Teen from Bengaluru wins global award for work on mental health | Bengaluru News – Times of India


BENGALURU: An 18-year-old girl from Bengaluru is among the 100 Rise Global Winners, an award funded by philanthropists Wendy and Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google.
Kaavya Janaki Mundkur, a class 12 student of Inventure Academy, has been acknowledged for her work on mental health through her project Kara. As a queer teenager and swimmer who faced a physical condition in her leg since birth, Kaavya’s story is one of perseverance, integrity, empathy and calling, that helped her achieve the global recognition.
“I am privileged. When people hear about a queer teen growing up in India, they expect to hear the story of a child who struggled for acceptance. I did not. I was lucky to be part of a family and school that readily accepted me. I can talk about my sexuality and mental health freely but for many others, that is not the case. Because of the stigma and abuse they are subjected to, they are at a higher risk of mental health. A big reason for my work with Project Kara is to use the privilege I have to help others,” she said.
“As a queer teen, many people look at me as abnormal. In my interactions on misogyny and homophobia and the news I read, I fear for my safety constantly when I step out, which took a toll on my mental health. I want to use Project Kara to alleviate this strain not only for advocating equal rights and normalising our sexuality, but also by creating a space where we can have conversations on building a safe place,” she said.
Kaavya added: “Things became difficult in my life because of my self-imposed stigma and internalised homophobia. But my family, school and friends kept me going. Nothing seemed difficult when I was with people. Only when I was alone did I start feeling low. That’s the power of conversation. We want Kara to be that community that will never make you feel alone.”
Kara offers contacts of counsellors who specialise in adolescence mental health. “We hope to start funding the counselling because access to it becomes a problem due to financial status,” she added.
Kaavya plans to focus either on public policy or education. “Public policy because I want to be an active hand in policy-making and implementing solutions that I am passionate about — mental health and LGBTQ rights, among others. Education because I believe I can continue discussions about the subjects I am passionate about and have the same impact on my students that my educators had on me,” she said.
The award winners will receive a four-year, post-secondary scholarship at any accredited university, funding for their projects for public good and a fully funded, three-week residential summit with other members of the Rise Global Winners cohort.
Kaavya’s parents are lawyers and she was raised in Bengaluru.
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Sagar Biswas

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