Be the change you want to be!

Belonging to a city that is not visible on map, yet famous because it’s near Varanasi has always been a problem for me for not being recognized by work. I’m a teen changemaker who founded The Animal Patronage when I was a tenth-grade student at Kids Kingdom senior secondary school, Uttar Pradesh. Now, at 17, I’m gearing up to write my twelfth-grade exams and carving out my own path as an entrepreneur, like Steve Jobs and Ratan Tata, my two big inspirations. I won the Global Kids Achievers’ Award 2022 and was named a Harvard Innovation Fellow that same year. In the summer of 2022, I gave my first Tedx in Chennai IT. My work has been recognised by President George W Bush foundation Points of Light Inspirational Honor Roll 2022.

It’s been eight years that I have been working for animals with my mother in my locality. The pandemic cut us off from the rest of the world and put us into our homes. It was during this time that I started my organization for animals, to spread awareness through social media. My organization The Animal Patronage is a youth-led Organisation which works for animal welfare. The Organisation focuses on becoming the voice of the animals to fight for their rights and protect them from human cruelties and being extinct.It is a global nonprofit organization based in India that aims to educate, inspire, and empower youth to work for those speechless who can’t speak for their rights and to make a difference in society.

We started in 2021, since then, we hosted The Animal Patronage Podcast for and by students. Besides our frequent pop-ups that aim to empower young youth through providing inspiration and ways to work for the Environment, we also bring awareness posters and digital literacy workshops to marginalized communities with little-to-no access to animal welfare.

I used the internet as my biggest tool and started looking up for #animlwelfare, which brought my down with the fact there are wonderful people out there making an impact but are hardly acknowledged and young youths like me who want to join this field lack support, resources and mentors, soon after I started interviewing changemakers in the SDG and environment field and published them and that’s when “The Animal Patronage” started initially – as a podcast and soon grew into a non-profit organization with 18+ collaboration with different organizations and one prominent with Crimson Youth Entrepreneurship society by Harvard University.

I never thought of being an entrepreneur though. Moreover, it is not my preferred career either. But donning the role of a Social Entrepreneur, I want to help these speechless beings who can’t stand up for their rights. My journey as a social entrepreneur has been more than a half year. Through this time, I met more than thousands of people and learned about their journeys: also did many Workshops and events and went on to spread awareness about how to prevent animals from human cruelties and extinction.

While I admittedly have no idea where I will be in 5 or 10 years from now, I do know what I want to be doing for the rest of my life. It feels like a bold statement to be saying that at 17, but I truly feel that I mean it. While I can’t draw out a roadmap or detail the concrete milestones that I want to reach, I know what future I want to work towards: one where every single youth, regardless of gender and socioeconomic status, can use social work to make a difference in society. It sounds like a far-away goal to many – maybe a dream even — but with the work my team and I do every day, I feel like that future gets closer every day to being a reality.

I envision a world in which it doesn’t matter what background you come from or what you look like & everyone is treated equally, I imagine people working together, sitting across from each other and there is a diverse set of skills, a diverse set of backgrounds. People from all different socioeconomic levels, people of different sexualities, people of different ethnic backgrounds all come together to solve the problem that our society faces.

I hope that the work that we’re doing for The Animal Patronage ensures that the next generations face less of a hurdle due to the environmental issues regardless of the places they live to be tied to. With that said, I know we have no rights to kill those speechless, they’re the one who came before us. Our past generation made many mistakes that damaged the environment but we still have time to stop those mistakes and start preserving our planet for our upcoming generations.

I’ve faced a fair amount of challenges in social entrepreneurship, specifically. The biggest challenge I faced was other people’s opinions of doing these things at a young age. They often told me not to do this kind of thing but instead focus more on academics. I’ve touched upon sexism a bit in the sense that there are a lot of stereotypes about girls in social work, but also in India, there is the understanding that if you go into social work, you are not in an academic background.

Social Entrepreneurship still isn’t a very popular field; it’s not as normalized in the older Indian community. With ageism, on to other hand, I’d face it when I’d go into conferences or meeting rooms and I’d be the youngest person there by 10-20 years. I faced it when people joke, “Oh shouldn’t you be in school right now?”, I faced it when people turned down partnership proposals because they didn’t want to work with youth groups. Very early on, as a tenth grader, I had to develop a thick skin and choose to—in a very Taylor Swift fashion—shake it off. I’d keep going to events and create opportunities to be heard by asking insightful questions during talks and not be afraid to approach strangers to elevator pitch The Animal Patronage. I brushed off every rejection while every successful connection I made led to opportunities.

All of those struggles strung at first, but I think they made me, as cheesy as it sounds, a stronger person because I’ve been able to weather these rejections, especially since they are inevitable in the nonprofit space or in any type of founder journey.

“My interests? Oh, photography, drawing, painting, reading and writing, entrepreneurship, I have my own Podcast.” I can rattle a long list of hobbies without pause. Evidently, I like to explore new things, from “basketball to badminton, I have tried it all.” My desire for discovery is constant, even if I don’t always excel at everything I do. It’s all part of the journey of self-awareness – in My mind, understanding the self is the most important part of all.

With that said, I know that pursuing male-dominated fields could be a hard task, and you might not receive a lot of support from school or from your immediate community. Know that communities like The Animal Patronage exist online and are here to help and support you in case you need resources or people to bond with. Communities are there, all you need to do is look them up and find them. Lastly, In my opinion, every species has an equal birthright on this planet. Just because they can’t fight for their rights doesn’t mean we cannot do that. I believe that we should try to be a constructor and not a destructor.
Photo credit: Image provided by the storyteller.

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Srijanita Maurya

I am Srijanita Maurya based in Uttar Pradesh, India. I am 17 and the Founder of two youth led Organisation named as 'The Petrichor Organisation' working for youths leadership development and 'The Animal Patronage' which works for animal welfare. The Organisation focuses on becoming the voice of the animals to fight for their rights and protect them from human cruelties and being extinct. I'm a TEDx Speaker and Youth Animal Activist. This year I was selected as Harvard Innovation fellow in Crimson Youth Entrepreneurship Society by Harvard University and was recognised by President George W Bush's foundation Points of light Inspiration Honor Roll. I'm the winner of Indian diva award 2022 in category of Entrepreneur and Social work and The Child Prodigy Award. I'm also the winner of Global Kids achievers Award 2022.