I found this quote on Zainab’s facebook wall the other day:

“When people say ‘the youth are the leaders of tomorrow,’ that implies not yet. You are not the leaders of tomorrow, you are the leaders of today!  As in, right now!  Get on your tail fins and start pursuing your passions. Go chase what you love. Then maybe one day you can inspire the people around you and make a difference.”

All teens have different passions – sports, music, friends, family, social justice, animal rights – there are lots of things to get passionate about.  Likewise there are lots of ways to inspire those around here.

Here is an example of one young lady who is not waiting for the “future” to pursue what she is passionate about, or inspire those around here.  Meet Zainab:

 

Zainab at the United Nations

Zainab attended the United Nations Youth Assembly in 2014. “Insha Allah, you’ll see me working here in five years!”

Zainab Poonawalla

Nationality: America

Ethnicity: Indian

Education: Rutgers University, ’16 – Political Science and Nursing

Most Interesting Countries Visited: Bolivia and Kashmir

“From a very young age, I knew I wanted to change the world. Everyone deserves to live in a world free from injustice, and this drive is what makes me want to do something meaningful with my short time here on earth. Because of my desire to help people, I have traveled to different countries to promote sanitary working conditions, especially when it comes to adolescent-maternal health. I recently came back from a trip to South America where I spent time in Bolivia working at an adolescent rape clinic. One in every three girls in Bolivia has been sexually assaulted at least once in her lifetime, and many end up being pregnant at a very young age. Besides working with the victims of assault, my activities in Bolivia also ranged from promoting oral hygiene in rural villages up on the Andes Mountains, to performing free, well-child and healthy-adult check ups, to shadowing health care professionals.

I interned at my Congressman’s office for a semester where I was exposed to the political scene first-hand. Even though we were dealing with American healthcare at the time, that was where I was first introduced to global health. At that moment, I started involving myself more and more on global issues, and thus starting my work with the UN. Being a political operative was the perfect release for me to exhibit my true passion and drive of “saving the world.”

 

Zainab in Boliva Teaching Oral Health

Zainab teaching a young Bolivian boy how to brush his teeth.

I am now very involved with the United Nations where I aim to build partnerships and networks from around the globe to advocate for youth involvement. My main priority is to empower the youth, especially young women, and have them partake in the important decision making processes of their countries. We live in a corrupt world. Poverty, gender inequality, and education are a few of the major issues prevalent in today’s society. Why? The root of the problem lies with the mentality of today’s generation. People are confined to their usual habits and backwards thinking. But if we empower the youth and foster their growth in a nurturing environment, they are bound to know better. They are the future decision makers. We need to plant the seeds of a brighter future into our youth through education so that they can flourish into righteous and noble citizens. It is my goal to educate them about the awful health care conditions in developing countries so that it may improve in the future. I intend on launching several campaigns at schools and universities to highlight these pressing issues going on around the world. I am a tutor for the AmericaReads program- I understand the power of education and what it can do to a person’s life. Education can end the world’s problems, and that is how I plan on progressing health care in third-world regions.

 

Zainab with girl in Bolivia

Zainab makes a new friend in Bolivia

I went on trips to India, Kashmir, and Bolivia that really opened my eyes and showed me just how blessed I am to be living in America- the land of opportunity and freedom. My goal is to continue to travel abroad to observe the horrific conditions people are forced to work in, listen carefully to the needs of the people and country, and help them attain the change they are seeking so that one day when I do work for the UN, I can advocate for the change that is needed. (learn how to gain listening skills like Zainab through a Dialogue workshop) My next trip is to South Africa this March, and then to Brazil, Thailand, and Pakistan during the summer.

 

To me, the Global Youth Village was a great experience that I would love to do again in a heartbeat. I established friendships with people from cultures vastly different from my own, and it is here where I learned to appreciate the differences amongst all. I fell in love with diversity, and became much more open-minded. I have engaged in some of the most dynamic and intense discussions, with some of the most amazing kids. GYV is a fantastic program designed to mentor and cultivate today’s young leaders in a culturally tolerant environment that fosters their skills and abilities in the field of social services. I am so grateful to have built life-long relationships with these brilliant minds, and I will never ever forget the memories we created. And I am happy to say that I am still in touch with most of my friends from Global Youth Village to this very day. You guys will always be in my heart, and never forgotten.

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Zainab has been actively engaged in civic projects around the globe. She is a strong advocate for social justice, while also promoting health care in developing countries, as well as encouraging youth activism. Zainab’s zeal to help the world was a springboard for many global service projects, as she put together several events in the community. She organized a book drive for underprivileged students in Iraq to help promote English literacy. She also received various awards for the “green” initiative she launched in her community. She most recently attended the UN Youth Assembly where she was selected among 500 other delegates world-wide, to serve and represent her country. Zainab’s most current endeavor is to empower the youth today to become leaders of tomorrow.