Meet Priya Shankar, Founder and CEO of Girls Health Champions, which works to mitigate gender inequality and its impact on health outcomes. By creating a network of peer health educators at school and in the broader community, the organization helps prevent many health-related challenges adolescent girls around the world face, including inadequate nutrition and anemia, menstruation-related taboos, mental illness, gender-based violence, teen pregnancy, and more.
Why did you apply to MC?
I applied to MC, along with my co-founder Ricky Sharma, for the opportunity to work with the amazing network of mentors, to develop our business plan, critically analyze our model, and evaluate our impact! So far, MC has been amazing in all respects and given us access to an outstanding network of mentors, supportive colleagues, and a space for our team to continue the momentum. This summer, we expanded to many more schools in India and have continued to build out our team.
What’s your personal motto or quote that keeps you pushing ahead?
Every day is an opportunity to improve yourself and improve the world.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
When I was very young, I always wanted to become a ballerina and a doctor. I managed to do one of these, by becoming a pediatrician. I’ve been an Indian classical dancer since the age of five and I’ve continued to do that for many years; it’s something I truly enjoy. At around 13 or 14 years old, I remember talking to my mom about wanting to find a way to fight for the rights of children. And it has been really wonderful to be able to work on achieving that dream many years later through GHC.
After work, where can we find you?
At home with my husband watching TV, reading a book, or catching up on sleep!
What do you do every morning to start your day on the right track?
I listen to a short prayer when I wake up every morning. I also make sure I have my tea in hand, without which my day will not be the same! While I am walking to work, I try to remind myself to try to be the best person I can be, to remember that the day might be harder day for someone else than it is for me, and that it is important to display kindness to others.
Favorite place to eat in Boston?
Addis Red Sea – Ethiopian food is my all-time favorite.
How many cups of coffee get you through a day?
0 to 1 cups. I am a huge fan of chai!
Where do you go to get inspiration?
I get tremendous inspiration from our Champions. I often wonder if at their age I would have been brave enough, or done as good of a job as them in teaching and leading the change. Many of our Champions have incredible poise and grace when dealing with sensitive subjects. Some of them are brave enough to speak about stigmatized and taboo issues such as depression, reproductive health, or the spectrum of gender expression and identity with their communities. Seeing our Champions in action has been one of the most uplifting and inspirational aspects of my work and life! When I can visibly see the impact our Champions are making, I feel inspired to keep working at bringing Girls Health Champions to as many schools around the world as we can.