What started as a Girl Scouts project has expanded into a global network focused on mobilizing and equipping girls and young women with the tools needed to dismantle patriarchal systems and demand equity.
By Sierra Smith, Communications Specialist
In Girl Scouts, receiving the Gold Award is the highest honor achieved. Described as the “mark of the truly remarkable,” the Gold Award is a distinction obtained by Girl Scouts only after proposing, planning, and executing a project aimed at tackling an issue that is both dear to them and will drive change within their community.
It's an extensive process — one that took Neha Saggi ’21 about a year to research, develop, and get approved. All her work culminated in a conference to address the discrepancies in female leadership both in the workplace and school settings. The conference — dubbed the LeadHERship Conference — was held on October 5, 2019. Esha Karam ’21 attended and covered it for the Peabody Press.
In just a year, LeadHERship has grown substantially.
“After the initial conference, I couldn’t just stop there,” Neha said.
She expanded her project by building a website and launching social media accounts to continue sharing her work. The website
encourages girls and young women to “take a seat at the table.” It features blog posts and resource lists for those wanting to be more informed, involved, and empowered. A quick scroll produces stats on the number of women in political office, book recommendations for learning about human trafficking, and thoughts on the #MeToo movement.
When the coronavirus pandemic began shutting down cities all over the world, LeadHERship’s events quickly went virtual, thereby eliminating location as a barrier to attend, which Neha credits as a major contributing factor in the organization’s overall reach.
Notably, through LeadHERship, Neha has been invited to speak at other events about her work. In October, she spoke at an International Medical University Malaysia webinar focused on social justice. Also, she spoke at a Global Mosaic
conference focused on Gen Z’s approach to gender where she offered her input to marketing and advertising executives.
While LeadHERship grew rapidly, Neha saw yet another opportunity to expand the impact of her work.
“When everything got really lonely in quarantine, I started a podcast
where I talk to other girls who are connected to LeadHERship or are doing similar work to talk about whatever cause they’re working for,” Neha said. “We’ve covered things like sustainability, femicide, and period poverty. It just started as a way to keep busy and stay connected when people were feeling really distant, but it’s become really important to me.”
Through savvy branding, hard work, and a continued passion for the cause, Neha has harnessed the power of social media and the ability to connect globally to turn her Girl Scouts project into an international network for young activists. With the resources and help Neha provides, teens in 10 countries — USA, Brazil, India, Malaysia, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Turkey, Morocco, and Pakistan — have been a part of the LeadHERship movement by hosting their own events and sharing their causes on the LeadHERship podcast.
“When Neha came to me as a ninth grader asking if I would sponsor her Gold Award project, I remember she had the germ of this fantastic idea but thought maybe her outreach would be limited to USN. Neha cannot be contained, however,” High School English Teacher Katie Greenebaum shared. “I cannot tell you how impressed I was by the event she put together at USN and how excited I am now to hear about how LeadHERship continues to grow.”
While a great deal of the future remains uncertain for this senior, one thing is undoubtedly true — the work Neha has started with LeadHERship will continue. She’s focused on building a team to sustain the organization’s growth and momentum while enjoying her final year at USN and preparing for the many new experiences and perspectives college will bring.
Neha’s LeadHERship project was selected by the Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee chapter as a National Gold Award nominee, as well.