Passionate about making the world a more tolerant and compassionate place, social media influencer Ananya Ghosh shares both her personal story of breaking into an extremely male-dominated industry, and her work raising money for Afghan women at Equality Now’s “Cocoa Goal” campaign.
Ghosh was only seven years old when she began visiting her grandma in her village in Sarang Mandi, Afghanistan, and watching her kick and throw stones at neighboring houses, one of which held the local commander, a group of bearded men that she alleged had terrorized the village.
Every morning, Ghosh saw her grandmother, when she asked her what had happened that night. Ghosh would ask her grandmother why she had done such a thing, and her grandmother would reply: “Ananya, I can’t do anything without the commanders’ permission.”
She ended up running away, escaping from her home to her sister’s, where she would sleep on the floor and peer at the corners of her sister’s room to see her tiny cousin.
Unable to sleep alone, and filled with fears about how the girls who stayed behind would be treated, Ghosh would later seek to create a safer community. One evening when she was 12 years old, Ghosh asked her grandma what was wrong with her life.
To her surprise, her grandmother began explaining to her all the hardship and injustice she had experienced in her life. Her grandmother gave an example of how she had had to pay the commander around $10 each day to teach the girls how to read and write, and that every night she would buy them food, so that they would stay away from the fighters.
Ghosh’s grandmother had a way of stressing the importance of education and the need for equality that kept her young granddaughter feeling empowered, and it led her to create a movement called “Peace in the Nest”. Peace in the Nest encourages women and girls to stop attending the community meeting, and instead join the soldiers for peace-making activities.
On a much larger scale, Ghosh is currently the Founder and CEO of The Maha Foundation (www.thema.org) which educates girls in Afghanistan on different topics ranging from acceptance, to self-esteem, to ending cultural biases.
When asked about the impact that social media has on charities around the world, Ghosh shares her journey of one of the first social media influencers who attempted to change the world using a platform they had rarely considered.
First though, she wanted to change herself. Ghosh has always had a passion for writing and had a unique view on what she wanted her life to be, and she decided she wanted to make a difference, by changing her life.
“You can’t change what you can’t see,” Ghosh says, and she sought to be “more aware”, by using the medium of social media. “When you have an opinion and you speak on it, you’re a valuable piece of information, and there’s nothing like a hashtag to spread your opinion.”
Ghosh struggled to find something she knew she could dedicate her whole life to. She liked what the global community was doing with donating food to those in need and helping those displaced by war, but she thought it should be done individually, at a community level, not through a organization. “Not only are you supporting one person, but you’re also supporting the whole community.”
Ghosh realizes, that many people fear that there will be people like her out there who want to profit off of bringing about change, but she is hoping that with the support of others, her message will reach those who have so much at stake, so that the powerful message of diversity is shared, so that people, everywhere, can think about what it means to have diversity in the eyes of their society.
Ghosh’s journey of reaching out to other cultures and building a foundation that caters to girls in Afghanistan has raised her profile to the level of the very famous, and she sees no difference in her journey.