This 19-yearold gender equality activist is forging the path to a better future for girls and women here in Canada and around the world.
“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal,” said Albert Pike, American attorney, soldier and writer. Giving back to her local and global communities from a young age, Anjali Katta continues to advocate for those in need, in particular advocating for gender equality and women’s rights here in Canada and around the world.
“It’s important to stay vigilante and to always advocate because as sad as it is, oppressed people won’t have their rights granted to them – they have to constantly fight for them,” says 19-year-old Katta. “I think gender inequality is an important issue to tackle because it’s pervasive everywhere and affects every single one of us.”
In 2013, she launched the nonprofit organization GirlsCo. that strives to “empower girls both locally and globally by bringing to light the issues they face, in order to spread awareness and spark discussion on initiating change.”
GirlsCo. organizes summits, workshops and fundraisers, in addition to managing programs like Bombay Pads that provides sanitary napkins and sexual education for girls living in the slums of Mumbai, India. In developing nations, girls often miss school due to their menstrual cycles, halting their education process and causing them to fall behind male counterparts. The goal of Bombay Pads is to ensure that girls continue to attend school. In addition, GirlsCo. plans to invest in a sanitary napkin machine that would provide employment and sustainable income for older women in the slums.
Each GirlCo. conference ends with a call to action for youth to mobilize in the quest of gender equality. Katta explains, “It is important to show youth that they can do something about it and especially that no action is too small. I really believe in the ripple effect that small changes in a community eventually ripple outward and change the consciousness of entire societies.”
Since the age of six, Katta has been involved in social work and public service – from volunteering at soup kitchens and making jewellery to raise funds for BC Children’s Hospital to volunteering with organizations in India. Her parents taught her that giving back was always a priority, and this principle remains at the forefront in her adult life.
“Helping others has been important to me because I was born into a position of privilege, where I am lucky enough to not only provide for myself and pursue what I want, but to also have the ability to help others and use some of my privilege to voice the concerns of the less privileged.” Katta was selected to advise the Government of Canada’s work through the Girls Advisory Council, created in 2015 to “engage girls across Canada on their priorities and perspectives.” She was honoured to have been selected for the role. “It felt like I would be able to expedite the ripple process that I believed in through working with the government – it was really cool because we got to bypass bureaucracy and come into contact with youth groups directly.”
Moreover, the young activist has been a speaker at prominent events like Plan International’s Strong Girls, Strong World Summit; One International and Because I am a Girl events and fundraisers; and the United Nations ‘Girls Speak Out’ in New York. “I’ve spoken to young girls on topics of empowerment, importance of education, supporting other girls, and recognizing one’s own capacity for action,” explains Katta. “I love these events, as you see girls truly listening to your words and believing it as I’m the same age as them and recognizable – not some old man telling them that they can achieve what they want, but not representing the path to that achievement.”
Throughout the years, Katta has received numerous awards and accolades for her philanthropy, academics, community service, athletics, and musical talent. More recently, she was the award recipient of Plan International’s coveted ‘Top 20 Under 20’ in 2015, which recognizes young Canadians that demonstrate “outstanding leadership, innovation and achievement, and who are making a difference in their community."
That same year, the United Nations Association in Canada (Vancouver Chapter) bestowed the acclaimed ‘John Gibbard Award for Youth’ to Katta for her “gender equality activism and working towards global betterment,” while upholding the “ideals of the United Nations.” Katta is currently a student at Stanford University in California, and is still figuring out what the future holds. However, she does know that she wants to go into public service. “I’m considering traditional paths for this, like law and politics, but I’m also really considering going down this path through technology and developing tools and methods to make women and girls’ lives better. I think more tech people need to incorporate social good into their innovation mindset.”
Besides her parents, Katta is inspired by activists like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Angela Davis. She goes on to say, “Whenever I feel myself waver or feel hopeless, I like to read Audre Lorde and Bell Hooks – they always remind me of the importance of activism and fighting for what is right.”