LEADER SPOTLIGHT: Akhila Boda
Age / Grade / School
18 / Rising College Freshman / Ohio State University
Tell us about your organization, its mission, and your role.
Metro Girl Up Club is a UN Foundation Girl Up campaign that strives to eradicate gender inequality. As a part of our initiative, we host an annual Doughnut Dash, similar to a 5k. All the proceeds go to the UN Foundation and charity causes on behalf of Girl Up and raise money for school supplies and fees, girls-only clubs for teen girls, health education information, and “stop child marriage” campaigns. Over the past four years, Metro Girl Up has raised $12,285.01 and the money has supported 122 girls in India, Liberia, Uganda, and Malawi; the girls were enrolled in a year-long program that helped build their social, health and economic assets.
As the founder and president of the club for the past four years, I have led our club from the ground up, resulting in growing our club from two members to fifteen. I oversee our club’s initiatives, present at events like the Girl Up Leadership Summit, and work with sponsors to ensure that we can host the best events possible.
What are some of the biggest challenges your organization faces in its operations, and how did you overcome them?
One of the most challenging tasks I faced when starting my club is creating an interest in advocating for gender equality. While I had firsthand seen the horrors of child marriage, poverty, and child labor, not everyone in my club could say the same, so I had to create that same passion in my club members. Initially, it was also hard to keep club members accountable for tasks they were supposed to complete. This was largely due to not having an advisor at school who was frequently there to support us. Because of this, it would be hard for the club members to take me and the VP seriously, therefore leading to both of us doing most of the work. During my senior year, we finally got advisors who were very invested in our club, and so I’m positive that they will keep the club moving forward in the years to come.
Is there anything you would have done differently when starting up or running your organization?
Quite honestly, I am happy with the way my club started and the obstacles we have overcome, because these experiences taught me a lot about what it takes to run an organization and be a leader in the community. Over the years, I have learnt what a 501(c)3 means, how to reach out to sponsors in a professional manner, and the ins and outs of hosting an event.
What does leadership mean to you? Describe how you lead.
Leadership to me is being able to use your platform effectively to radiate change in a community that needs it most. I truly believe that I have been able to impact the communities surrounding me and abroad with the events and campaigns I have held. Through leadership, I have learned the importance of valuing others’ perspectives, because each person in any movement brings a unique voice to the table. Additionally, I love designating tasks to members because not only does it make members feel like they are part of something bigger, but also, it gives members a way to complete tasks in their own way. Leadership, especially among young females, is pertinent and programs like Girl Up are fostering that sense of leadership through a unique platform.
What would you say to girls or young women who are interested in making a difference or considering leadership?
Take risks, and don’t get discouraged if someone doesn’t see your vision for something you dream of. Believe in yourself and know that eventually, your long-term goals will surface. When I first started Metro Girl Up Club, I, along with a few other girls, had to present to teachers and staff what Girl Up would do for students. At the time, I doubted myself because the staff didn’t look very interested, but I knew I had to push through because girls all around the world are being forced into child marriage, poverty, and child labor. When you have a goal in mind, find people who have similar aspirations, and collaborate with them to make your dream into a reality.
Who inspires you?
One of my biggest role models is my Principal Investigator (PI) from my research lab, Dr. Rodney Britt. He allowed me to explore biomedical research and fostered my love of conducting scientific experiments to further understand medicine. My parents allow me to explore different opportunities because if it weren’t for them, I would not have accomplished as much as I have today.
Where can we learn more about Metro Girl Up Club?
More about you (bio):
Akhila Boda is an eighteen-year-old gender equality activist and STEAMnist. In 2016, she founded Metro Girl Up club, a UN Foundation campaign club that advocates for female empowerment and girls’ education in third-world countries. When Akhila was young, she noticed gender disparities in India, most notably, her grandmothers who were married at fourteen. This observation sparked her interest in global gender equality and STEM education.
In the past four years, her Girl Up club has raised over $12,000, which has helped re-enroll 122 girls in Guatemala, India, and Liberia. Akhila knows that with a platform like Girl Up, young girls have the opportunity to share unique stories and dream beyond the boundaries that they are confined to. Due to her work with Girl Up, Akhila has been named a 2020 Coca-Cola Scholar, a Prudential Spirit of Community Awards Ohio State Honoree, and a Syntero Catalyst for Positive Change Awards Recipient. In the Fall of 2020, Akhila will study Biomedical Science at The Ohio State University and knows that with the help of everyone, global gender equality is not a dream. It is a vision.