Intercultural exchanges truly empower and motivate young minds to discover a better version of themselves. Seema Kumari (YES 2019-2020, India, placed with Aspect in Gig Harbor, WA), recently received a full scholarship to attend Harvard University, and her inspiring story has been shared in local and international media. She even received a shout-out from actress and producer Priyanka Chopra Jonas.
Seema, a young girl from a small village in Jharkhand, is a fighter against the odds and a true inspiration for all who wish to change their lives and the world. When she was younger, Seema joined YUWA, rural India’s largest platform for girls to pursue sports, and worked as a football coach to pay for her school fees. As reported in The Bridge, “Seema hails from the remote village of Dahu in Ormanjhi, Jharkhand. Her parents, who didn't receive any formal education, rely on subsistence farming. Her father also works as a laborer at a local thread factory. After joining a YUWA football team in 2012, Seema has avoided child marriage, defended her right to an education, and played football for years despite being ridiculed for wearing shorts. She will be the first woman in her family to attend a university.”
The YES program inspired Seema to work towards empowering women and girls. “The YES program helped me discover myself and my passion. While volunteering in different communities, I learned that my main goal in life is to help my community and girls live better lives in safer conditions. My biggest lesson that I learned during the exchange year was not to lose hope and be positive during tough times.”
Seema shared in the Times of India that she’s currently undecided about what her major will be, but is interested in pursuing a four-year undergraduate program in Sociology, or Women, Gender and Sexuality studies. “I plan to start an organisation for women in my village and studying these subjects will help me. My organisation will work to help women start small businesses that would train them to be financially independent. I also want to educate women about their rights and build a bigger network to support women by providing essential vocational skills and knowledge.”
“I have read about some YES alumni who are trying to work hard to improve the lives of people and the societies they live in. Being a YES student is a privilege and we must not forget to give back by helping and working towards the improvement of our communities; I think especially in the developing countries because we have some more challenges than the developed countries.”
When asked about her future goals and what she’s looking forward to the most about university, Seema shared, “I want to get to know my professors and friends well, be part of a wide range of clubs, learn about other cultures and be part of one of the study abroad programs. I want to come back and work in Jharkhand towards women empowerment and education. Along with this, I want to write children’s books and books about women.”
To hear more of Seema’s story, check out this video interview from The Quint: