Young Indians make a mark as changemakers with Diana Award 2021

Young Indians make a mark as changemakers with Diana Award 2021

Over 80 children and young people of Indian origin from across the globe have received the Diana Award 2021, a prestigious honour for youngsters aged 9 to 25 for their humanitarian and social work.

In a week that also marked Princes William and Harry united to unveil a new memorial to their late mother Princess Diana in Kensington Palace (pictured), the Roll of Honour of recipients of the award charity set up in her memory included Kaneeka Kapur, Serene Singh, and Dr Anika Walia from the British Indian diaspora.

From a young age, Kaneeka felt isolated and detached from her multicultural identity as a British Indian woman living in England. Her experience inspired her to create “Pardesi”, a platform designed to elevate the voices of South Asian women.

Serene started 'The Serenity Project' in 2016 after losing her friend, a survivor, to suicide. She volunteered over 3,500 hours throughout the year, empowering survivors to develop tools for self-love and gain skills through one-to-one mentoring.

Anika's Food Charity is a food bank for anyone experiencing food poverty, homelessness and period poverty. She also distributes emergency hampers to those in need.

This year the ceremony marked Princes Diana's 60th birthday. The virtual ceremony received support from a host of celebrities and surprise guests to honour young people who have gone above and beyond in their daily lives to create and sustain positive change.

As a girl of Indian origin living in Saudi Arabia, Hiya Shah, age 17, understood the barriers women and girls face from a young age. In 2017, her organisation, 'Fundraising for the Girl Child' was born and has funded the full education costs for 500 girls from rural India.

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Ten other such young people from Dubai made a mark with the award – Leena Ansari, 15, Vidyuth Balaji, 9, Subhankhar Ghosh, 16, Akshal Jain, 16, Tanisha Katepallewar and Nishita Katepallewar, 15, Eeshani Mahesh Pillai, 11, Archie Parekh, 17, Aneeka Paul, 15, Riya Sharma, 16 and Asha Siddiqui, 15, - for exemplary social and humanitarian work towards their community at large.

A 10-year-old boy from Sharjah, Amit Sharma, is on the roll of honour for his volunteering work. He campaigns to raise awareness of health and environment-related issues and people with intellectual disabilities.

"We congratulate all our new Diana Award recipients from the UK and all over the globe who are changemakers for their generation. We know by receiving this honour, they will inspire more young people to get involved in their communities and begin their own journey as active citizens," said Tessy Ojo, CEO of The Diana Award, during the virtual award ceremony.

Several teens from various parts of India have received the award:

Navya Agarwal

Bangalore, India. Age 16

After moving from Seattle, USA to Banglaore, India six years back, Navya was dismayed by the suffering she saw in her country. She started by running drawing workshops for sex traffic survivors, inspiring them by her murals. Navya has now completed 16 murals, which have been enjoyed by more than 74,000 people.

Upmanyu Anil Magotra

Jammu And Kashmir, India. Age 20

Upmanyu, a law student, has always been interested in human rights, specifically women’s rights. Since its inception, his ‘Open Skies Foundation’ has helped around 100 women from all walks of life.

Neysa Agarwal

Hyderabad, India. Age 15

Neysa feels a strong desire to help those in need, first taking action in 2018 by raising ₹80,000 to help educate underprivileged children. She funded a school year for 100 extra children. In an awareness campaign she distributed period kits to 200 underprivileged women.

Mansi Agrawal

Madhya Pradesh, India. Age 20

Mansi is the President of ‘Leo Club’ at the University of Delhi, a youth-run social service organisation affiliated with ‘Lions Club International’. She has worked on multiple projects, including mental and physical health, women’s empowerment, child education and conservation. She also contributes towards environmental protection by focusing on conserving water bodies and water resources across her state.

Kaif Ali

Delhi, India. Age 20

While pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in architecture, he designed a prefabricated building that would not only help reduce transmission of the Corona virus but could also house refugees worldwide. Kaif’s design is now being implemented in Lagos, Nigeria, and recognized by the Government of INDIA and the United Nations.

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Sasha Agarwal

Kolkata, West Bengal, India. Age 18

She has founded the Kolkata chapter of ‘The Period Society’, a youth-run nonprofit addressing period poverty by delivering period products, educational seminars and awareness-raising campaigns. During the pandemic, she carried on this work almost single-handedly, as well as training as a mental health first responder to best answer the needs of her community.

Shreenabh Agrawal

India. Age 17

His project the ‘Oldy Goldy Clubs’ brings together senior citizens and young people to bring companionship and support into each other’s lives. In his ‘Save Farms and Farmers’ project, he designed an environmentally friendly, zero-cost replacement to hazardous chemical pesticides, which benifitted more than 20,000 farmers and their families.

