Harnidh Kaur On Why Young Women Are The True Change-Makers Of The World
It seems fitting that Harnidh Kaur’s story of the G(irls)20 Summit begins with a social media post. With nearly 25k followers on Instagram, Harnidh has embraced the digital revolution and uses it to craft herself and her activism on her own terms. A senior from her college posted the application to the summit on social media and Harnidh ended up applying within 30 minutes of the deadline.
The G(irls)20 Summit was launched by the Clinton Global Initiative to train young women (18-23 years) from across the world in leadership, mentorship and social enterprise development. In fact, the age-group it caters to is its most remarkable feature – it taps into a demographic not many even think to include in global economics. But for Harnidh, recently out of college with a Master’s in Public Policy (2017), this is familiar territory. “The main thing young women have to offer is lived, self-reported experiences,” she says. “They observe a lot more than people think they do but have no spaces to share them. Young women make us reconfigure our priorities because they are just thinking a lot differently than others. Also, young people don’t shy away from taking risks – they are willing to take giant leaps. It is both perspective and audacity that we offer.”
Along with being a published poet and a columnist for The Print, Harnidh is an Analyst at Dasra, a non-profit that drives social change by facilitating collaborations between various stakeholders. The summit, whose agenda this year was economic inclusion for women in local and global economies, was a natural extension of her work.
Bringing the issue into the Indian context, Harnidh explains that, “We want to make women the primary stakeholders in facets within which their role is often seen as secondary. Digital literacy and financial inclusion were key for me. But it is often assumed that failure in that regard is due to the lack of facilities and infrastructure here. That isn’t the case so much as it is the lack of demand in India. It was important for me to reconfigure the conversation at the global summit to take this into account.”
A quick scroll through her social media will tell you that Harnidh’s emphasis is on fostering dialogue rather than one-sided calls to action. When asked what the summit meant to her, she immediately responds, “It was a space to have a conversation about so many of my fears – for myself and for my country – without judgement. It was a safe space to voice my opinions and thoughts.” She calls it a “global sisterhood” that she can tap into for help and perspectives.
But with so many different young women from so many different countries, is there going to be some disconnect in outlooks and priorities? “It wasn’t so much disconnect as it was a question of different realities,” she observes. “There is no way a Canadian woman and an Indian woman will have similar experiences. But the summit allowed us to bring everything to the table, list out our issues together and go from there.”
Indeed, a testament to this collaborative spirit is the Communiqué that the delegates produce after a week of workshops and panels with experts. It is a document that contains their policy recommendations based on both individual experiences and a week’s worth of discussions. No stranger to such documents thanks to her education and work in public policy, Harnidh nevertheless found this document to be special. “Every perspective at the table was heard,” she affirms. “There was no perspective that was overwritten.”
Since its inception in 2009, the G(irls)20 Summit has preceded the annual G20 Summit, after which it is modelled. It is held in the same country that is to host the G20 to better integrate this conversation with theirs – Harnidh recalls a session with Argentina’s Sherpa to G20, Pedro Villagra Delgado, who will present their Communiqué to the G20 summit leaders.
But Harnidh sees so much that Argentina itself has to add to the conversation. “Latin America is at a very interesting crux because it has the facilities and infrastructure of a developed country but the society’s stratifications are so close to those of the Global South. It is also a case-study in how privilege works. Latin Americans have European roots but they are less privileged than white people are. In other words, they may look privileged but are struggling with issues that we might be familiar with. And, of course, Buenos Aires is such a beautiful city. There is no denying it!”
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The 2019 summit will be held in Japan and applications open next month (November 2018). Harnidh calls on young women to apply. “It is a life-changing experience that alters the way you look at the world,” she concludes.
The 9thannual G(irls)20 Summit was held from October 14-19th, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.