My Second Chance 


In November 2015, I was critically injured as a passenger in a car collision that left me with nearly no chance of survival. Despite wearing a seatbelt, I was left unconscious with numerous life-threatening injuries. My family was told that even if I did survive, I would not be able to go back to school, let alone function enough to play tic-tac-toe because of the severe brain damage that I had endured. Despite my critical injuries and medical prognosis, the team did not give up.

Navigating my physical injuries and the emotional struggles has been challenging. On one hand, I could look at this situation as a hindrance to my academic progress, aspirations, and goals. But instead, I chose to focus on the positive and grow from this major life event. What I have come to realize is that I was given a second chance at life and therefore, should only invest my time and energy on causes that I am truly passionate about. Following my return to full-time studies, the first organization that I applied to be a part of was G(irls)20, and I am incredibly grateful to have been accepted as one of the nineteen female leaders to be a part of the Girls on Board program.

 

“I was given a second chance at life and therefore, should only invest my time and energy on causes that I am truly passionate about.”



Last January, I was matched with ANOVA, a London, Ontario-based not-for-profit organization where I serve as a member on the Board of Directors. ANOVA is the result of a recent amalgamation of London’s Women’s Community House and Sexual Assault Centre London and has become an incredibly unique organization. Not only does it provide comprehensive services to vulnerable women and their children who have been displaced by gender-based violence and inequality within the London community, but 

ANOVA also offers support, counselling, resources, and a safe place for oppressed individuals to rebuild their lives. ANOVA also advocates for the rights of women and the need to address gender-based violence both locally and nationwide. Although the learning curve was steep, being a Board Member and learning how to use my voice, skills, and experiences to make an impact within my community has been incredibly rewarding. The Girls on Boards program has provided me with unparalleled opportunities to grow personally and professionally and to improve both my leadership and advocacy skills.

Over the past year, I have been fortunate to work alongside established and inspiring community leaders, who mentor me and help me gain skills and experience in board governance, inclusive policy analysis, and negotiation strategies. These experiences and opportunities have also helped me build a strong rapport and lifetime friendships with my peers from the Girls on Boards program and my colleagues at ANOVA. Ultimately, my involvement with G(irls)20 has amplified my commitment to life-long interdisciplinary learning and the importance of capacity building by bringing together like-minded people to work towards common goals.

 

“Ultimately, my involvement with G(irls)20 has amplified my commitment to life-long interdisciplinary learning and the importance of capacity building by bringing together like-minded people to work towards common goals.”

 

I am so fortunate to be here today and to have such an incredible support system in my friends, family, and healthcare professionals who push me to reach my full potential. Having such a supportive family who is also passionate about social justice issues and equal treatment among individuals has pushed me to further my involvement with organizations outside of my academic institution. However, not all young women receive this same kind of support. Living in difficult situations can prevent young women from realizing their capabilities. Furthermore, as a first-generation Canadian Ismaili Muslim woman, I can appreciate the challenges that come with experiencing discrimination based on an individual’s gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or age, among others. Girls on Board is a one-of-a-kind organization that facilitates a young women’s professional and personal growth and can help amplify their community impact in such a meaningful way. I strongly encourage all young women aged 18-25 to apply!

By: Serena Tejpar, Girls on Boards, Young Director