:25 am

    What a fantastic young woman. What comes across so well is her humour, passion and enthusiasm. And she gets on with her parents! #tweenteensbeyond

  2. May 6, 2018 / 1:12 pm

    What a fascinating and inspiring story! I’m saddened to read about the attitudes towards menstruation and this is a subject that we all need to talk about more. I’ve read a lot about period poverty in the UK recently. It really is very shocking. I love that Suhani likes to spend time with her parents and grandparents – and that she listens to her Mum’s advice. There is hope for us all!! xx #TweensTeensBeyond

    • Jo
      Author
      May 12, 2018 / 3:13 pm

      I know I think it is hard for all Western women to comprehend how some countries are still so far behind in their attitudes towards female issues. Like you I loved reading about the high regard Suhani has for her parents and grandparents. It is very touching. Who knows Sharon maybe we will be lucky.

  3. May 4, 2018 / 5:17 pm

    I worked with a woman in South Africa to provide reusable sanitary towels to girls in informal settlements to enable them to continue with their education and stop missing days off school. it makes such a huge difference to not just their lives but the entire family #tweensteensbeyond

    • Jo
      Author
      May 12, 2018 / 3:11 pm

      Oh Suzanne it is staggering how little we all know about this issue in the Western World and of course it horrifies us all. It is admirable that there are so many looking to make a difference to those affected. Thanks for sharing your experience.

      • May 12, 2018 / 4:57 pm

        I’m revisiting SA in Sept this year and will be doing some fund raising while I’m in the UK to provide reusable sanitary pads and educational supplies

        • Jo
          Author
          May 31, 2018 / 12:23 pm

          That sounds interesting Suzanne – I will look forward to reading all about that.

  4. May 4, 2018 / 2:57 pm

    She sounds amazing and I’m so glad she is doing this type of work. No woman should have to go without the proper care for their bodies because society deems them impure or dirty. It’s such an old school notion and I’m glad she is working to change the hearts and minds of those affected:) #TweensTeensBeyond

    • Jo
      Author
      May 12, 2018 / 3:09 pm

      Like you I was horrified. It’s difficult to understand the cultural beliefs of some countries and what I love is that Suhani has recognised that the answer is not to fight that but rather she has worked tirelessly to find a way around it and make it possible for females in India to attain a level of menstrual hygiene akin to our own. In time maybe she will achieve a shift in mindset too. Thanks for reading Michelle.

  5. May 2, 2018 / 1:15 am

    She certainly is inspirational! And so young! #tweensteensbeyond

    • Jo
      Author
      May 2, 2018 / 12:36 pm

      Isn’t she just?! When I shared her story with my teens and explained she had started this whilst still at school there was a stunned silence that she could juggle so much and make such a difference. There must be some very proud parents somewhere.

  6. May 1, 2018 / 7:20 pm

    Hey, I went to Duke, too! But I’m far less impressive than this young lady. Bravo to her and her work!

    #tweensteensbeyond

    • Jo
      Author
      May 2, 2018 / 12:38 pm

      Small world Katy! It is staggering that she has committed to making a difference to the lives of so many. It is little wonder her charity has stood out among the many to benefit from donations to the Royal Wedding here this month.

  7. May 1, 2018 / 4:59 pm

    Indeed an inspiration young woman. How awful it must be to not have sanitary protection! We just don’t think about that here in the U.K. enough. #tweensteensbeyond

    • Jo
      Author
      May 2, 2018 / 12:41 pm

      I know Sophie. As a woman it is literally inconceivable isn’t it? These stories really do make you sit up and think about cultural impacts on general living in some countries as well as how lucky we are. I was delighted when she agreed to take part in the interview.

  8. May 1, 2018 / 1:07 pm

    Wow, what an amazing lady. It’s one of those issues that you don’t really think about until you come across posts like this and then it’s glaringly obvious. Sanitary protection is not cheap

    • Jo
      Author
      May 2, 2018 / 12:46 pm

      You are right Nikki when you are think about it, the cost can be quite eye watering. I was quite taken aback by the use of rags as an alternative and the hygiene implications of that. We just don’t have to even consider these issues here, let alone the stigma of not buying towels because most pharmacists are male. My husband has been sent on many a SOS sanitary towel mission in the past!

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