Manthan Anand

Delhi, India. Age 23

Economic hardship and lack of opportunities that he has faced duringhis adolescence, has made hime found the ‘Churning Joy Foundation’. It is a nonprofit which aims to support young people living in rural communities to realise their potential and lead sustainable development of their communities.

Karina Bhasin

Delhi, India. Age 24

Karina is the founding member of ‘Even Cargo’, India’s first only women-driven logistics delivery company, where she employes 500 women from slums and villages.

Aryan Bodla

Hyderabad, India. Age 17

After adirect exposure to juvenile crime amongst his peer, he created the project ‘Anandam’ to raise awareness amongst juvenile offenders. He provides a platform for the young offenders to enrol in tutorials and activitiesand empower them with life skills for a successful reintegration into the community.

Bisathi Bharath

Andhra Pradesh, India. Age 25

Bisathi ‘Pragathi Padham Youth Association’ to empower and educate young people. The association works to offer education, digital literacy, life skills, health and environmental education and engagement in politics. Bisathi’s dedication to community development has impacted tens of thousands of young people and inspired 500 new youth leaders across India.

Aditi Gera

Ujjain, India. Age 20

After witnessing gender inequality within her own family and the wider community, Aditi set up ‘Empowerette’, a one-to-one mentoring programme for over 60 young girls from underprivileged backgrounds. She is one of just a handful of her generation to be elected as an ‘Ashoka Young Changemaker’.

Sia Godika

Bangalore, India. Age 14

Over the past 18 months, Sia’s non-profit ‘Sole Warriors’, collected over 15,000 pairs of footwear from 4,000 households through a network of 50 volunteers and eight supporting organisations, and distributed amongst those who can’t afford one.

Aditi Joshi

Mumbai, India. Age 24

Aditi established ‘WINGS’, an NGO which tackled the stigma around menstruation in India. She has also worked to empower sex workers to become financially independent. She has established ‘Speaking Grey’, an organisation that provides a safe space, creates support and awareness around mental health.

Namya Joshi

Ludhiana, Punjab, India. Age 14

She built and delivered her Minecraft-based lesson on Egyptian civilisation; trained more than 1,000 teachers and students on how Minecraft can be used in education.

Gaurav Jayaprakash

Bhopal, India_Age 12

In 2020, Gaurav participated in ‘The Pink Steps Challenge’, walking to raise funds for cancer charities. Gaurav supports running clean-up campaigns, eco-club activities and re-use and recycle campaigns. Gaurav is now a junior brand ambassador for the breast cancer charity ‘Protect Your Mom’.

Shourya Kadam

Hyderabad, India. Age 15

Through his project titled ‘The Causation to Cognizance’, Shourya sought to both understand and also promote climate awareness and activism. He has founded his own student-led organisation called ‘OCEAN Environmentals’, working towards wildlife and resource conservation in a changing world.

Ishan Kapur

New Delhi, India. Age 15

Ishan devised and delivered an ambitious campaign to fundraise £5000 and collect almost 100 laptops and tablets for teachers and students, whilst also ensuring everyone had an online connection to access learning.

Himanshu Rao Kalvakuntla

Hyderabad, India. Age 15

Himanshu is a solution-driven activist, committed to making villages across Telangana self-sustainable. He does this through his initiative ‘Shoma’, which aims to support communities through the installation of food processing units that can produce unadulterated food.

Shiv Kampani

Mumbai, India. Age 16

After experiencing a traumatic accident caused by fire, Shiv created a smart gas leak and fire detector, and a 3D simulation game ‘Fire Escape’. This has been adopted by the ‘Fire and Security Association of India’. He has also developed low-cost robot to clean Mumbai’s sewers, an otherwise deadly and dehumanising work currently falling to those at the very bottom of the caste system.

Surjeet Lodhi

Vidisha, India. Age 17

After helping his father quit, Surjeet went on to lead anti-alcohol campaigns in surrounding villages and single-handedly helped 120 children to access education. Surjeet was a child with no knowledge of his rights, agency or support systems, but by 2018, he would be elected as the vice president of the ‘National Children’s Council’, a collective of child leaders of ‘Child-Friendly Villages’ across India, protecting other children’s rights to a safe and happy childhood.

Eshika Madala

Hyderabad, India. Age 16

Eshika works to tackle breast cancer. She has created and distributed 500 informational pamphlets in local newspapers, showing how to perform self-examinations and encouraging women over 25 to have mammograms. She impacted 3,000 people by helping organise the two-kilometre ‘Pink Ribbon Walk’.

