Siya Tayal, a Class 10 student from the Shri Ram School, Aravali Campus, Gurgaon, is gaining popularity for her 'Project I Am Enough' on body shaming. The 15-year-old was the youngest speaker at the United Nations, Geneva, and now has been nominated for Kurt Hahn Prize, awarded in recognition of an exceptional act of service to others, either within or without the school community.
Tell us more about the Kurt Han prize.
The aim is to acknowledge individual student achievement and furthering a lasting spirit of unity among all Round Square schools, where community service is an integral part of a students’ education. I have been nominated for the award and the results are still eagerly awaited!
What led you to take up the body shaming issue?
Body shaming is deeply personal to me. I always wished to look like my best friend. Then she told me that she would love to look like me! I was completely taken aback. In this society, where we are constantly criticised about the way we look, my 'Project I Am Enough' is a brave step to teach everyone to stand up for themselves and that they are perfect the way they are. My parents never criticised the way I looked, however a few people told me I didn’t look good enough, had gained weight, or criticised my tall height or dark skin. This was deeply upsetting, so I started this project to help others and also myself to become more confident and stop caring about what people think.
Could you elaborate on your work on body shaming?
'Project I Am Enough' reimagines beauty, spreads awareness about eating disorders caused due to body shaming. The project tries to talk about the subject in a new, revolutionary, creative manner. We take different artists (musicians, dancers, painters, public speakers) and display their work to show our stand against body shaming.
Any challenges so far?
A lot of people are not ready to rip the band-aid off and reveal their faces, but we slowly work towards showing them the safe environment the project has created. Another huge challenge we face is changing mindsets of those who believe that body shaming helps to improve the way they look and is a positive action.
Tell us about your work as a sustainable development educator.
I founded Bee Nifty to make a change that sweeps the globe by basic, achievable deeds. Under ‘My Own Bag’, we employ women in rural Haryana to stitch bags for us using recyclable, new waste fabrics. My Own Bags solves three big problems. It reduces use of ‘one time use’ plastic bags, it reduces pollution by redirecting waste fabrics from being incinerated or dumped. It provides income to women in rural India who tailor these bags. My bags help 12 out of 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
How do you balance studies with the initiatives you have founded?
At times, it is a little difficult to keep up your social work with school taking up most of your time, but with a fixed schedule, adequate time management, and a need to give back to the community, you can adjust your schedules. My determination pushes me to make time for the one thing that makes me feel content, giving back to society.