Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

THE SUMMIT: AS IT WAS

Imagine this: Two strangers who’ve come from hundreds of miles apart, sharing a snack, a laugh, and a picture. This became a perfectly ordinary sight during Girl Up India’s first offline Leadership Summit in Vivanta by Taj, New Delhi on October 8. 

And now, we find it hard to process the fact that the Summit is over! Eight months of bringing it to life have left an indelible mark on us. Seeing leaders from various fields share the same space and vision was a remarkable celebration of empowerment, resilience, and the collective strength of young people—especially women and girls—who aspire to make a difference in the world.

The Summit was a melting pot of diverse perspectives, with each participant bringing their unique story and passion. From the very start, the energy in the room was palpable; the air was thick with determination, gusto, and an unwavering belief in our collective ability to effect change.

Seeing leaders from various fields share the same space and vision was a remarkable celebration of empowerment, resilience, and the collective strength of young people—especially women and girls—who aspire to make a difference in the world.

As youth and experience merged, nurtured under the safe and welcoming aegis of Girl Up India, attendees from different parts of the country came together to network with, learn from, and inspire each other. The Summit served as a radiant reflection of the intersectionality of gender, while spotlighting the universal and overarching power of leadership, in every aspect of life. You could see teenagers with ideals, young adults with ambitions, veterans with wisdom and expertise from vastly different socio-economic backgrounds, and with distinct personal and social identities in the crowd. 

What united them, you might ask? The passion for actionable impact. We engaged as equals with the speakers, and the speakers became human beings with stories that were relatable. Professional connections and personal friendships alike were forged and fostered while zealously discussing causes that mattered to and connected across social constructs and physical borders. Nobody was a celebrity anymore, because everybody was, in their own right, a star, a changemaker, a leader. 

THE SUMMIT: ORGANIZING

As members of the Youth Committee for the Summit, the experience was challenging, incredibly transforming, and filled with invaluable lessons.

While collaborating with a team of passionate individuals, our goal was to design a platform that empowered girls, fostered leadership skills, and curated a space for incoming leaders, enthusiasts, and gender rights advocates to interact, connect, and have an unforgettable experience. The many months of planning, coordination, and hard work—which began with a vision of empowering young women—paid off when the Summit finally took place. It was supposed to be a day of learning, networking, and amplifying voices, and we made sure that all of those boxes were ticked.

The planning process was challenging and immensely fulfilling. We curated impactful sessions, coordinated with inspiring speakers to ensure every logistical requirement was met, and took every step to provide an enriching environment for our Girl Up India community. Witnessing the summit come to life, seeing the enthusiasm of the participants, and observing the exchange of ideas and aspirations was truly heartwarming. It was an honor to contribute to such a memorable event, and it taught us the power of collective action and the enduring impact of investing in the next generation of female leaders. 

For Vishnupriya, coordinating with the various guests on the Summit day was a unique experience.  When it was her turn, she was in charge of escorting and ensuring that the speakers arrived at the stage. Since they were well-known figures, like Dia Mirza and Harnaaz Kaur Sandhu, it took a lot of work to achieve. This experience allowed her to go beyond her comfort zone and stretch her boundaries so that she could become a better, more capable version of herself who could effectively manage a large group of people and handle on-the-ground coordination. Saundarya, on the other hand, was responsible for moderating a session and simultaneously managing backstage logistics. When the Champion of Change award ceremony was over, we saw our Country Director, Aditi looking at both of us with a beaming smile. That was our moment. 

THE SUMMIT: MODERATING

The Summit was graced by a star-studded line-up of speakers, each one of whom embodied the spirit of leadership in distinct, yet equally powerful ways. They were capable of showcasing how a leader is the essence of one’s personality that is manifested in every single walk of life. Bollywood A-listers Dia Mirza and Rajshri Deshpande, Miss Universe 2021 Harnaaz Kaur Sandhu, Instagram’s favorite sexuality educator Leeza Mangaldas, management expert Jayanthi Harinath, UN Resident Coordinator for India Shombi Sharp, trailblazing young climate activist Riddhima Pandey, Girl Up USA Director Priestley Johnson, and Girl Up India advocates from across the country led conversations on all things gender justice. The one thing common to every speaker at the Summit was an unwavering belief in the power of girls’ leadership and the passionate vision of an equal future.

Having the opportunity to be a moderator on the panel on Storytelling, titled ‘Girls, Tell Your Own Tale!’ was an incredibly enriching and eye-opening experience. Not only did the panelists bring forth the diverse, complex, and sensitive, yet often undervalued nuances of storytelling as a tool for change, but they further highlighted the challenges they had faced and overcome. Be it the oral historian’s perspective of ensuring trust and authenticity in a story, emphasized by Ms. Aanchal Malhotra; or the encouragement towards sharing and the importance of listening underscored by the co-founder of Josh Talks Ms. Supriya Paul, or the fearless and confident voice of Girl Up Leader and film-maker Rhea Bakshi; every member shed light on layers and depths of storytelling as means of impact.

Never hesitate to share your story because you think it isn’t important enough, that your voice isn’t powerful enough. Every story is equally valuable, and no one can tell yours better than you.



Collective Message of the Panellists on ‘Girls, Tell Your Own Tale!’

To conclude, the Girl Up India Leadership Summit was a celebration of the youth, for the youth, and by the youth. It was a tribute to, and an affirmation of, the power of community. As everyone from powerful industry voices and fierce gender equality champions to over 450 young leaders, activists, and advocates came together under the theme of ‘Future 2030’, what unfolded was a glimpse of leadership not just for the future, but for the present!

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