A common trait shared by many powerful young women leaders is their sheer determination to rise in a society that subjugates women’s leadership, by overcoming every challenge that comes their way. Dharshani Raja Manikkam is one such example of an aspiring youth leader from the Tea gardens of Sri Lanka- Idulgashina Bio Tea Garden. She desires to become a good youth leader as opposed to just a youth leader and to inspire others by setting herself as an example.
Hailing from a family of 5 members, she understood the hardships of her parents at an early age and decided to study well and build a better life. After her studies, she got a job in the Idulgashina Bio Tea Garden and managed to save enough to renovate her home and take up more responsibilities. She works hard to attain leadership at various levels and has gradually started taking up challenging roles in the Tea garden.
‘’While girls are taught to play it safe, smile often, look pretty and secure good grades, boys are taught to play rough and swing high. In other words, we are asking the girls to be perfect and make no mistakes while we are training our boys to be brave and fearless.
I think girls can achieve more but they are not given much opportunity. So, when I was asked to represent my estate and be a part of the NAPP Gender Leadership School, I took it without a second thought. Through the school, we have trained 20 members- which included 15 women. Post the training our organization has also started women empowerment programs, the men in our organization believe we can achieve anything. Now I am keen to support more youth in our organization to become leaders. Currently, we have 100 members (maximum women) between the age of 16-26 years, and I am targeting training about 20 youth to become leaders in 2020. I can inspire them by setting myself as an example. I joined the organization a couple of years ago, they have groomed me over the years. Today I stand as a proud youth leader to represent the organization.’’
She mentions that with some efforts from her end, she wants to support the youth at the estate to overcome their fears and utilize their strengths in a meaningful way so that they do not go astray. She recently conducted an environmental cleanliness drive with the youth.
Dharshani Raja Manikkam; Stassen Natural Foods (Pvt.) Ltd. (Idulgashina Bio Tea Garden)- FLO ID 1550, Sri Lanka
Pics: Darshini with members and youth from the tea estate during the formation of the Youth Club
NOTE:The following interviews do not reflect the views or opinions of Network of Asia and Pacific Producers (NAPP). Any views or opinions represented in this interview are personal and solely belong to the interviewee.