From sustainability to body positivity, this teen changemaker believes in leading by example
“You have gotten so tanned, go apply some honey on your face,” “Oh my god, this lehenga looks too tight on you...have you gained weight?”
These were some of the comments and jokes that 15-year-old Siya Tayal brushed off, but remained on her mind for months and years.
It was to create a safe space for herself and friends who had experienced body shaming that she started Project I am Enough in July 2020.
The body positivity initiative resonated with netizens. “It was a simple call to join if they identified with the cause and 100 people reverted in 45 minutes. And I felt ‘wow! this world is a horrible place’," Siya recalls.
Open to all genders, the project is focused on social media activism and hopes to organise physical events once the public gets a better hold on the pandemic.
Artwork by members of Project I am Enough
Based on the idea of acceptance, Project I am Enough aims to normalise all body types and help people cope with eating disorders. It has developed into a network of around 500 people where artist, singers, and dancers express themselves in their own way on how they feel about their body.
Siya was initially surprised that people had society-defined ideal body types approach to problems. Interacting and learning about experiences of members has made her only more resolute about her cause.
"After a point, you do realise that it happens to anyone and everyone, and just doesn't make sense," says Siya, a Class 10 student at Shri Ram School in Gurugram.
One step at a time
Siya was a Class 3 student when she learnt that the earth was getting hotter. After understanding the concept of global warming, she felt people should be carpooling and doing everything in their hand to save the earth.
But her first thought was of what she was doing herself. “The biggest rule in life is to never tell people to do something you aren't doing. And I thought I need to start making a change.”
Around that time, Siya used to make bags out of discarded clothes for her dolls and her teacher said this could be a solution to save the environment.
Siya Tayal is a committee member and partner of One Million 2030.
“My teacher telling me that my biggest passion at the time – stitching – could change lives was insane at seven,” she shares, adding that prompted her to start My Own Bag, an initiative that brought her to the United Nation’s Office in Geneva last year.
The teen changemaker is a committee member and partner of One Million 2030 where the UN aims to enhance youth-led social ventures.
Siya started off by reaching out to DX Textiles and asking for waste fabric that usually ends up in dump yards or is burned. Based in Haryana, she hired three tailors – a homemaker and two college-going women who fund their college education through bag stitching.
The bags are sold at various Diwali melas, school stalls, and also through door-to-door sales. Priced at Rs 100, each tailor earns Rs 50 per bag and the remaining half goes to support other social ventures. She says an ecommerce website is under way.
Both initiatives, My Own Bag and Project I am Enough, come under her umbrella organisation Bee Nifty.
Besides showcasing the products at the UN, Siya says it was an amazing experience to meet people with similar drive, ideology, and passion for social good. “Getting recognition is also incredible and inspiring, even though it is not the main goal," she adds.
Siya Tayal, Founder of My Own Bag and Project I am Enough
Work for what moves you
In the last few years, Siya has come across people who join social initiatives to increase their prospect of college applications abroad.
This has compelled her to ask people to join with the right intention and motive. “If you don't believe in a cause, you can't contribute in a way you should be able to. I tell people this should be something they feel strongly about,” she explains.
Siya also feels that often people are not very professional because the initiatives are started by a child, but she is firm in her plans to scale her projects further.
“Inspiration lies where you least expect it, be it my peers experiencing body shaming, teachers encouraging what I do, or my seeing my parents help someone in need,” Siya says.