Two Indian American teens were honored by Girl Scouts USA and received the 2017 National Young Women of Distinction award for helping out the community.
Rajvi Ranka and Devika Kumar, both 18, are among ten girl scouts selected from the Gold Award Girl Scouts across the United States.
Ranka was selected for her project on creating water conservation technology to help farmers in California and Kumar supports the issue of menstrual hygiene for girls in rural India.
Ranka is a Girl Scout from California and she has developed cost-effective soil moisture sensors and reeds which will help farmers in rural and under-served communities, conserve water.
Based on this technology, farmers on average have saved 25 percent of their water use and Ranka has since received a provisional patent on the product.
She plans to make it accessible for everyone using social media.
“I think my biggest challenge was getting farmers to adapt to my technology or come and use my technology, because they have many old methods of irrigating and farming, and they’re not too open to trying something new,” Girl Scouts quoted Ranka.
Kumar is a Girl Scout from Texas and during her recent visit to Rajasthan, she discovered that 23 percent of girls in rural areas stop attending school because of limited information and resources to support menstruation.
She then decided to put a stop to this by providing a remote village in Rajasthan, a sanitary-pad machine and taught local women how to operate the machine; which basically grinds cotton, presses it into the pads, disinfecting them.
“I want to sensitize the rural women in my father’s homeland, where menstruation is still believed to be taboo. The use of sanitary pads is not widespread either, mostly due to their unavailability and unaffordability,” she said adding that she also wants to try “to tackle the taboo and the stigma, while staying within the conservative culture, you have to have a very good sense of what you want to achieve and who you want to send this message to. You have to reach them in a way that they’ll receive well.”
Kumar noted that the cost of a regular sanitary napkin is Rs. 5 whereas this machine would bring it down to Rs. 2, “the sanitary pad manufacturing machine has five units, which manufactures six sanitary pads in 15 minutes and up to 20,000 in a year,” Kumar said.
Kumar has discussed her project, the Mahi Project, in a TED Talk and has took to social media, creating a GoFundMe page and eventually accumulated the necessary $4,500 with the help of her family in India, allowing her to provide educational resources to the women who needed the most.