Smriti Marar

Hyderabad, India. Age 17

Smriti founded ‘Project WE’ in 2019, helping over 100 girls in her local community complete high school and pursue higher education and career opportunities. She has negotiated with companies to raise around £9,700 to purchase and distribute smartphones for 85 ‘Project WE’ girls.

Aditya Mukarji

Delhi, India. Age 17

Aditya started the ‘#RefuseIfYouCannotReuse’ campaign. In just two years, the campaign has eradicated over 25,000,000 single-use plastics. During the pandemic, he raised funds and volunteered to help with the migrant crisis as well as establishing a new campaign ‘No Child in Trash’ to ensure disadvantaged young people can access education.

Meghana Narayanan

Bangalore, India. Age 16

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Meghana created the social initiative ‘Project Abhaya’, helping communities at risk of the severe financial burden caused by insufficient insurance coverage in India. To date, she has supported over 500 people to become more financially secure, 90 percent of whom were women. Meghana is set to present this project at the United Nations in New York later this year.

Abhinaya Polaka

Andhra Pradesh, India. Age 18

Abhinaya is the founder of ‘GREAP’, a non-governmental organisation aimed at protecting the rights of the environment, animals and people.

Bhagyashree Prabhutendolkar

Mumbai,India_Age 17

Bhagyashree founded ‘Youth Magazine’, an international youth publication that has a monthly audience of 8,000 young people across 16 countries. The publication covers topics including bullying, racism and mental health. She has been invited to speak with the United Nations Youth Envoy on education.

Paridhi Puri

New Delhi, India_Age 19

She has raised ₹35,000 for mental health and cancer charities and, as part of her three-month participation in ‘Young Leaders for Active Fellowship’, created a social media campaign using infographics and art to share messages around bullying, body positivity, mental health and digital safety, reaching 10,000 students. Collaborating with UNICEF, Paridhi boosted the campaign by speaking at national events and on TV, eventually reaching 1,000,000 students.

Chaitanya Prabhu

Mumbai, India. Age 22

Passionate for strengthening Indian democracy, Chaitanya founded ‘Mark Your Presence’ (MYP), a non-profit organisation. At the age of 20, Chaitanya is the youngest person in India to have registered more than 10,000 voters and empowered 16,000 young voters to date. He has also launched ‘SheVotes’,a platform to promote women’s right to vote.

Tejaswi Polimetla

Hyderabad, India. Age 18

At the age of 13, she began to advocate for the protection of the ‘Nallagandla Lake and Rock Garden’. Now, at 18, Tejaswi continues to campaign for environmental conservation in her city and has expanded her attention to promoting youth involvement and education, and tutors younger students to build the leadership skills she’s nurtured from an early age.

Swara Patel

Mumbai, India. Age 18

Swara founded ‘The Period Society’. This is a nonprofit working to remove the stigmas surrounding reproductive health whilst improving access to menstrual hygiene products in under-served communities in India. She has impacted 5,000 people in India and helped people access period products for over 95,000 menstrual cycles.

Meeraa Ramakrishnan

Hyderabad, India. Age 16

Founding the organisation ‘Avaagat’, she addresses the global issue of helping people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds gain access to clean water. Meera’s project impacted over 1,000 people, enabling more people to go to school whilst freeing up funds for orphanages.

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Devanshi Ranjan

New Delhi, India_Age 21

Drawing on her own distressing experiences of rampant bullying, harassment and sexism, Devanshi started her youth-led initiative ‘Project MicDrop’. Devanshi also is passionate about helping those with intellectual and developmental disabilities and people from the underprivileged section of the society. She has taught over 1,000 people through interactive and accessible workshops.

Aranyo Ray

Kolkata, India. Age 18

He has innovated safer, sustainable chemicals that help farmers protect their crops. He has helped over 1,100 jute farmers and 700 soybean farmers with NanoCide and SoyaSafe respectively. He has also created the initiative ‘ReWork’, to create an interconnected network of ‘Changemakers’ Clubs’ in schools.

Kanika Sahijwani

New Delhi, India. Age 24

Kanika Sahijwani is a fine art artist, youth development leader and marketing specialist. She is committed to changing the lives of young people. She has authored 10 papers and established strategies to improve outreach and partnerships. Kanika’s commitment to supporting young people globally has led her to present at United Nations in Geneva and New York.

Niyati Sharma

New Delhi, India. Age 20

At age 17, Niyati started the nonprofit organisation ‘Pratisandhi Foundation’ to tackle the stigma around sexual health. As of today, more than 15,000 women and young people have been positively impacted through educational interventions and campaigns. Niyati is an ‘empathetic leader’, providing a path forward for the 80+ volunteers that she leads.

