When I was 12 years old, my parents decided it was best to leave everything and everyone we knew and loved in Mauritius — an island nation in the Indian Ocean — to go to Canada. They knew that in Canada, specifically in a suburb of Toronto, my autistic brother could receive a special-needs education and the chance to grow up in an environment where he would thrive.
We landed at Pearson Airport in April 2008, during the height of the Great Recession. As I watched my parents working minimum wage, manual labour jobs, I saw the sacrifices they were willing to make for my brother and me. While my parents were swimming against the economic tide and trying keeping our family afloat, I was fighting my own battle at school.
French being my first language, I had difficulties communicating with my schoolmates and was teased because of my accent and for being “different.” I can recall countless lunch hours spent in the washroom because I didn’t want to face my bullies.
Fast forward a few years and as a high school student I got involved with a the leadership organization Strength Within Girls Group, which runs an online girls’ support group, Swiggtalk.com. I think the simple act of reading the stories of other girls–posted on Swiggtalk–who had similar experiences and how they survived would have made me feel less lonely, and most importantly, I would have been more hopeful about my future. These experiences continue to motivate me and inform my perspective on the value of mentoring girls, many of whom come from immigrant and other marginalized communities, through adolescence.
With SWIGG, I’ve become actively involved in helping to design programs that build self-esteem and leadership skills in teenage girls. My main focus has been to provide our readers with strong female role models. Through interviews and features with women who are at the top of their professional field, I hope to inspire young girls to follow their passions, dream big and believe that with a combination of confidence and hard work, everything is possible.
My next step is use my experience with SWIGG and the skills gained from the G(irls)20 Summit to create a mentorship program that will pair up young female professionals with middle school girls living in at-risk neighbourhoods in my city of Mississauga. Through leveraging technology like Skype and Google Hangout, I will facilitate mentor-mentee exchanges that will help them reach their full potential.
In the struggle toward the full inclusion of women and girls in their countries’ economies, it is critical for us to provide young girls with inspiring mentors, who will guide them through their educational and career endeavours, and champion them every step of the way. I believe creating and developing mentorship programs will help equip our next generation of leaders with the confidence and tools they need to thrive and lead us to a brighter tomorrow.