How do you create a strong sense of self when you are faced with opposition as tall as Mt. Everest? When Nargis Fakhri lost her father to alcoholism, her mother to domestic violence and for years her sister to drug addiction she was faced with two choices: crawl into a hole and cry, or take the emotional battle on with her fists up, ready to fight like hell. The result has been nothing short of extraordinary. With a successful track record of hit Hindi movies, thirty-two year old Fakhri has set her sights on conquering Hollywood with her #GirlGang in tow and her Shiffon Co. ring on her pinky. Read the transcript of her inspirational speech at One Young World in Bogota last month re: what she is doing to help lift up young women everywhere.
“I wasn’t sure if I should share anything personal; I didn’t want to write anything generic, but when I found out who my delegate was and what she was doing, I realised [that] her work resonated very deep in my heart.
“It hits very close to home and I just knew – ‘Oh my God, I’m just so happy I was paired with her.’
“So, I smile for a living. I live in a bubble – sorry, it’s the truth, but I’m learning a lot with all of you here so I’m really happy.
“Learning about the Sustainable Development Goals, how it asks us to leave no-one behind, that was amazing, and it’s great, and I love it. It’s wonderful that we’re here talking about not leaving anyone behind.
“I’m going to be honest with all of you guys. I’m a Bollywood celebrity and actress, but all that glitters is definitely not gold. I’m from Queens, New York, and not the good part – let me tell you that.
For me, all I’ve ever known are people who are constantly being left behind [sobs and apologises].
“I lost my father to alcoholism, I lost my mother to domestic violence, and for many, many years, I lost my sister to drugs – she’s alive, but she went down a road that led her to become a victim of sexual abuse, rape, homelessness – the list goes on. I’ve also lost friends and neighbours to the same and more.
“We as a community spent most of our lives in scarcity and the sad part is I continue to see most of them still being left behind.
“And of course when I say lost, not all of them lost their lives – thank God.
[Sobs and apologises]
“What I mean is that I’ve lost them to the drugs, the sexual abuse, the rape and sheer hopelessness due to being destitute.
“And I will admit – I too am one of the ones left behind.
“I lost my childhood in more ways than one, but – on the brighter side – my life has been very interesting. I’ve been on a lot of adventures and it’s taken me to many interesting places – one particular place that I’m grateful to be a part of.
“That place and that culture gave me an opportunity to enter the business of entertainment. But once again I found myself in a similar situation as that of my childhood.
“This destination is where I would be reminded of what I grew up with, but amplified a fricking million times more.
“Seeing and hearing the horror stories of women – it was devastating. Seeing poverty at its worst staring me in the face every day. I was sad. I was angry. I used to cry a lot – as you can see, I’m a crier. I used to yell in my own home when I would read about all the injustices that was going on – and when I would actually see it in front of my face.
“But, honestly, I didn’t know what to do. Well, I told myself I wasn’t able to help my family or myself, so how was I going to help other people?
“I guess this is why I’m here today. Because I’m tired – I’m very tired of being angry and sad and no one hears you. So I’m here to help make a change and finally take action.
“These experiences never really leave you – yes, I live in a different world, but I don’t live in a different world. I live with all of you and everybody else.
“Yes I still feel that fear when walking down a familiar or street, I still look over my shoulder – I still wonder what’s going to happen tonight.
“Will I get hurt tonight? Will I make it home safe tonight? I also wonder with relationships, you know – will this relationship be like the last one? Will I be abused, will I be hurt, will he hit me?
“Yes, it’s all messed up – everything that’s going on is messed up. I’ve been sitting here and I’m overwhelmed with everything that’s going on. But you know what? I still keep hope because of all the resilient humans I see here today.
“I’m in awe of all of you – how you show up here and come together to collectively work on solutions.
“It’s not just ‘leave no-one behind with words’, because you guys take action. I’m here to tell you that I also want to make a commitment.
“A global commitment, because it’s not just in my neighbourhood – it’s not just in India. I’m learning and seeing it’s everywhere and I’m tired – I don’t want to lose any more people and I’m sure you guys don’t either.
“I have so much more that I wrote, but I’m just going to cut it short cause I can’t keep it together.
“I’m a mess! With no further ado, let me introduce an amazing human being – who’s a UN Young Leader for the SDGs and who has been acknowledged by former President Obama for her work as a civil leader.
“Trisha Shetty is one of those women who has worked tirelessly to leave a footprint – not just for herself but for all the women of the world.
“While bringing together awareness to gender discrimination, sexual violence and poverty, her organisation ‘She Says’ confronts these issues head on with the SDG V initiative – her goal is to achieve equality for all of us while empowering the women and girls of the world through education, through legal help, as well as medical and psychological services.
“Trisha Shetty is a phenomenal woman and the fabric of today, tomorrow and our future. I am truly inspired and honoured to be a part of her fight – and purely believe in her and her passion towards the betterment of women, relieving us of various forms of social and economic justice we face every single day.
“Trisha Shetty – her numbers are steadily rising with the amount of young people she has engaged through her organisation and with everyone’s help here, we can devote ourselves to the cause.“Without further ado, it is my great praise to proudly introduce a woman of today – please join me with a round of applause for this heroic woman – Trisha Shetty.”