Kaushal Shetty

Mumbai, India_Age 25

Kaushal has build ‘Nostos Homes’, the first-of-its-kind sustainable emergency shelters for marginalised communities displaced due to violence or natural disaster. These shelters are modular, lightweight and can easily be transported to affected regions. Each unit houses a family, with everything they need to live, and aims to restore privacy, personal dignity and safety in times of crises. His work has received recognition from the World Bank, IFC, IDB, Mastercard, ‘COINS UK’ and ‘Saint Gobain’.

Akarsh Shroff

Bangalore, India. Age 20

Akarsh founded ‘S.P.A.R.K’, which encourages students to volunteer to support children in disadvantaged communities. It has impacted the lives of over 5,000 young people from disadvantaged communities. He has been recognized as a ‘Forbes India Teenpreneur’ and ‘Ashoka Young Changemaker’.

Lakshya Subodh

Bangalore, India. Age 17

Lakshya connected over 300 rural students to industries such as advertising, marketing, consulting and design and arranged to provide them with micro-internships to gain workplace experiences. He has supported over 5.000 women to be trained to fight COVID-19 and tackle challenges relating to fake news and discrimination. Lakysha’s most recent work earned him the prestigious ‘COVID Soldiers Award’.

Anoushka Sinha

Delhi, India_Age 18

She advocates children’s rights and helps children get access to education and books, through various organisations. She has developed apps to help with e-learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Called ‘Didi’ (sister) by those she teaches, Anoushka’s ideas and passion continue to make a difference in the lives of countless young people.

Ananya Singh

Bhubaneswar, India. Age 22

Ananya is passionate and vocal about women empowerment online. Ananya founded ‘Project SIS’, a virtual learning lab, to assist young girls in becoming informed digital citizens and help them with digital security.

Palak Sharma

New Delhi, India_Age 23

Palak gave up a place on the Civil Service Fast Stream, in order to return to India to help the country meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Palak co-founded the ‘Green Governance Initiative’, with an aim of influencing policy to reflect the development goals and making sure the SDGs are implemented at a grassroots level.

Natisha Shah

Mumbai, India. Age 16

Natisha created ‘Boxes of Joy’, a package of games, quizzes and arts and crafts for chronically ill children. Natisha has managed to produce the boxes bilingually, and also manufacturing and delivery of the boxes to hospitals and orphanages.

Aaryani Sahay

Bangalore, India. Age 16

Aaryani co-founded ‘Let’s Talk’ at the age of 14 to challenge the stigma around mental health. ‘Let’s Talk’ aims to spread mental health awareness among adolescents and create safe spaces for children to open up through awareness sessions. To date, Aaryani’s project has conducted 110 awareness sessions, started 10 national chapters, and helped over 3,600 young people. Aaryani has spoken inspiringly about mental health awareness at platforms including the United Nations, Women’s Economic Forum and TEDx. She also co-authored ‘The Book of Wellness’, the proceeds of which have contributed to the COVID-19 pandemic response in India.

Ananya Talluri

Hyderabad, India. Age 16

She raised 80,000 rupees (approximately £800), which was used to buy groceries and essentials for orphanages during the COVID-19 lockdown. Around 140 girls’ lives have been impacted through Ananya’s actions and another 122 in progress. Alongside a team of doctors, she is improving the health and nutrition of underprivileged adolescent girls by trying to reduce the gap between underprivileged girls and medical access.

Adit Nikhil Upadhye

Hyderabad, India. Age 14

Adit has channelled his fundraising and volunteer efforts to support children based in the local orphanage ‘Chavadi Ashramam’ in Telecom Nagar.

Viha Amit Thumar

Surat, India. Age 17

Viha is a social entrepreneur who has created jobs during the pandemic, helping underprivileged women to become self-reliant. Her initiative ‘Scrapwings’ uses textile waste to make useful items to sell, minimising environmental impact and creating value out of waste. The women make and sell products such as mats, table runners, purses, handbags, scrunchies and cushion covers out of the textile waste.

Rhea Thakkal

Hyderabad, India. Age 17

Rhea founded ‘Vishwasa’, and over the last year, Rhea and the team have made videos on mental health and created zines, poems and infographics for social media and the ‘Vishwasa’ website. During the pandemic, Rhea raised an incredible $20,000 to provide food to those who have lost their income.

Seher Taneja

New Delhi, India. Age 16

Seher is a science enthusiast, researcher, innovator and co-founder of ‘The Tale of Humankind’, a youth leadership initiative connecting passionate young people to take on some of the greatest challenges facing humanity. From breaking taboos around life-saving organ donation to tackling threats to public health, Seher uses the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals as her framework to identify the gaps in society and decide what she might be able to do to help.

*Info: The Diana Award

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