Indian Americans Rajvi Ranka, Devika Kumar among ‘2017 National Young Women of Distinction’ honorees

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Girl Scouts USA includes 1.8 million girls and 800,000 adults

The Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) last week announced their 2017 National Young Women of Distinction and two Indian American teens made it to the list of ten honorees.

The 18-year-old girls Rajvi Ranka and Devika Kumar are among the ten girl scouts selected from the Gold Award Girl Scouts across the United States. While Ranka has been selected for her efforts in creating water conservation technology to help farmers in California,  Kumar was selected for supporting menstrual hygiene for girls in rural India.

Ranka, who is from the Girl Scouts of Northern California, developed cost-effective soil moisture sensors and reads that help farmers, particularly those in rural and underserved communities, conserve water.

Based on her technology, farmers on average saved 25 percent of their water use. She has since received a provisional patent on her product and is now working to make it accessible for all via social media. Rajvi has spoken at a leading technology conference to bring more exposure to her project.

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“I think my biggest challenge was getting farmers to adapt to my technology or come and use my technology, because they have many old methods of irrigating and farming, and they’re not too open to trying something new,” Girl Scouts quoted Ranka.

Kumar is from the Girl Scouts of Central Texas. During her visit to Rajasthan, she discovered that 23 percent of girls in rural areas stop attending school because of limited information and resources to support menstruation.

Kumar took action by providing a sanitary-pad machine to a remote village in Rajasthan and teaching local women how to operate the self-sustaining machine, which grinds cotton, presses the cotton into pads, and disinfects the pads. She also visited surrounding villages to conduct mini-workshops and share educational videos on menstrual hygiene.

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“The biggest obstacle I had to face when going through my Gold Award project was the culture difference between India and America. So here [in America] there is a really large concept of volunteerism and service that’s really absent in India. There were language barriers, time zone barriers. Just trying to get anything done from overseas is kind of difficult in the first place, but then trying to get the community there, in India, to come and see the machine, and learn about it, that was a little bit difficult, because they didn’t understand it or why we were coming in to do this project,” Kumar said. “Also trying to tackle the taboo and the stigma, while staying within the conservative culture, you have to have a very good sense of what you want to achieve and who you want to send this message to. You have to reach them in a way that they’ll receive well.”

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Girl Scouts USA includes 1.8 million girls and 800,000 adults who believe in the power of every G.I.R.L (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader) to change the world. The very first Girl Scout troop was founded by Juliette Gordon “Daisy” Low on March 12, 1912, in Savannah, Georgia. The organization offers every girl a chance to practice a lifetime of leadership, adventure and success.