Anya Thakur: Girl Up's Dream Big Princess Campaign Is More Relevant Now Than Ever

Teen celebrity journalist and women's advocate Anya Thakur on being the change.


Anya Thakur: UN Women's Dream Big Princess campaign is more relevant now than ever

The 12-county Dallas–Fort Worth metropolitan area has a population of over 6 million people, making it the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the United States. There is limitless potential to enlist the change-makers, teens, and girls and women in a community so large and vibrant, teeming with life and a population of over 6 million.

When starting Girl Up Dallas, to fully elevate and mobilize the hundreds of girls and teens out there to join the organization, I led outreach efforts, sought teens from diverse economic and cultural backgrounds, and worked to break down barriers to effect change in our community and globally.

Girl Up, a UN Foundation initiative, helps girls across the world develop their leadership potential, recently received a $1 million donation as part of Disney's Dream Big Princess campaign. Dream Big Princess aims to empower and inspire girls to write their own story and give them a chance to get behind the camera lens as they share the story of a woman who has inspired them and create a short film to honor her.

With Disney’s “Dream Big Princess” initiative, girls get to step behind the camera and become storytellers. 21 girls and women from 13 countries were chosen to create short films about real and inspiring women across industries, with a one dollar donation from Disney for each use of #DreamBigPrincess on social media to GirlUp, according to Variety. Disney CCO Jennifer Lee, an Oscar winner for her work on “Frozen,” was chosen to be one of the film's subjects.

“Using the journeys of characters like Anna, Elsa and Moana to inspire kids to dream big is at the very heart of what all of us at Disney do,” Lee said to Variety. “The #DreamBigPrincess series is the perfect extension of that vision, providing a powerful platform for the next generation of aspiring filmmakers to create content about the women who have inspired them.”

From Polynesian representation in "Moana" to the recent breakthrough made by the all-Asian cast of "Crazy Rich Asians," now is the time groundbreaking and change-making stories are being written and brought to the forefront by artists and activists. Rather than waiting for permission to enact change, they have decided their time is now.

Girls and women have the right to be heard. And with the voices of these bold, brazen, and brave women at the forefront is the opportunity to carve a lasting legacy. Beside Malala Yousafzai, Yara Shahidi, and Emma Watson among many more, I am proud to be a part of a dynamic generation of women and girl change-makers.

With my mom and dad, we've spent time traveling to underserved places — taking trips to parts of Delhi, Munipur, Mumbai, and Coimbatore, where I saw children in the hot sun and barefoot on the dirt roads, peddling souvenirs for a few rupees to bring home, barely amounting to pennies. My family helped inspire me to be a global citizen, aware of the great diversity in our world and the different challenges and circumstances people face daily.


Seeing such poverty and overwhelming obstacles both humbled and educated me, and my brown eyes burned, glazed over with shock and shielded from the hot sunlight pouring down as I raised my arms to shield my face.

“You don't have to be scared, bacha,” my mom said. “Be aware and be the change, but don’t be afraid.”

My experiences helped to inspire me to pursue my work as an advocate for women's rights and leadership, a journey that started in my early childhood when my parents instilled in me the values and virtues of courage, empathy and passion and encouraged me to explore and take pride in my cultural heritage, and continues today with the long-running legacy of UN Women.

I spoke about this for Girl Up Dallas just a year ago. It is a testament to the unyielding spirit I have as a young girl, and the responsibility I feel to grown women and girls everywhere, underscored by my work as an advocate and activist, a sentiment echoed by UN Women Advocate for Political Participation and Leadership Meghan Markle. With recent movements such as Me Too and Times Up, I realized people (especially young women and girls) are listening to the voices of women collectively and individually, and I knew I needed to be saying something of value.

This is what I aim to accomplish through ShePower, a global movement and organization aiming to advocate and uplift women and girls, underrepresented minorities such as Asian-Americans and South and East Asian women and diverse voices founded in partnership with We Movement and MetoWe. ShePower aims to uphold UN Women's mission of ensuring an equitable future and opportunity for all through fighting for representation and visibility while empowering and elevating. Hosting empowerment, leadership and self-defense workshops for women and girls in Delhi, Mumbai, Coimbatore, and Munipur in India, ShePower has spearheaded dozens of outreach efforts. And through creating, celebrating, and curating women's stories, ShePower fights for those who cannot fight for themselves and is proud to be a voice for women.

While girls and teens may be consuming news of celebrities and eagerly scouting trending topics, I wanted to use ShePower in reframing and evolving these genres and creating value. By integrating these tenets with self-empowerment and featuring dynamic women such as Malala Yousafzai, Priyanka Chopra in my pieces, I was hoping to integrate consciousness and enact change by creating awareness of the contributions of women shaping our world, diverse voices and sharing stories that matter. Through creating content for women about women and celebrating and curating female stories while elevating and diverse and underrepresented voices such as those of minorities, Asian Americans, and South and East Asian women, ShePower is also my power and the power of women everywhere. I hope to provide voice to a movement, just as Dream Big Princess does for the girls who shared their stories and the women who inspired them.

As UN Women and Girl Up continue to advocate and uplift, sharing these stories and creating short films highlighting different strong, hard-working women across the world, in a time of change and visibility, their moment is now and they are seizing it.

Posted by Anya Thakur on Sep 18, 2018 2:33 PM EDT