High School Junior Advocates for Women’s Rights and an Equitable Future in Policy
Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Isheta Kulshreshtha. Read her story and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.
Isheta is a high school junior in Hockessin, Delaware, but is already leading an organization that advocates for women’s rights under the law. Leveled Legislation is devoted to creating an equitable future for women all around the world, while empowering youth to become active civic participants and participate in today’s political landscape.
The organization is youth-led and spans 10 countries, meeting with local legislators to discuss current and upcoming policy, publishing articles on topics regarding gender parity in legislation, the workplace and more, and creating content to educate young changemakers about the realities of gender inequity.
Through the #RoeAndMe: Global Reproductive Justice Summit, 200+ registrants were able to engage in meaningful discussion regarding the past, present and future of reproductive advocacy. Read on to find out more about what inspires Isheta and the exciting things her organization is doing.
Describe what Leveled Legislation does.
Leveled Legislation is a youth-led advocacy organization, and what we do is mobilize youth to get involved with current legislation, create new policies and educate changemakers from around the world. We have members from Qatar, Tennessee, California, Delaware… they’re all working for gender equity in their own communities as well as at the national level.
We started in June of last year and we’ve already seen tremendous support for our initiative. We’ve engaged over 140 youth in civics, and we’ve expanded to 15 states and 18 countries. We’ve done a lot of work with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. So we connected with a week of action where we gave youth the tools to organize locally. We also did a “Roe and Me” video campaign where we asked youth why Roe matters to them and really grounded our advocacy in that perspective. Recently, in January, we hosted a gender pay gap town hall where we conversed with senators from Ohio about the gender pay gap, their legislation and what the future of that legislation looks like. So we do a lot of work there, and we also do articles, workshops, educational social media posts. That’s the essence of the organization.
Why are you passionate about women’s rights, specifically as they relate to law?
A few years ago I visited my grandfather’s school in India, which he started for underserved girls because he wanted to make sure they had access to education. To me, it was really unsettling that without this school these girls may have never received this education, especially because of their location. That was so striking to me.
As I was walking around the school, I was just thinking of this, and that’s when I launched into doing research. I started researching the issue and came across an article, “7 Shockingly Sexist Laws Targeting Women That Still Exist Around the World”. And I quickly learned that there weren’t just seven sexist laws. So after that, I went straight into grassroots organizing mode. I started learning about policies and legislative processes. There, I learned how bills work, how policy works, how bills are passed in the legislature in the U.S.
I wanted to do more so I started reaching out to people in other states, people in my state, started getting people involved. That really sparked the movement for Leveled Legislation. I began posting on social media about different laws that were sexist and creating resources for other young people to get involved. Laws are such pillars and cornerstones in our society, so for those to be prejudiced is something we can’t have, and engaging youth in that movement is really important.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
Two things come to mind. By far, one of the most rewarding things is meeting the amazing people throughout the country and world who have the same commitment to women’s rights as I do. Seeing the endless motivation, work and hours that youth put into the projects we work on, is one of the most inspiring things. And honestly just conversing with them – people from Taiwan who want to get involved, and people from Michigan, impacted by, say, menstrual inequity. People are really touched by these issues and it’s really inspiring to see people from all over the country and world get involved.
The other thing is the interaction with legislators. In our meetings with legislators, you can see how intrigued they are by youth who are coming to the table and making their voices heard, especially when we talk knowledgeably about the policies – that’s often something they don’t expect. It’s really rewarding to see youth becoming active civic participants and take the steps to make their voices heard in their communities.
Why is it important for youth to get involved with the causes they care about?
In my perspective, youth are the backbone of society. We’re the future of society. What’s surprising is that youth don’t get involved in politics. Our voices and youth political engagement have a lot of implications for the future of democracy. I think it’s really important that youth recognize that everyone is in politics.
Youth sometimes don’t know that the environmental project they’re working on, for instance, can be addressed with policy change. So while Leveled Legislation provides a platform for youth to get involved, there are so many other ways to get involved in politics and the causes that they care about. So emailing their local legislators, maybe even proposing to talk about an issue and work on a bill together. Those are things that youth can do to really influence and make an impact in their own communities. Politics influences every corner of the world. You can talk about environmental issues, deforestation… anything that someone’s interested in, policy is there.
What’s your advice for people who want to start volunteering?
My advice is to just start. That’s what I did with the organization; I just started. I may not have had all the experience I needed, but you learn on the job. I mean, fake it till you make it – that’s how you gain experience. A lot of people will wait until it’s the right time, but now more than ever, with climate issues, with women’s rights issues, it’s the right time. Now is the time for youth to organize, protest and engage. We as youth have so much power as the future innovators, doctors and leaders, so it’s important to engage, put yourself out there, embrace your potential. We must embrace the strength of our voices in politics and really fight for what we believe is right.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Isheta? Find local volunteer opportunities.