by Sonam Rikha
Avanthika Panchapakesan, 16 (sixteen) years old, Sacramento, California, Indian, Hindu
Can you tell me about your childhood?
My childhood was quite normal. I grew up with 2 parents, who are from India. They are both immigrants and I had a particularly good childhood. I was involved in a lot of activities, two of which I'm still involved with today, and yeah, that's about it.
Well, what activities?
Dance and music, both Indian classical.
So what was it like growing up as a woman in Sacramento?
To be honest, it was actually very nice, I don't particularly think I faced any kind of discrimination growing up in Sacramento. However, I do believe there are some things that I have noticed, like for example, women currently face the pink tax and we don't have equal pay still, so those are 2 areas which I hope that we can change in. And you know just small things like that I believe have influenced the way I think about this world and wanna change but personally, I haven't been attacked or faced any kind of descrimination because I am a girl or woman in today's society.
Awesome. Can you think of a time, okay well I guess you've kinda already answered that question, you've never really personally like felt that you'd been attacked because of your gender but you have seen stuff in society that needs to be fixed that's related to that. Okay so, what would you say you are most passionate about and are interested in or enjoy doing?
Passionate wise, when it comes to like activism or things like that, I'd say definitely women's rights. I think that's so important in today's society because we need to be respectful and in a world full of xenophobia and discrimination, it's really important that we all maintain equal beliefs and don't discriminate but personally, something that I'm really interested in doing an enjoy doing daily is, honestly just spending time with my family, since we're going off to college soon, I just like being around them, doing fun things, or small things like cooking, baking, watching a movie with them. I truly enjoy spending time with them.
Yeah, okay and tell me about a time you empowered yourself. Like when you faced a difficulty and how you overcame that.
So, actually, last summer, I had a dance performance and it's two hours its called an Arangetram and it was actually a fundraiser for an organization as well, The World Literacy Foundation, which helps provide resources and money in third-world countries and since it was a two hour recital, you obviously need a lot of stamina and that's not very easy and I ended up breaking my foot in January and my performance in July and the recovery process was literally 4 months and so all that stamina that I built up the year before, I completely lost. And so, I knew this performance had to happen and it wasn't something that I could push back an I personally found it very difficult to come back but thankfully, I did and all the hard work I put in was worth it.
Oh my god that's so awesome! Okay, so what would you tell yourself if you could go back in time to like when you were dealing with that struggle.
I remember the first day I had a dance, I started crying in front of my mom, I was like, 'I can't do this' like 'It's going to be a disaster, I'm going to embarrass myself in front of this crowd' but I would tell myself 'anything is possible with hard work and determination' and I think that's something anyone can apply in daily life, like. Initially things might seem like it's going to be bad and it's gonna be a struggle but you do anything and anyone can achieve anything.
Okay, that's awesome. So do you have any advice for girls who are also trying to realise their power and empower themselves and like they should practice that in their daily life?
Honestly, whatever I said before. Girls right now, especially in third world countries are probably discriminated against, like for example; I know in India, girl's can't do a lot when they're on their periods. Some girls don't- can't even go to school, like personally I know my grandparents -it's gonna sound so wrong, I'm bashing my family- but we can't pray, like we can't do simple things like that. I remember my mom, when she was living with her grandma, she wouldn't be able to sleep in a bedroom. She would have to sleep behind a refrigerator because she was on her period. Just small things like that, I know girls are dealing with so much in today's society even though we're so developed. But it's important to realise that they have so much power and they have the potential to make a difference in today's society. And to keep that kind of mindset and don't let small things get to you like I know it might be hard now but use all of your struggles as empowerment and make a difference in today's world.
Oh my god yeah that's so right. I- There definitely is a lot of stigma, even like in the US, with like periods, but definitely it's even more like it escalated in other countries. So, let's see... Ok so who taught you the importance of empowerment?
The women around me. I think particularly my family, my mom especially because- You know she lived in an era where, she still lives obviously, when she was younger she -I feel like went through more as a girl- like you know, I told you about the periods and stuff like that. So I think she's always told me to be strong and just the small things, I think she's taught me so much.
Yeah, why do you think empowerment is important to you as an individual?
Empowerment is important to me personally because one person has the potential to change eveyrhting and I- said that like- I keep on mentioning this to people and even like in this interview, yeah we're advanced like things aren't like, we've abolished slavery like Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclimation but like small things still exist in todays society. Women's products still cost more than mens products. Like pink plastic shouldnt be able to like make the difference between a four dollar razor and an two dollar razor. Small things like that and I think being an advocate and speaking up for what you believe is right and you know just trying- doing the small things like maybe talking to people around you about it, that's os important because you're ideas have the potential to change whatever goes on society for the better of the people.
Yeah, I definitely agree. So, why do you enjoy and appreciate being a woman and experiencing girlhood?
I think the sisterhood is a huge part of it and I really love that I'm able to talk with girls about problems that we have in today's society. I think personal problems too and I really appreciate having strong women around me who empower me each and every single day.
Yes, of course. Okay and then last question, how can the international community help you and your community in a legitimate way is there anything you'd like us to know so we can share it with our Global Girlhood community?
I honestly think the Global Girlhood community is doing wonderful things right now and I hope you guys keep this up and try to spread it to people in third world countries who honestly aren't as privileged as people in the United States right now. Especially in rural communities, I think it's really important to focus on those areas and I hope you guys continue to do what you're doing I think you guys are gonna do amazing things.