It’s Never Too Early to Fight Discrimination — Just Ask These 16-Year-Olds
When we launched the Title IX Champions award, we wanted to celebrate the work AAUW members have been doing for more than 40 years to advance Title IX. But in addition to wonderful stories from AAUW members, we got something we didn’t expect: a story about two inspiring teenagers who have already joined our mission to empower women and girls. AAUW Austin (TX) Branch member Janani Janakiraman nominated her 16-year-old daughters, Priya and Kavya Ramamoorthy, for the award, and we were introduced to the next generation of AAUW Title IX advocates.
Back in eighth grade, Priya, Kavya, and two of their classmates were looking for a project for a National History Day competition on the topic of revolutionary action and reform. One classmate’s cousin, a member of a girls’ swim team in another state, told them that her team didn’t get the same opportunities as the boys’ team. The girls’ swim team had to practice in the old pool area, while the boys’ team got to practice in the high school’s new pool and use new equipment. “This was really our first encounter with Title IX, seeing it actually happen in the real world,” says Kavya. They decided to make their project about sex discrimination in school.
The four students created a website devoted to educating other students about Title IX’s history and value. “What we learned through our project was that many people our age did not know about Title IX,” says Priya. “Without knowing about Title IX, not only can they not use all its protective tools, they also can’t really take advantage of or appreciate all the [educational] opportunities they have today.”
Title IX fit the competition’s action and reform theme perfectly. “My friends had never heard of this law before, and the thing I wanted to stress to them is how Title IX was a social revolution and how [it created] all these opportunities,” says Kavya. But, adds Priya, they also wanted to stress that “social revolutions take a long time … and it is up to people to persevere.”
To nominate a Title IX Champion send a summary of their Title IX work and a picture to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Then AAUW came into the picture. During a Twitter chat with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Priya and Kavya heard the name AAUW for the first time. Curious, they approached their local AAUW branches in Austin and Georgetown; the branches were happy to help with the project. This initially small interaction led to a ripple of activity. The girls visited AAUW’s national headquarters on a trip to Washington, D.C., and interviewed Lisa Maatz, head of our Public Policy and Government Relations department. Their mother Janani, who hadn’t heard of AAUW before her daughters’ project, joined the Austin branch and signed up her older daughter as an e-student affiliate. Similarly inspired, the mothers of the other students in the National History Day group also joined AAUW.
Today, Priya and Kavya are continuing their Title IX advocacy. Now high school sophomores, they are working on Girl Scout Gold Award projects to create a short documentary about Title IX and develop lesson plans about Title IX for teachers. Looking to the future, Priya is interested in medicine, and Kavya is interested in computer science and engineering.
Will they also be AAUW members one day? Definitely. Says Priya, “That was one of the first things we thought when we visited AAUW headquarters: When can we join?!” Priya and Kavya, we can’t wait!