How She Got There: Vaishnavi Sharma

Name: Vaishnavi Sharma

Age: 19

School: University of Washington

Major: Chemistry (Minor in Global Health)

Instagram: @cryuw

Facebook: cry.uw

www.cry.org

Child Rights and You is a non-profit organization that ensures education, healthcare, and protection from exploitation and abuse to underprivileged children. CRY America prioritizes the four basic rights of children: the rights to survival, development, protection, and participation.

Her Campus: What is Child Rights and You (CRY)? What do you do and what values do you uphold?

Vaishnavi Sharma: CRY UW (Child Rights and You) is a chapter of CRY America at the University of Washington. There are many other chapters across America, but CRY India is the main organization. CRY takes proceeds and distributes the money to local organizations or direct organizations to help causes, like education and child violence prevention. We have a lot of organizations that we support with the money we get, and it all goes towards child rights.

 

HC: Why did you apply for CRY?

VS: Growing up [in India,] I always saw news about women getting raped. I felt like children weren’t even safe in Indian society, so I looked for organizations that could help and prevent rape or anything regarding children. For me, it’s sad to see children being abused because I was one of those children. When I came to America, I felt like I was free, so I thought, how could I help others feel this freedom, speaking from a place of privilege? 

I wanted to contribute and help. I saw how CRY’s motives helped educate children in lower income households, which is super cool because we need people to be educated. We need more women to be educated. We need more opportunities for lower income countries.

In India, when you travel to more rural areas, you see a difference in the social hierarchy. In India, there is a social and classist system or hierarchy. It’s hard to break it because it was established and built into the foundation of the country for so long. You see that these people [in rural areas] aren’t being educated. Some girls don’t even go to school because their parents make them stay home. They think that girls shouldn’t be educated because they’re just going to get married. I felt that I just wanted to do something for people to get educated. I wanted to tear down the social hierarchy that always constricts women or children from learning and growing more. Nobody should be prevented from receiving knowledge. It’s a basic right. 

 

HC: What do you do for CRY?

VS: Our club is split into different teams, but in the end, we’re all collaborating to work on a bigger project. We’re like a big family. 

I help program activities that will attract people to our fundraisers and collect more funds to send to CRY America and the organizations we support. Last year, CRY UW did a chocolate rose fundraiser on Valentine’s Day, which was a hit. We also had a Chipotle fundraiser. Recently, we had a volleyball tournament where we raised $160. It was nice to see that people were passionate about our cause. We got a lot of new followings for our club, which is great because we need the support. 

For me, personally, I organize activities, draw poster boards, and brainstorm ideas to contribute to the group. I like to help people. That’s my main role: helping people who are underprivileged. 

 

HC: What does CRY mean to you? Why is it important to you?

VS: It is an opportunity for underprivileged children to have the same opportunities as any other person. It’s important to me because it’s a platform for me to speak for underprivileged children. Their voices need to be heard. It might be from CRY UW or another organization, but I want to be a part of this cause.

CRY is personal to me. I’m from India. I lived there for 15 years, so I’ve seen a lot of abuse and the effects of social and family hierarchies. I want to break the hierarchical structure that Indian society is founded on. I have been a child of abuse. My brother has been one. My mom has been one. I just want to break the cycle for other people. When you experience something that is this personal to you, it becomes more important for you to see that other people don’t have to face the same thing. What really empowers me is that I can contribute to a greater cause. Just by being in [CRY,] I can feel connected to my heritage. Being from a place of privilege I feel like it is really important for me to contribute something to a bigger cause in my homeland.

I realize that people have so much privilege. When I came to America, I started speaking from a place of privilege. I need to understand and acknowledge these things are happening, and think, what can I do to contribute? 

That’s why I decided to join CRY. When I was a kid, being abused, I couldn’t really speak up for myself. If a girl gets raped, yes, it gets in the news, but it’s hard for a person of a low-income household to come forward. In India, women are not that empowered. They are shunned for being raped. It’s important for me to speak up on this because even if I can’t make a difference, if I tell other people the story, they can. We all can, together.

Women need to be empowered. We all need to take a step forward. India needs to take a step forward in order to realize what is going on and how we can change this. Education is important, not only to women, but to men. You have to educate men as well as women. That’s how you reach the goal where everyone is equal.

Women have so much more to sacrifice than men do in India. It’s always how the social hierarchy has always been. The hierarchy has always favored men. We need women to have a future, be more educated, and be leaders because that’s how we can change the world. That’s how we can create a system of equality, where women empower each other, and also men empower women.

HC: How has CRY changed your life?

VS: It gives me hope. There are organizations out there that will help you. There are good people out there in a sea of people who are abusers, rapists, thieves, child molesters. There are people who will give you a hand. You’re not alone.

Come out and support CRY at their upcoming Santa Paws Holiday Fundraiser! All proceeds to towards CRY America and Child Rights.