The Women in Leadership team recently had the chance to speak with Aditi Sivakumar: a 23-year-old trailblazing woman from Ottawa, Ontario. She graduated from Queen’s University with a Bachelor of Science (Honors) Major in Life Sciences. A philanthropist, Aditi has accumulated over 10 000 volunteer hours. She is a gender equality advocate, with a focus on ending violence against women. She is the founder of the “My Empowerment (ME) Packs: Youth Edition,” which are wellness kits for homeless youth.
Aditi recently received the 2019 Diana Award, which is one of the highest accolades a young person can achieve for humanitarian efforts. Aditi aims to pursue a career in medicine in the field of Sexual and Reproductive Health.
What is the Diana Award?
The Diana Award is a youth charity established in memory of Princess Diana and her belief that young people have the power to change the world. The charity is supported by The Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex. Young people do not work toward the award, rather, they demonstrate their suitability through their actions, without any expectation of a reward.
What are the My Empowerment Packs? Why did you start this project?
The “My Empowerment (ME) Packs: Youth Edition” are wellness kits for homeless youth residing in the Ottawa community. The project was funded by the Canada Service Corps, specifically through the Duke of Ed Passion to Purpose Grant. The “My Empowerment (ME) Packs” consists of a backpack which contains a blanket, granola bars, a reusable water bottle, socks, hygiene kits (deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.), Band-aids, and a “My Empowerment (ME) Resource Booklet”.
The “My Empowerment (ME) Resource Booklet” is one of Ottawa first comprehensive resource booklets that provide contact information for a wide variety of resources (i.e. pregnancy supports/services, health supports/services, housing supports/services, etc.), which youth facing homelessness can access regardless of their socio-demographic factors.
What has been a motivating factor for you in your work and community service?
The primary motivating factor for me has been witnessing the impact some of my community service work has had. In my opinion, the feeling you get from helping others is one that cannot be replicated or achieved through any other activity.
In addition, through volunteering, I have met some of the kindest, smartest, and most inspirational individuals, with whom I have formed lifelong friendships with. Furthermore, through community service, I have been able to develop and hone skills such as leadership, communication, working in a team, and public presenting -- all of which have been invaluable during my academic and post-graduate career.
In your opinion, what barriers do women in leadership face?
The biggest barriers that affect women in leadership roles include being subjected to inequalities and bullying/harassment. Compared to their male counterparts, women generally face inequity in terms of pay and promotions. Moreover, the opinions and concerns of women are often ignored during and ha
ving their opinions and concerns taken into consideration during decision-making processes. To combat this barrier, I believe women in leadership roles should continue to remain continue to believe in themselves and their capability to create change and stand up against societal norms which put women at a disadvantage.
Additionally, women leaders continue to face bullying/harassment not only from their peers but also from the public through various online social media platforms. To combat this barrier, I would encourage all women leaders to surround themselves with positive and supportive individuals and ignore hateful comments. As Michelle Obama once said, “When they go low, we go high.”
Who is your favourite woman role model/leader and why?
One of my favorite women role models/leaders is Michele Obama. Michelle Obama possesses many characteristics that I strive to embody in my everyday life, such as compassion, dedication, and a drive for community service. I am inspired by her advocacy for youth across the globe to obtain a higher education through initiatives like “Let Girls Learn”, “Reach Higher” and the “Global Girls Alliance.” Furthermore, I appreciate Michelle Obama’s strong belief that youth can be the agents of change and help create solutions for some of the worlds most pressing issues.
By: Jasmine Pathak